The Only Question Worth Answering

The only question worth answering is this one: How soon are we going to turn things over to women to run?

In fact, given the state of affairs of the past seven thousand years or so, the question actually is this: Shall we turn the world over to women this afternoon, or shall we give ourselves until sometime next week?

I have a couple of good reasons for bringing up this topic, and, frankly, I think that getting on with it is absolutely necessary. That is, if women actually would take us up on the deal. Women are pretty smart, and they may not accept any such offer. They have a pretty clear understanding of human behavior, mainly because they give birth to humans and raise these human children more or less by themselves. So they immediately gain that firsthand experience into human behavior, which by and large is not a pretty picture. You know, the whiny baby stuff, the me-first stuff. It can’t be easy turning such raw material into a halfway sensible, reasonably competent, socialized member of our species. I have known men in their sixties who are still pretty much in the diaper stage of human social interaction. Maybe you know them, too.

The other reason is that, no matter how you look at it, women are still pretty much regarded as second-class citizens in this world (where they even are citizens), and so they gain insight from that, as well. It’s my old rule: if you really want to know how things are going, don’t ask the manager or the boss: he or she will simply cover his or her ass and say everything is going fine. This is how it’s done in a kick-down, kiss-up hierarchy or bureaucracy. If you really want to know how things are going, ask the workers on the assembly line or the ones digging the ditch. And get ready for an earful. However, given the fact that most women are the ones basically working on the assembly line every day and therefore know the facts about how things have been run so far, maybe the world is more trouble than it is worth as far as many women are concerned. 

Still, this line of thinking brings me to my first reason why women should be running things: they give birth to us. Therefore, they have dibs. The hand that rocks the cradle and so forth. If only we could have this situation take place in an environment that really nurtured and supported moms (rather than nurturing and supporting, say, pathologic Wall Street dickheads), we would be better in the long run.

Another good reason: Women are more intelligent than men. This is true, although I’d have to do some research to back it up. And maybe the studies aren’t there. Yet. Anecdotally, however, many of the brightest guys I know, and I mean doctors and surgeons and people like that, men who themselves are really bright, all sigh and nod and say that it is so.

Maybe it’s because women have two x chromosomes and we all start out as girls, or as protofemales, in the womb. Then some of us receive this huge dose of testosterone and, voila, we get a gimpy y chromosome instead of continuing with a second strong x chromosome. And it really is gimpy. Look at any biology book or go online and you’ll see that it’s so. I attended a lecture years ago by Ashley Montagu, the British biologist, who made this point and showed us slides corroborating the evidence. By gum, there is was, the odd y chromosome. So Mother Nature has already made up her mind. We evolved so that, as is the situation with all higher order animals, we have two sexes in order to get a lot more work done during the day. Division of labor. Dads evolved to help moms, though, not the other way around. It’s not a science fiction or fantasy story like the book of Genesis, where women come in second and are told that they’re here to help men. It’s science: logically, guys are here to assist the first sex, which would be women.

Science, in fact, is coming up with lots of reasons to revisit the assumptions most of us have about men and women. There’s a very important article in the current (May-June 2010) issue of Miller-McCune magazine titled “Make Birth Control, Not War” (available at The authors, Thomas Hayden and Malcolm Potts, make the point that war is in our genes, that “humans—human males, really—are not peaceful animals,” but that birth control measures and family planning decisions could alleviate much of the testosterone-driven bloodshed that has defined our species for so long. Putting women in charge, in other words, to make the decisions about when to have children and how many to have, could be the key to our survival. These authors report that, like chimpanzees, our closest living relatives, humans lived “for the vast majority of evolutionary time . . . in male-dominated social groups in which the males are all blood-relatives and only females move between troops. The dominant males largely monopolize mating opportunities and take the best food and other resources. Younger males are left either to work their way up the in-group hierarchy or attempt surreptitious matings with females of their troop or others—high-stakes strategies that often end in a beating or worse. But, in a unique evolutionary innovation, these young males can also band together and launch attacks on isolated members of neighboring out-groups, ultimately eliminating their ‘enemies’ and securing territory, resources and females they require to survive and pass on their genes.” Sounds like the old neighborhood, right? And like the Iliad.

Passing on the genes is what it’s all about, as anyone knows who has kept up with current developments in the biological sciences. What’s good for the species is out; what the selfish gene desires for itself is in. “We are all descended,” Hayden and Potts continue, “ . . . from particularly successful rapists, murderers and brigands. Human males today bear the marks of this legacy in the behaviors and impulses that still spur us on to lethal conflict—including the widespread and devastating association between war and rape—even when other solutions are both available and preferable.”

At the same time, though, they point out, “there is no doubt that other apes, like people, can be empathetic.” This biological behavior is emphasized in long-term observations made by Ernst Fehr, a professor of macroeconomics and experimental economics at the University of Zurich in Switzerland. In the article “Ernst Fehr: How I found what’s wrong with economics,” in the May 4, 2010, issue of New Scientist (available at, writer Marc Buchanan states that, 20 years ago, “Fehr had a seemingly sensible idea—that a deep-seated human preference for fairness might play an important role in economics.” Fehr had an uphill battle against the received wisdom that economic activity in the real world, like all other activities, is basically a winner-takes-all battlefield where evolved chimpanzees with flags and shooting irons—us, in other words—fight each other over the biggest slices of the never-expanding pie. Such “hard-headed thinking,” however, “has turned out to be profoundly naïve” and, in fact, “played a fundamental role in the recent economic crisis . . . the worst financial crisis in nearly a century.” Fehr has been concentrating on the field of neuroeconomics, helping to establish that “our precious moral values may ultimately be biologically based.” The idea that people are strictly self-interested, Fehr says, “has been the dominant mindset for decades . . . . It’s a biased way of perceiving the world.” (Certainly it is the mindset of pathologic, pseudorational, selfish Ayn Rand-style “positivists,” with their positively self-deluded sense of entitlement as alpha-male and -female go-getters who cleverly leave the rest of us in the dust as they charge in, Achilles-like, to prove their social dominance.)

Interestingly, when it comes to testosterone, literally the bad boy of the sex hormones, Fehr and colleagues, in a recent paper in Nature, “showed that testosterone, despite its reputation as a promoter of aggressive behavior, actually made people more cooperative when playing economic games. They used female volunteers since previous studies have indicated that women are more likely than men to show behavioural changes if given very low doses of the hormone.” (Eisenegger C, Naef M, Snozzi R, Heinrichs M, Fehr E: Prejudice and truth about the effect of testosterone on human bargaining behavior, available at Eisenegger C, Naef M, Snozzi R, Heinrichs M, Fehr E: Prejudice and truth about the effect of testosterone on human bargaining behavior.) Naturally, however, as Hayden and Potts state, many people are resistant “to the idea that something as apparently complex and unique to humans as our social instincts could find a relatively simple basis in chemical changes in brain activity.” 

Well, we had better get used to the idea that we humans fundamentally serve as responders to selfish genes and chemical changes in brain activity because that is where advances in scientific inquiry are taking us. And study results such as these make the argument for women running the world all the more self-evident. Midway through their article, Hayden and Potts list the factors that “interact in one way or another with the warlike biology of the human male, and each is influenced quite directly by population growth rate”:

– Environmental stress and/or resource limitation

– Extreme economic disparity within or between groups and lack of opportunities, especially for young men

– Subjugation of women and a culture of male dominance

– A high proportion of young males relative to older males

I was certainly familiar with the first two items in their catalogue: stressing local resources intuitively seems to lead to attacking the people over the next hill in order to take their stuff, and the age-old question of what to do with the young men has bedeviled every culture since we came down from the trees. For years I’ve been saying that, if we really want to help out in Afghanistan and other hot spots in the world, what you do is give all of the hormone-driven young men the following: a wife and a family; a steady job; and one night a week out with the boys so that they can bond with their peer group by playing poker or going down to the local to throw back a few. It is not complex. That we haven’t done so tells me that, ultimately, the characters who make the decisions that shape the world have more profits to make by keeping things stirred up than by keeping them sensibly within domestic limits. As a matter of fact, Hayden and Potts point out that the crafty Yasser Arafat, when he needed to score points with the United Nations following the attacks in 1972 by the terrorist group Black September on the Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympic Games, “flew eligible young female volunteers to Beirut and offered militant members of Black September $3,000, an apartment with a TV, long-term employment and $5,000 if they married and had a child. The offer was overwhelmingly accepted, and Black September as a terrorist movement collapsed almost overnight.” My point is made. Case closed. No mention of whether these formerly deadly young bucks got to spend one evening out a week with the boys, but that’s beside the point. Given the choice between being losers or winners, they went with being winners.

Female subjugation is a topic of endless discussion, of course. Suffice it to say that it is based, so far as I can tell, on fear of the feminine, most often, literally, fear of women. That’s what it comes down to, pure and simple. It is what is behind every fundamentalist religious sect and thought in the world. I know what I personally would like to do to jerks like the extremists who attack young Muslim girls on their way to school, but my reaction would be purely testosterone driven. I’d prefer to wait until next week when women are running the world and leave it to the mothers of these cretinous slobs, and the mothers of the hurt girls, to deliver whatever punishment the moms feel would be a fair and balanced response.

And speaking of fair and balanced, I am troubled by women who make themselves available to the alpha males of such conservative, testosterone-driven, He-Man Woman-Hater Clubs as Fox News as well as every other place of business or enterprise in America, if not the world. It makes sense, no doubt, biologically, as it has for thousands of years, to catch the eye of the alpha males, but as a matter of self-respect, I can’t help but recognize that these women are exactly what they appear to be: prizes available to the highest bidder in the chimpanzee troop. Conservative women are basically holes. They can tart themselves up as much as possible, they can bottle-blond themselves no end and undergo plastic surgery, but essentially all they are doing is what is required to be done in a conservative chimpanzee troop, which is to serve as highly visible pieces of candy. We all recognize that the owners of the shapely stems on Fox News are not equal partners. They are holes. Conservative women are holes. Of course, many so-called liberal males also regard women basically as holes. That’s a fact. But we need to try to get to a point where, selfishly-gened and sex-hormoned as we are, we all keep in mind most of the time that women got here first and that they are the mothers of our species. This will happen faster once we start, later today, letting women run things.

The fourth point in the Hayden and Potts article, about a high proportion of young males relative to older males leading to trouble, really makes sense. When you have a suitable number of dads, older brothers, uncles, and granddads around to guide the next generation of young men, you have at least a halfway decent chance of providing some decent guidance to these up-and-comers. It might be a code of conduct, it might be a direction for intellectual inquiry, it might simply be warning the young bucks to treat girls the way they want their sisters treated. Whatever. Trouble comes when you have too many young guys leading each other around in circles and causing trouble for themselves and others, whether because they broke into dad’s store of alcohol, or some religious nut gave them marching orders, or any of the million-and-one other ways young men have found since the Stone Age to get themselves thrown into buzz saws.

Any type of revealed religion is potentially poisonous, as far as I’m concerned. And fundamentalists, whether inspired by revealed or secular religion, are always trouble for the clear-thinking and the truth-seeking among us. They are all the same, these true believers. Same animal, different color of fur. But we can save that conversation for another blog.

Anyhow, Hayden and Potts conclude their essay by stating the obvious: if we made family planning available worldwide and let women take charge of their own wombs, we would be well on the way to having fewer hostilities and instead having more nights out with the boys that wouldn’t lead to mass destruction. We would all sleep better knowing that the four factors that contribute to war and rapine are being addressed sensibly. By women. For the good of our species and our genes. 

A final point to follow up on where I started, many paragraphs back up there, and then I’ll save further ruminations, assertions, and rants for future blogs. Let’s be frank about this: Women are more inclusive and more tolerant than men. However, having said this, I must remind you that, bearing in mind many things I’ve provided in this essay, all generalizations essentially are false. Make a sweeping statement and immediately some clever person in the back raises a hand and gives you an example that disproves the statement. We all know this. I’m sure you have your own list of mothers from hell; bridezillas; dominatrices in business attire; subversive in-laws of the feminine gender; suburban blonds and similarly toxic, high-maintenance narcissists; shoe fetishists and Humvee drivers and other take-no-prisoners women consumers who are essentially slaves conditioned to respond to the marketplace; painfully embarrassing parvenus, social climbers, and divas; foolishly drunk girls gone wild; soiled doves; and further examples of womanhood whom no one, male or female, wants to see in positions of authority. Understood. Nevertheless, you know as well as I do that guys are exclusive and women are inclusive. It’s built-in, it’s hardwired, and it’s a good thing. Most guys want to beat up the neighboring troop of chimps in order to get to some of those hot chimp girls. But it serves us all better, I say, to allow the chimp girls to have some say in the matter in order to have as much variety and diversity as possible in the social make-up. That variety and diversity is where the innovators come from. It’s where the artists come from. And it’s where the next batch of cool moms, women scientists, and smart writers will come from.

Consider this a Mother’s Day blog in honor of women and moms. I will continue ranting about this because it is one of my favorite topics about which to rant. But to anticipate one possible objection: You want to ask, Dave, if them womens ran the world, could we still have mixed-martial arts contests and boxing matches and hunting and stuff? The answer is yes. Most women love sports, and they really understand and are attuned to the physicality of being alive. They may not get into blood sports; that’s my impression. Not most women, anyhow. But in a world run by women, we’d have at least as much vibrant activity on the playing field as we do now. However, women might also go for stuff that has a little more finesse, like your figure skating, as opposed to head-crunching cage matches. But there would be room for everyone. I don’t want to live in a world—and I don’t think many women do, either—where we wouldn’t have sports and athletics. Besides, I certainly wouldn’t want to live in a world in which my mom would not have been able to root for the Cleveland ball clubs. If you’re not going to let my mom root for the Browns every fall, well, then, why have a world at all?

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