Why Men Rule

May 12th, 2009 by Pelle Billing

In this post I want to give an overview of a controversial subject that cannot be avoided by anyone interested in gender equality. Please let me know in the comments if you disagree with any of the facts of conclusions that I list, since I believe that this is a subject that deserves a deep analysis.

Here’s the bullet point overview:

  • To this day, no human civilization has been run by a matriarchy (i.e. women having most of the positions of power). One by one the anthropological claims of having found a tribe or culture with female governance have been disproved. Currently there are no verified examples of predominantly female governance.
  • This means that men have always had the majority of the high status positions, in every known society.
  • Not all men want status, but it appears that men are much more likely to make the sacrifices necessary to reach an important position in society, regardless of whether the price to pay is deteriorating health, less time with family or even risk of dying.
  • Since the absence of a matriarchy is a cross-cultural phenomenon, we cannot look for an explanation in cultural variables. Thus, we turn to biology.
  • What biological factors could there be? We have knowledge about girls and women who were exposed to abnormally high testosterone levels in utero (for various biological reasons, one of them being the medical condition CAH). These girls, who have been affected by testosterone as their fetal brains were developing, are more likely to be interested in a style of playing that is generally considered “boyish”.
  • Furthermore, from age 11 these girls are more likely to be interested in having a career (Dittman et al, 1990a) and less likely to want to have children or be a stay-at-home mom than other girls their age. This is something that happens even though the girl is raised as a girl, and expected to behave like a girl. As grown women, they are more likely to have a high status career (Purigoy and Koopmans, 1979; W Gallagher, 1998; Bancroft et al, 1983)

Personally I consider these bullet points to be a strong piece of evidence for innate differences in behavior between men and women (though there are certainly lots of other good pieces of evidence).

This brings us to one of the “hard problems” of gender equality: how can we accept that there are differences between men and women on a group level, and not allow this to lead to discrimination? How do we separate the individual from the collective? I’ve already written about this problem once, but it continues to fascinate me. If you have any interesting ideas to share, then let me know.

(The title of this post has been borrowed from the author Stephen Goldberg, who’s written a book on this very subject.)

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15 Responses to “Why Men Rule”

  1. Jim Says:

    “Not all men want status, but it appears that men are much more likely to make the sacrifices necessary to reach an important position in society, …”

    Hmmm. Is that maybe dependent on your culture? Have you ever seen “Raise the Red Lantern”?

  2. Pelle Billing Says:


    No, I haven’s seen that movie.

    I’m not saying that there aren’t plenty of examples of women who want to reach the top of society and are ready to make the necessary sacrifices. What I’m saying is that on average men are more willing to focus their energies on this specific goal.

  3. Josef Boberg Says:

    Hmmm = läst och begrundat.

  4. Andreas Dahlin Says:

    Jag utgår från att dina fakta stämmer, alltså att det inte funnits en enda matriarkal civilization. Det låter rimligt. Jag håller också med om att detta leder till slutsatsen att biologi borde vara inblandat.

    Att förklara varför ett sådant beteende uppstått hos män i högre grad än kvinnor tycker jag görs bäst med ett evolutionärt perspektiv. Att det är testosteron som gör det är inte riktigt en komplett förklaring enligt min smak. Testosteronet råkar bara vara det verktyg som evolutionen använt.

    Men det intressanta är som du säger hur man ska gå vidare utifrån det givna faktum att män och kvinnor är statistiskt olika i sitt beteende. Verkligheten är inte så enkel som genusvetenskapen vill tro, att alla bara är tabula rasa från början och allting är sociala konstruktioner. I längden måste vi acceptera verkligheten som den faktiskt är om vi ska kunna förändra vårt samhälle som vi vill.

    När det gäller diskriminering så tycker jag det absolut viktigaste är att poängtera att skillnaderna handlar om STATISTIK och att det finns stor VARIANS. Diskriminering är därför fel inte bara moraliskt. Det är även korkat från t.ex. en arbetsgivares perspektiv att tro att någon är mer eller mindre lämpad på grund av kön.

    Nästa viktiga punkt är att acceptera att vi inte kan förvänta oss en 50/50 könsfördelning överallt i samhället eftersom män och kvinnor gör OLIKA VAL. Den dominerande jämställdhetsidén innebär nu 50/50 och detta är vansinne. Jämställdhet ska handla om att motverka fördomar, enligt ovanstående principer.

    Givetvis KAN det gå att komma nära 50/50 målet. Biologin är inte deterministisk utan kan påverkas genom sociala faktorer. Men det kan vara en dålig idé att påverka den. Som särartsfeminister före mig påpekat kanske man inte bara ska söka sociala förklaringar till varför människor i rika länder mår allt sämre psykiskt.

    Hu vad jag skriver jag måste nog sluta nu, hoppas det blev läsbart…

  5. Pelle Billing Says:

    Guys, please write your comments in English on this blog.

    There is increasing demand for my ideas in Sweden, so I’ll be starting a separate Swedish blog very soon. Stay tuned, it will be announced on this blog.

    I appreciate the comments though :)

  6. Just a metalhead Says:

    Google automatic translation to the rescue!

    Josef Boberg said:
    “Hmmm = read and considered.”

    And Andreas Dahlin said:
    “I assume that your facts are correct, then there was a single matriarkal Civilization. That sounds reasonable. I also agree that this leads to the conclusion that biology should be involved.

    To explain why such behavior occurred in men more than women, I think is best done with an evolutionary perspective. That it is testosterone that makes it is not quite a complete explanation, in my taste. Testosteronet happen to be just the tool that evolution used.

    But the interesting thing is that you say how to proceed on the basis of the given fact that men and women are statistically different in their behavior. Reality is not as simple as gender science to believe, that all is tabula rasa at the outset, and everything’s social structures. In the long run, we must accept reality as it actually is if we are to change our society that we want.

    In the case of discrimination I think the most important is to emphasize that the differences is about statistics and that there is great variance. Discrimination is wrong not only morally. It is also stupid from eg an employer’s perspective to believe that someone is more or less suitable on the basis of sex.

    The next important point is to accept that we can not expect a 50/50 gender distribution in all sections of society because men and women make different choices. The dominant gender idea does now 50/50 and this is crazy. Equality should be about combating prejudice, in accordance with the above principles.

    Of course, it can go to get close to 50/50 target. Biology is not deterministic but can be influenced by social factors. But it can be a bad idea that influence it. As the specific nature of feminists before me pointed out, perhaps not only to search social explanations for why people in rich countries are deteriorating mentally.

    Hu what I write I might have to stop now, hope it was readable …”

  7. Pelle Billing Says:


    That’s actually a completely usable translation, thanks a bunch!

    I agree with the nuances that Andreas adds.

  8. Just a metalhead Says:

    Yeah, Google translation is better than it was when it first started, maybe the first step to a universal translator? Hopefully, it won’t become so good as to stop being an easy way to get engrish (basically, translate a text in english to japanese then translate it back from japanese to english, or rather, engrish then try to make sense out of it… hours of fun).

    As to the topic in question, I think what advantages men statistically in their dominance of positions of power is their greater tolerance of risk. This has good effects and negative ones. The good effect is that men are more likely to take risks and innovate, helping advance society, which also makes it more likely for them to reach positions of power when the risk pays off. The negative effects are that they are also more likely to fall on hard times and it kills men faster than women, something to which nature has adapted, as in a cohort of 100 kids, about 52 are male, but since they die more frequently in childhood and adolescence, when they reach the age of sexual maturity the ratio is about one male for a female.

    Again, when talking about these statistical differences, it is important to try to maintain a balance in our understanding of them. It is too easy to fall into extremes where you either underestimate them or overestimate them. If you underestimate them, you end up always protesting against the effects of them and ascribing those effects to “oppression” or “discrimination” (a common problem with feminists), but if you overestimate them then you fall into prejudice because you start to judge individuals based on the dominant characteristics of the group they belong to instead of on their individual characteristics.

  9. Pelle Billing Says:

    If you underestimate them, you end up always protesting against the effects of them and ascribing those effects to “oppression” or “discrimination” (a common problem with feminists), but if you overestimate them then you fall into prejudice because you start to judge individuals based on the dominant characteristics of the group they belong to instead of on their individual characteristics.

    Nicely summed up. This is my dilemma, how to calibrate between those extremes.

  10. R. Stevens Says:

    You’re just not looking hard enough. Further, if you DEFINE the rule of men to be what they do, you’re stacking the deck.

    Women DO run many societies, they just do it differently. Women run societies through back room subversive techniques (for lack of a better term at this moment in time).

    While the men may have their formal councils to discuss and decide on courses of actions, over the days prior to the council, the women have been convincing the men of a particular course of action. The men go in, and what a shock, they decide what they were convinced of by the women who are actually in power.

    This runs rampant in many primitive and evolving societies. Of course it becomes very difficult to measure as societies evolve into more complex governance and decision making.

    Thanks to those British Anthropologists that couldn’t handle the idea of women being in charge they ‘defined’ male rule in certain terms ignoring the extreme influence that the women (often elder women) had on the decisions made by men who ‘thought’ they were in charge.

    I guess this kind of truth doesn’t exactly serve the feminist movement, so, like the British anthropologists, it’s ignored out of convenience by those arguing for feminism.

    Nice shroud though.

  11. Pelle Billing Says:

    R. Stevens,

    I’m not saying that men have all the power, I’m simply analyzing why men have the leading positions in all societies.

    If you read more of my blog posts you’ll also see that I talk a lot about the price men pay to reach these positions, and that a major reason that women don’t rise to the top is that they aren’t ready to pay this price.

    I just think you need to read more of my stuff to get where I’m coming from.

  12. Will Coats Says:

    Your question exposes an example of the problem. The definition of ‘discrimination’ is personal, for the individual accepts what he believes is moral or not. He may choose to believe the local or extra- cultural definition of what constitutes descrimination, or derive a completely separate definition. Think about it, what defines descrimination varies even between men and women. A man may believe it is morlly good to compete at all costs to climb the corp ladder. A woman may morally assert that such a man is wrong and even dangerous to society. As it has been, feminist women have demanded that men submit to a new definition of gender-based descrimination built on feminist morality. Your question indicates that you also believe that the female is the owner of morality. How professionally foolish-morally speaking, of course.

  13. AlexNY Says:


    1) Our species pays an astronomical biological price for our “big brains”. We are slow, we are weak, and we are subject to an enormously expanded vulnerable stage as infants.

    2) Whatever advantages our “big brains” yield must be equally titanic, to make up for these crippling physical limitations.

    3) Our brains can only manifest usefulness if they have the capacity to modify our behaviour.

    Hypothesis: The human species is uniquely able to modify its biological heritage by rational thought.

    Evidence: Imagine that you, me, and a third person, all strangers to each other, are sitting on a park bench eating sandwiches. You then observe me yanking the sandwich from the third person and taking it for my own. You will feel my actions as a collective offence against “all of us”, including yourself. Children and our distant ancestors do not share this collectivisation of offence to the invented concept of “property”. Our social programming has has replaced our biologically wired “might makes right” instinct into something that we find more compatible with our current lifestyle.

    Proposal: Forget the strong biological differences between men and women. We can change them if we want to. “Do we want to substitute our biology with a gender neutral perspective” is a rational question. “Can we do this” is not. Our culture can, and has, changed much more profound biological hard-wiring, when needed.

    I further propose that the “history of history” is the story of how a series of these amendments to our biological heritage were incorporated into our cultural heritage. Gender neutrality is nothing special in that regard.

  14. Pelle Billing Says:


    I agree that our brains are extremely flexible, and keep on developing generation after generation.

    However, cultural transformation (and as a consequence, brain transformation) cannot be forced. People must see real value in it, and voluntarily participate.

    I’m not arguing that we can change almost anything. But do people want to change gender differences?

  15. Mark Davenport Says:

    No, Pelle, I certainly don’t want to change gender differences, especially some! But it will be interesting to see how the genders adjust/evolve as social rules change. A big difference this time around is the changes will be consciously witnessed and recorded. Wow!