October 4, 2010

A Man's Life, On Manhood, Podcast

The Art of Manliness Podcast Episode #33: Interview with Dr. Roy Baumeister Part II

Welcome back to The Art of Manliness Podcast! In this week’s episode we continue our conversation with psychologist Dr. Roy Baumeister, author of the book, Is There Anything Good About Men?

Make sure to listen to Part I of our interview with Dr. Baumeister.

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Brett McKay: Brett McKay here and welcome to another episode of the “Art of Manliness” podcast. Well in this week’s episode we continue our conversation with Dr. Roy Baumeister, he’s the author of the book “Is There Anything Good About Men?” Enjoy.

You mentioned just a moment ago about the importance for reward for men it seems. Men will do these crazy risky things to gain respect or admiration or recognition from larger society. But it seems like our society some people would say that we don’t value or we wanted to and we shouldn’t glorify things like violence or going off and selling over cross the world, whatever these things that people do nowadays. I mean if you take away that reward for risk, are men going to be, I mean is that kind of kills the motivation for men?

Dr. Roy: I don’t think the society is glorifying risk per se. it’s just that some jobs require risk. When there is a burning building somebody has to go into it and try to save the people into it, somebody has to stand up and try to put out the fire. All these risks are of the interest when there are criminals you have to engage in a shootout with them, well there is some risk there. But somebody has to do it. I mean it’s a matter of driving truck all night or climbing up into high and dangerous places to fix things that are damaged. Well somebody has to do these things, and they contain some risk. It’s not going to be possible to eliminate fatal risk from our society and so in general society sees that those jobs should be done by men. To some extent we open them up for women but women aren’t as interested in those jobs either even though they might pay a little more.

Women work indoors much more than men, women work other sorts of jobs that are safer and contain less physical risk. It’s a choice, it’s a trade off that people make but I didn’t mean to suggest that society is encouraging people to do crazy things, stunts, occasionally that happens. But there are simply some jobs that are inevitably come with some degree of danger with them.

Brett: I remember one part and I think this is what I was trying to get to and I think I just misspoke. We talked about the motivation for boys in schools and that we started seeing this decline when the whole self esteem movements started picking up and everyone was given high grades, everyone is you know they are encouraging, they give rewards to anybody no matter if everyone didn’t do very well. I think you might have suggested somewhere in your book that you know for boys or for men that if no one can fail then there is no risk involved or everyone is treated the same. Then there is really no point because you know you can’t earn that glory I guess is I think what you mentioned.

Dr. Roy: Yeah, I think there is a difference. I think the self esteem movement is something that’s probably better for girls than for boys. A little more encouragement and reassurance maybe goes down well with the girls. Grade inflation and things like that, everybody getting an A well if you get an A when everybody else getting A in a sense perhaps it’s more OK with the girl. The boy there is still some striving for greatness, some desire mark to be the one and this goes back to biological differences. Again you know we are descended from twice as many women as men are the ancestors of today’s human race. Twice as many women as men there, which meant that in order to pass along your genes we were descended from the people who successfully passed on their genes to men much more than the woman had to stand out and fight this way to the top, had to dominate some hierarchy. So competing against other men to be one of the few elite and winners, that’s more deeply rooted in the male than in the female psyche.

Our schools, we know the boys are not doing as well as the girls these days. There is much worrying about what that means and what the prognosis is, we have changed in their schools in many ways, with the best of intentions. I think there was a time we felt that the schools were failing girls and they needed to do more to take care of girls about their very strong outspoken voices all over looking out for the interests of girls. There is pretty much nobody looking out for the interest of boys, and so when a school has a decision to make and we decided sometime ago that we are going to treat boys and girls the same. And then to perpetuate the cycle should we do what’s best for the girls or what’s best for the boys. Or do what’s best for the boys would be seen as sexist and would have provoked an outcry to do what’s best for the girls. Seems more appropriate and find it over and over again with the school as an administrators who again are mostly women make that decision and everyone goes along with it.

The upside is we have gotten to where we are essentially raising boys like girls, which is probably not the best thing for bringing up the best in the boys. Here is our speculation here that go beyond what’s the solid factual knowledge and I have to do a little bit of guess work but with things like self esteem movement being better for girls. Well we know girls have very slightly lower self esteem than boys and especially say in the teen years the boys tend to be more egotistical and narcissistic. Probably nature’s way of preparing the young males for the really challenging competition that they have to take in competing and trying to get to be the top back in our biological heritage which the girl did not so much have to do. And so confidence to fight and compete was probably more necessary.

It’s what we don’t like about the male ego but it did probably had a valid biological function but now to bolster that and tell young men and reassure their self esteem that sort of ends up cultivating this narcissism that much more which I think is a destructive trait and not conducive, cultures that have done best at producing successful crops of men who’ve tended to instill humility instead in the young men to try to puncture their egotistical balloon and bring them down to earth and say you got to learn your place and earn your position and achieve and accomplish and fight your way to the top and prove yourself rather than have respect just given to you for being there. And so when we instead just give them respect and everything then I think that doesn’t do what’s best for the young male psyche.

Brett: So you talk about marriage and sex in your book and one of the issues you discuss is why so many younger men today are putting off marriage longer and longer. Are men trying to stay in eternal adolescence or is there something else going on here?

Dr. Roy: I think there are several things going on, the eternal adolescence argument is perhaps our approach or a ploy or a way to manipulate men, even though there may be something to it. But one thing if you take the lion view I should add age of first marriage has gone up and down throughout history. You tend to compare to the 1950s when it was exceptionally low, it was higher I think in the early parts of 20th century and it is gone up and down various factors. It is going up now and perhaps higher than it’s ever been. So we want to look probably there are couple things going on. For one thing the one of the main reasons that pressured people into marrying early was that was the only way to have sex, yet that’s no longer constraint that single people can have plenty of sex and so one of the main reasons to rush and get married early has been taken away. And the eternal adolescence, well there may be as I said as we put less pressure on young people to mature and grow up and take on adult roles and we allow them to say in dependent roles of being a student or things like that, well then why not stay in adolescence a little bit longer.

Adolescence can be a very pleasant time especially when your needs are taken care of and you have money and a nice place to live and people to sleep with and people to have fun with and so rushing into them or structured marriage kind of thing is maybe not as appealing as it might have been another time. I should add too though that the idea that men are resisting this, well you can look at that and that’s how probably the women might see it but you can look at it the other way, why are the women pushing men to be married. I think there is a basic rationality in both the women wanting to get married earlier and men wanting to put it off. For one thing assuming you want to get married you want to get the best possible partner, that depends on your appeal as a mate and to simplify things rather drastically the biggest factor in a woman’s appeal is her physical looks and beauty and attractiveness. The biggest thing in a man’s appeal is his ability to make money and be a provider.

Well those have different time courses. The women’s looks tend to peak earlier than the man’s earning power, so that as you go from 20 to 30 to 40, well very few women look as good at 40 as they did at 20 and so their ability to attract the most desirable partner has probably gone down steadily over that period of time. Whereas a man’s ability in terms of his earning power probably goes up from 20 to 30 to 40 so his mate appeal, his desire to attract women has gone up over that time. Hence year by year, each year the women thinks I should try to get married because next year my prospects will be a little worse than they are this year whereas each year the man can think my prospects will be a little better next year than this year, so there is no hurry. And well that’s just how they do it and a few other complicating factors that men and women tend to marry with the man being a couple of years older than the woman and yet as people get older there are fewer – there is more and more surplus of women, so again though that brings the same pressure that the women wants to marry earlier when there are lot more older men available, if the man waits longer there are more and more younger women available. So it’s in the man’s interests to wait whereas it’s in the women’s interests not to wait.

Then we also have the child bearing factor that one of the reasons people get married is to have children, although people have children without being married but it’s still seen as a better way to do it and there too the women’s time for having children is limited. So she is better off marrying earlier and having her children earlier but there is certainly no rush in the male that a woman who is 40 usually is done having children if she is going to reproduce after that she might have one or two and just to be extra careful and so on. A man at 40 still can have a dozen children or more if he is particularly enterprising so there is no rush for him to get that over and done with in the same way. And then yeah there are even broader questions about who gets what out of marriage, what are the benefits, what is the value, well it’s a new one way to look at marriage is it is society’s way of transferring money from men to women, certainly it tends to be what happens in divorce that a lot of the money is taken from the men, transferred to the women and I can see men saying there well what do I get out of it. Now both men and women are happier, little happier when they are married than when they are not so there is an increase there but it does have intangible benefits but if you just wanted to take a cold calculating approach to it, it makes perfect sense for men to postpone marriage and even question whether they should do it at all.

Brett: So what’s been the response to your book, you know you’ll have some controversial things that I’m sure some women academia wouldn’t go over well with them, but overall what has been your response?

Dr. Roy: Well, my book just came out so I haven’t heard that much response. I did make sure to circulate the book to women as well as men in academia before I released it because I wanted to something that people felt would be fair to both sides and would be respectful of everybody because you know this is in no way – this is not a pro-man book or an anti-woman book or anything like that. It is trying to argue that basically men and women are different in some ways, more in what they wants and what they are capable of, that men and women have mostly worked together, they have not been enemies, they are partners and maybe they should appreciate each other a little more, that’s my message. And I think it’s a very positive and friendly message, so that’s what I am hoping people will get from it. Now certainly there is an entrenched dogma about gender differences built up with us mostly victim mentality by some feminist scholars. I used to call myself a feminist, my wife jokes that I am more of a feminist than she ever was but I am a little older, feminism in the ‘70s was open to everybody, it meant openness to new ideas, challenging orthodox views and dogmas and trying to make everyone have opportunities and equality. And I still support those ideals but feminism has moved away from that as many scholars have argued and has now become much more dogmatic and defending a particular view and promoting women at the expense of men and I can’t go with it on that. So those people are certainly not going to like a book that says men and women are equal and get along.

I think if anything one of the most issues that feminism has really built on this seeing men and women as basically enemies, that men and women are fundamentally at odds with each other and that there is a struggle or battle of the sexes and I still want to get past the battle of the sexes that men and women have been on the same side cooperating more than other and complimenting each other and helping each other. History is mostly, it’s not been about men against women, history has mostly been about groups of men supported by their women competing against other groups of men. And if you want to look at warfare or trade or science or exploration or whatever it was generally competitions among groups of men all of whom were crucially aided and supported by their women. So I am trying to have a kindler, gentler more harmonious view of gender relations and not everyone is going to like that.

Brett: Well I thought the book was fascinating, it was a really interesting read. You know it does bring out – does challenge a lot of things you hear in the popular culture and even when you are at school and undergrad and I think a lot of men would enjoy reading it and just find it very fascinating. Professor Baumeister I really appreciate your time, thanks for talking to us and I wish you all the luck with your book.

Dr. Roy: Thank you very much Brett, it’s been a pleasure.

Brett: Well that wraps up another edition of “The Art of Manliness” Podcast. For more manly tips and advice make sure to check out the Art of Manliness blog at artofmanliness.com and until next time stay manly.


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