Excerpt from My Book

October 11th, 2012 by Pelle Billing

David asked me a very interesting question, in a recent thread:

Hi, Pelle. Regarding free speech, could the Lawrence Summers thing have happened in Sweden? Could a university president be fired for saying the things he did? Can you speak of any ways that men are better than women in Sweden other than weight lifting or mixed marital arts?

Here it seems you can say that women are better than men in any number of things, including many cognitive/emotional ways, but if you suggest men are better in cognitive/emotional ways I think you take a big risk in getting labelled sexist.

Whereas you could say things like women are better communicators and have better emotional intelligence and not have anything happen, I think you might get in big trouble and perhaps even be fired if you said something analogous in favor of men, perhaps partly because women or women’s groups might complain if you said something like that but men wouldn’t.

We have the very same problem here in Sweden, so I addressed this issue in my Swedish book on gender issues.

Here is an excerpt from my book, where I comment on the double standards regarding one gender having better skills than the other. I ran the passage through Google Translate, and then cleaned up anything that was incomprehensible:

Let’s do a little thought experiment to see how we reason about gender in our culture.

Some people argue that the problems that exist in our civilization – such as war, environmental destruction and violence – are the fault of men. Men are the ones who have had power in society since time immemorial, and therefore men should be held responsible for things gone wrong. There is a clear logic to this argument, let us accept it as true.

With the same logic, one can argue that the positive things that have occurred in our civilization – such as technological development, prosperity and democracy – are the result of men’s work. But somehow this reasoning is not put forward as frequently.

Instead of asserting that men have created these positive values ​​it is emphasized that women did not get a chance to participate in the building of society – until relatively late in the process, and therefore it is unfair to pay tribute to the men. The women could have done an equally good job if they had had the chance. This argument has a clear logic to it, so let us accept it as true.

The major question that then arises is: If women would have been able to build a civilization just as well as men, would they not have been able to create as much war, environmental degradation and violence? If we believe that women are just as capable of all the positive characteristics of men, do we believe that women are just as capable of all the negative characteristics that men have?

If you argue that women would have been able to build all that men did, but at the same time believe that women would have created fewer wars and less pollution, then you believe that women are a superior life form. Unfortunately, this type of reasoning is far from unusual.

This kind of thinking is exemplified by the Danish author Hanne-Vibeke Holst when she is interviewed by DN:

“So, I’m not saying that men are not human. But they have a tradition of resolving conflicts through violence. Women have a tradition of resolving conflicts by peaceful means. Therefore, overall, it is very important that women are in the highest positions in the UN, at the highest policy levels. Madeleine Albright has certainly sent men into battle, but I think she really thought about it first.”

Holst believes that women are more peaceful, but does she believe that men have positive qualities that women lack in their leadership? Would she be ready to name a positive quality ín men, that women do not have to the same degree? If not, then she unknowingly carries the idea that women are superior to men. If you believe that women are better at certain things, but do not think that men are better at other things, you are basically a gender racist.

Personally, I believe that both men and women are capable of great deeds and misdeeds, and that both sexes have contributed to the positive and negative conditions that exist in our civilization. To the extent that there are differences between the sexes, I do not believe that these differences make one sex better or worse, just different.

Have you come across this issue? Where it’s OK to claim that women are more peaceful and better negotiators, but completely taboo to say that men are better at other things?

13 Responses to “Excerpt from My Book”

  1. Kostas Says:

    Well, i think you can hear things like “men are better at spatial reasoning/tasks” without any backlash coming from the general population. feminists would probably object.

    That is a very minor point though

  2. Matthew Matics Says:

    How can anyone in most parts of the western world today not have come across this issue? It IS ok to claim that women are more peaceful and better negotiators but completely taboo to say that men are better at other things, and that claim is being made each and every day in media, young boys get to hear it by their teachers in school and politicians are basing their politics on this. Opposing this dogma in public means you’re in trouble.

  3. Läs utdrag från min bok på engelska Says:

    [...] väg Läs utdrag från min bok på engelska 11 oktober 2012, av Pelle Billing Jag skrev nyss ett inlägg på min engelska blogg. Där svarar jag på en fråga från en läsare, genom att lägga upp ett [...]

  4. David Says:

    Pelle, honored that my comment inspired a new blog!

    I think you make a beautiful argument in your book; it unfolds very nicely and leaves them nowhere to run!

    I suppose there are different ways to address this problem. One is to get people to realize the effect it could have on boys, which Mathew mentions; another is to appeal to their sense of reason and justice as Pelle has in that passage; another is political operations like complaining/calling/emailing when issues arise; another is making studies that show men are good at some things known, with advertisements, blogs, etc.

    If men wrote articles elevating men above women as some people (men and women) write articles that elevate women, I think they would immediately be charged as sexist. Those articles are so common.

    One argument that may have to be made is that while it may have been necessary to boost women to the exclusion of men at some point, the time has passed, and now it has begun to hurt boys and has simply become the “new sexism.”

    Thanks, Pelle. I look forward to seeing more of your book translated, if you feel so inspired.

    Also, Kostas, Pelle, are there studies that show that “men are better at spatial reasoning/tasks”? That’s the sort of thing that got Summers fired. No one says a word if people say women are getting more jobs because they are better communicators, but suggest that men might be getting more jobs in some cognitive field because men have a greater tendency right now to be good in that field (not that some women can’t be just as good now or even that one day women couldn’t be just as good in equal numbers), and you get fired.

  5. Jim Says:

    “So, I’m not saying that men are not human. But they have a tradition of resolving conflicts through violence. Women have a tradition of resolving conflicts by peaceful means.”

    Well then Danish author Hanne-Vibeke Holst is either historically illiterate or else so ethnocentrically parochial that she is hardly worth refuting. But I suspect instead that she is just being really self-servingly dishonest.

    The reason that women can resolve conflicts peacefully is that the men have either already resolved the conflicts that required violence and set the conditions for all this peacefulness, or that this suppsoedly peaceful resolution was only apparently peaceful; there may have been all kinds of emotional violence and coercion involved.

    Peaceful resolution of conflicts requires sometimes centuries and generations of prepartion. It requires conditions that are the result of immense effort. Her statement shows she either does not know that or is intentionally ignoring that.

  6. Allan Says:

    If you broaden “violence” to include social isolation and emotional harming, women aren’t so nice and harmonious.

    Girls bully but less with physical harms and threats: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-long-reach-childhood/201109/bullying-in-the-female-world which can have just as serious effects as physical violence

    Even firing Lawrence Summers, seems more like shaming and silencing than confronting, correcting or proving him wrong. It looks more like female style violence than say, a call to debate the issue.

    What about ability to be violent as protection? Aren’t men much better physical protectors of the weak and vulnerable? i.e. as police protection?

    The double standards and skills comparisons seem to show up more in how issues/situations get framed and discussed more than inherent differences, though I agree, the inherent differences have their own taboo.

    Are women better communicators? Or just communicate more? Or are men more decisive, to the point, goal oriented?

  7. Allan Says:

    Here’s more:

    http://www.menshealth.com/best-life/what-men-do-well?fullpage=true

    Florida State University psychologist Roy F. Baumeister has really interesting things to say about men that sounds positive, rings true, balanced and sadly, politically incorrect.

  8. Pelle Billing Says:

    Allan,

    Roy F Baumeister has done some great work. I mention him and his work in my book.

  9. David Says:

    Thanks for the comments and links, Allan. I think they are quite important. There is so little awareness about some of these issues.

  10. “Wer annimmt, dass Frauen alles genauso gut, aber nicht genauso schlecht machen können, sagt dass sie höherwertige Wesen sind” « Alles Evolution Says:

    [...] Billing zu dem Argument, dass auch Frauen genau das Gleiche hätten leisten können, wie Männer, wenn sie nicht durch Unterdrück… Let’s do a little thought experiment to see how we reason about gender in our [...]

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  12. hamstrn Says:

    Women, when put in the same position as men, will always adhere to the same principles of reasoning as the men. Margaret Thatcher anyone? Boudicca? The last Empress of China?

  13. Magda Says:

    Not sure I agree with all that is said. However it seems most of the comments are made by men so I will try to give a woman’s perspective.
    The fact that men are more violent than women should hardly be contested. Crime statistics will of course verify that more men than women are involved in violent acts. Read in that light it is unfortunate to call Ms Holst a liar. As for the above link on women and bullying I am totally in agreement. I have a pet theory of mine on if the world had been a matriarchy for the last 1000 years we would have immense spy organisations that would make the Mossad weep with envy.
    When it comes to women in power I think it is important to remember the context in which she is acting. Institutional structures and mind sets are not changed easily, in fact I struggle to find any institution older than 50 years that is not inherently discriminating against women, more often than not so subtly it is difficult to detect for the untrained eye or put words to what is happening. And that includes some who are supposedly very aware of these issues. So what you are left with is a woman or a man acting in an intrinsically patriarchic structure. At that level the gender almost becomes irrelevant because what that person relates to is an un-changed way of doing things.
    The discussion on women v men I think needs to be seen in the light of women having so many fewer role models in society and highlighting their strengths is a way of self empowering. In many ways man is still the norm and the wo-man the other, a minority. I believe the “I am better than you discussion” will at best give a short term ego boost. So unless you are interested from a purely scientific point of view I believe it should be omitted in the discussion. However if interpreted as a way to try to define the male it can be useful. The definition of man has for a long time been a antithesis of woman, ie a man is what a woman is not. I truly welcome the debate that has arisen on what a man is and should be. So I encourage you all to participate in that quest and hopefully everybody will benefit.
    Thank you for an interesting and enlightening blog and thread. :-)


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