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May 19, 2010

Templates

This is going to be one of those posts that strings together several apparently unrelated ideas. What can I say? I'm female. Our minds are incestuous in nature - everything is related. The concept of "templates" has cropped up in several different contexts in the Blog Princess's reading of late. I was reminded of it this morning whilst perusing an article in the WSJ that wondered (in classic hand wringing fashion) "Why, O why? aren't female owned businesses as big as male owned businesses????" And you big, strong manly men thought size didn't matter! O Gullible Ones!

The phenomenal growth of women-owned businesses has made headlines for three decades—women consistently have been launching new enterprises at twice the rate of men, and their growth rates of employment and revenue have outpaced the economy.

So, it is dismaying to see that, despite all this progress, on average, women-owned business are still small compared with businesses owned by men. And while the gap has narrowed, as of 2008—the latest year for which numbers are available—the average revenues of majority women-owned businesses were still only 27% of the average of majority men-owned businesses.

There are those who will say that these numbers substantiate what they always knew: Women just don't have what it takes to start and run a substantial, growing business. But I don't buy that: More than a quarter of a million women in the U.S. own and lead businesses with annual revenue topping $1 million—and many of these businesses are multimillion-dollar enterprises. Clearly, many women have the vision, capacity and perseverance to build thriving companies.

So what's holding back so many women business owners?

Allow a clearly inferior female-type brain to challenge the whopping big assumptions in this brief passage. Who says ANYTHING is "holding women back"? Who says a business that brings in a million dollars or more annually is "too small"? Whose yardstick are we using to decide whether a business is "profitable enough"? Or whether it is growing fast enough? Enough by whose standards?

It seems to me that the only standards which ought to matter here are those of the business owner in question. A while back Grim linked to a fascinating essay in Arts and Letters Daily:

Pinker does more than dryly discuss the biology; she provides example after example of women who have succeeded in this “man’s world” and found it wanting. As Pinker explains, let’s move on past the idea that a woman can’t do the same work as a man, and discuss why she may not want to. Any woman who has wondered if her preferences run counter to the feminist cause should pay close attention here; believing that a woman should have every right to pursue the same goals as men is different from believing that every woman should want to.

Why do we assume women do things for the same reasons men do? Why assume any two people ought to have the same goals, employ the same strategies, or measure success with the same yardstick? Is it not possible for women to do things for reasons that seem perfectly valid to us even if men don't happen to find them sufficient? Perhaps it's not so much a question of whether the playing field is level or not as it is whether men and women must play on the same field, use the same rules, or keep score by the same method?

Buried in the middle of this female author's essay was the answer to a problem that arises primarily because she acknowledges only one path to "success"; only one yardstick: one that ignores what women value and assumes that only men's priorities are valid:

... research also shows that the differences between women and men entrepreneurs begin with their own reasons for starting a business. Men tend to start businesses to be the "boss," and their aim is for their businesses to grow as big as possible. Women start businesses to be personally challenged and to integrate work and family, and they want to stay at a size where they personally can oversee all aspects of the business.

Question for the ages: if I start a business because I crave challenge but also prize time with my family; if I want my business to be profitable but not to overwhelm the other important things in my life, how much of a "success" am I if my business grows so large that it leaves no time for the people and things I love?

In what universe does an end state in which I lose what I think is important become "success"? Is success essentially derivative in nature? Does it depend upon the opinions of others, or on the achievement of our own goals? Is it defined by getting what we want or by getting what other people think we ought to want?

The notion of templates is an interesting metaphor for the value systems and lenses we use to evaluate ourselves and those around us. Templates can be as simple as a set of expectations - often other people's expectations - that prevent us from being satisfied when we get what we want (but what we want doesn't conform to someone else's idea of what we should want). This is the problem with viewing unequal results as prima facie evidence of social injustice: such a stance assumes that we all deserve the same outcome. More importantly, it assumes - incorrectly, as it turns out - that we all desire the same outcome:

“…forty years of discounting biology have led us to a strange and discomfiting place, one where women are afraid to own up to their desires and men—despite their foibles—are seen as standard issue” (p. 254). This belief of men as standard issue, and the assumption that women want this, only makes the situation harder for women. This may not be what they want, even if they are highly intelligent, capable, and encouraged.

This is something I've argued for years. But other people's expectations are not the only templates that prevent us from getting what we want from life. As it turns out, many of us live in prisons of our own devising:

Everybody has had the experience of seeing an old friend after many years, and thinking "Gee, we picked up just where we left off ten years ago." Or, even more commonly, "I feel a bit like a 14 year-old or a 16 year-old when I spend time with my parents."

It's neither a good nor a bad thing; it's just a fact that we have a limited number of relationship templates on hand to apply to our different sorts of relationships, and we tend to keep using the same ones.

Often, in Psychiatry and Psychoanalysis, this is termed "transference." I just call it recycling of old templates. Mental efficiency, however imperfect.

I think this happens a lot in marriages: we feel bored or trapped or resentful, not so much because our partners have failed us but because we've lost the ability to respond spontaneously to them. We no longer see them as people whose thoughts and desires can and do change over time, but as a scratchy record that repeats the same notes over and over: a never ending play that always follows the same, tired script. It's not them we're bored with - it's our own limited responses. But no one else controls our responses and it's unfair to blame them for decisions we make freely. Why do we allow a past we don't like all that much to become prologue?

One night after dinner Joe's wife, Mary's brought him a list of some domestic things that had piled up and required some decisions and logistical arrangements. She wanted to resolve all of the items - right then and right there. That's her style.

In fact, Mary tends to become anxious about things that feel "out of control." On his part, Joe tends to react defensively and passive-aggressively when Mary reminds him about things he had agreed to do but keeps putting off. This becomes their dance, in which Joe sees Mary as always nagging; and Mary fumes at Joe's unreliability.

For example, Joe might make promises, but fail to "remember" to take care of them. Mary then becomes angry and distrusting. She shows it, very clearly. In response, Joe withdraws and sees more evidence that she's a constant nag. Each of their individual issues reinforces the other's through this little minuet.

I wonder sometimes whether this doesn't partly explain why men value sex so highly in a relationship?

For sex therapist Bettina Arndt, the question of whether or not we should be moving physical intimacy closer to the top of that to-do list is increasingly pertinent in a society of spiralling divorce rates. Last year, the highly respected psychotherapist asked 98 couples – from 20-year-old students to those who’d been married for more than 40 years – to keep intimate sex diaries in which they recorded every detail of their behaviour in the bedroom.

The diary results were both poignant and compelling. While women wrote of their dismay and resentment at being ‘pestered’ for sex, most men, she discovered, forlornly documented the fact that they were continually refused sex by their wives, feeling trapped in a sexless marriage where physical intimacy was doled out, as Arndt puts it, ‘like meaty bites to a dog’.

‘Sex isn’t just about sex but about creating a physical bond, a closeness that is crucial in our hectic world’

Moreover, far from being the subject of bawdy bar-stool banter with their friends, the situation caused most of the men great anguish and bewilderment that they had, until then, found hard to articulate. ‘Every day I received page after page of eloquent, often immensely sad diary material, as men grasped the opportunity to talk about what emerged as being a mighty emotional issue for them,’

The world of men is disturbing and often frightening to many women. We see you all compete and brag and bluster; pretend not to care about anything or anyone; pretend you don't have feelings. Pretend we don't have the ability to hurt you the way you can so easily hurt us.

But even the strongest man needs to let down his guard from time to time; to be gentle and loving and even a tiny bit foolish with no fear of being taken advantage of; of being judged weak or unmanly. And in truth, this is possible precisely because men and women don't apply the same standards men use to judge each other. We have our own standards - our own reasons for loving you. These are the moments we women prize the most because when they occur, we know you're comfortable with us. You trust us enough to allow us past that whiskery hide for a moment - allow us to touch your hearts.

So no, dear reader. I don't think we place too much emphasis on sex (though sex is hardly the only way two people can grow - and stay - close). It's just the easiest and most basic. A shorthand, if you will, that allows unlike beings to communicate wordlessly what matters most: that despite our many and perplexing differences, we need each other. We fill a great need in each other precisely because we are so different.

But hey, that's just me and no doubt someone will be along shortly to tell me I'm an idiot who doesn't understand anything. That seems to be the template, on the Internet.

That's OK. You use your own template. I'll use mine.

Posted by Cassandra at May 19, 2010 12:44 PM

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Comments

I think you've hit the nail on the head concerning measuring success. We all use our own definition of success when evaluating others. Maybe women are more successful at reaching their goals than men, they're just setting different goals.

"The world of men is disturbing and often frightening to many women. We see you all compete and brag and bluster; pretend not to care about anything or anyone; pretend you don't have feelings. Pretend we don't have the ability to hurt you the way you can so easily hurt us."

Do you see that in us as individuals, or is that a general overview?

Posted by: Pogue at May 19, 2010 05:32 PM

"In what universe does an end state in which I lose what I think is important become "success"? Is success essentially derivative in nature? Does it depend upon the opinions of others, or on the achievement of our own goals? Is it defined by getting what we want or by getting what other people think we ought to want?"

The Mexican Fisherman
An American investment banker was at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large yellowfin tuna. The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them.

The Mexican replied, "Only a little while."

The American then asked why didn't he stay out longer and catch more fish?

The Mexican said he had enough to support his family's immediate needs.

The American then asked, "But what do you do with the rest of your time?"

The Mexican fisherman said, "I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siestas with my wife, Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine, and play guitar with my amigos. I have a full and busy life."

The American scoffed, "I am a Harvard MBA and could help you. You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat. With the proceeds from the bigger boat, you could buy several boats, eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing, and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then LA and eventually New York City, where you will run your expanding enterprise."

The Mexican fisherman asked, "But, how long will this all take?"

To which the American replied, "15 - 20 years."

"But what then?" Asked the Mexican.

The American laughed and said, "That's the best part. When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich, you would make millions!"

"Millions - then what?"

The American said, "Then you would retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siestas with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos."

Sometimes wisdom lies not only in knowing what you want but also in being happy when you attain it.

Posted by: Peanut Gallery at May 19, 2010 05:32 PM

Do you see that in us as individuals, or is that a general overview?

I see it as more of a general overview that applies to individuals in greater or lesser degree.

I have always loved men precisely because you all are not women. Men are endlessly fascinating to me, but just as men complain that too many women define "good" in terms of female qualities, I see men ridicule and disparage feminine values all the time.

I don't think either sex really realizes what they are doing, or questions why one should expect a man to act like a woman or a woman to act like a man?

I think there's some overlap in the middle where we can both agree. But I'm often reminded of a comment Texan99 made long ago - most virtues are considered to be masculine. I've never understood that and I think it's very misguided. Tragic, even.

Posted by: Cassandra at May 19, 2010 05:39 PM

Your synaptic connections are having what kind of a relationship?

*thud*

I have always thought the epitome of happiness would be that you were happy with what you have.

Posted by: Cricket at May 19, 2010 05:48 PM

"But I'm often reminded of a comment Texan99 made long ago - most virtues are considered to be masculine. I've never understood that and I think it's very misguided. Tragic, even."

I remember that - but *duh* didn't we decide that was because men were defining the virtues? :-) Further support for the thesis of transference of values of the observer. OK, I'll be quiet now :p

Posted by: Pogue at May 19, 2010 06:03 PM

...didn't we decide that was because men were defining the virtues?

Touche :)

I guess I'm reflexively suspicious of 'this is wrong b/c men/women/marmosets got to define it' only b/c such arguments are so often used to imply that it is only men/women/marmosets (stuffed or unstuffed) who are subjective.

I always saw it more as, "people are subjective".

Posted by: Cassandra at May 19, 2010 06:24 PM

Thank You for posting this! I really like your blog - keep up the great work!!

Common Cents
http://www.commoncts.blogspot.com

Posted by: Steve at May 19, 2010 06:28 PM

But hey, that's just me and no doubt someone will be along shortly to tell me I'm an idiot who doesn't understand anything. That seems to be the template, on the Internet.

Truer words...

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at May 19, 2010 06:44 PM

Heh... that was classic.

Posted by: Cassandra at May 19, 2010 06:45 PM

Templates are a useful evolutionary skill. They allow for quickly identifying and reacting to potentially hazardous situations. They also allow for making an initial guess on potential food. In short templates are quick judgements, that are needed until we have the time to test things out.

But, anyone who fails to follow up and test the thing out falls into the fool category.

Posted by: Allen at May 19, 2010 07:04 PM

We fill a great need in each other precisely because we are so different.

Amen. I recently said something that I had long understood on some level, but never completely articulated: Growing up in a man-free household after the age of 11 I am acutely aware of what men bring to the table that it different than women, and so I treasure the men in my life.

The men who have been my friends and mentors over the years have enriched my life in ways that I don't even know how to articulate--I see their value by comparing them with their absence. I marvel at what seems to me to be cases of women who dismiss and degrade the men in their lives, whether platonic or romantic. There is something so wonderful in bridging that male-female divide; constructing a bridge only to then attempt to badger, prod and stuff each other into some template is tragic.

Posted by: FbL at May 19, 2010 08:03 PM

When you use the word 'template,' I am put in mind of how we are wired first as people, and then as men and women.

I am then drawn to the 'status quo' of how things are. I always thought that striving for excellence was something both men and women did, but with their respective strengths and weaknesses.

To that extent, there are athletes of both genders that take 'performance enhancing drugs', but they rarely compete against each other.

In the business world, it can be rough. I think sometimes, if you have to compete, you have to get rid of the tendency to moderate your response. You can't afford to feel sorry for your opponent. I just got finished re-reading 'Noble House.' Sort of on the same lines; she wants equality but will have to give something up to get it.

Posted by: Cricket at May 19, 2010 09:03 PM

It's not up to the individual to decide their course in life. They don't have the right of self-determination. The Left determined that long ago and replaced it with the Utopian vision of a permanent increase in human abilities and comforts.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at May 19, 2010 11:50 PM

Noble House was a great novel, Cricket. I have read it several times over the years and enjoyed it immensely each time.

Working full time after decades of being a housewife and mother was interesting for me. I wanted very badly to excel and worked very hard to that end.

I found some aspects extremely easy, but I always considered that I was competing against myself rather than against others. That's one difference I often see between men and women (it's hardly universal because not all men/women are alike, but it does seem to be true on a general level); "beating" another person at something doesn't really add anything to my sense of self worth. In fact, I often feel slightly guilty and uncomfortable about it.

But that doesn't seem to be true of many men. Their self worth is enhanced by besting others - they actually enjoy the competition. I don't know if they just don't take it personally, whether they are socialized to look at competition as good (and not to think/worry about whether the person they bested feels as bad about that outcome as they feel good about it) or what?

I think it's not at all a bad way to look at things. When I was just a kid, I was naturally good at a fair number of things. Consequently I didn't have to try hard in order to do well at them. I always felt tremendously uncomfortable about that. In the Pinker article there was a part about successful women feeling like frauds. I've never felt that way - when I do well I have always thought I deserved to succeed but I've also noticed that succeeding makes other people feel bad about themselves. That bothers me - not to the point where I think it's wrong to succeed or win, but to the point where I wonder whether men ever feel that way?

For me, it's not possible to not notice or ignore other people's feelings and so any pleasure I get from succeeding is dimmed somewhat if I notice someone getting bent out of shape over it.

I was trying to figure out the 'feeling like a fraud' thing and wondered whether that might happen when women succeed in a system that is more male than female? IOW, it's not that you don't deserve to succeed, but maybe more that in order to succeed you have to adopt certain behaviors and attitudes that you've been taught aren't "female" (like not paying so much attention to people's feeeeeeeeeeeeeelings) :p

Posted by: Cassandra at May 20, 2010 06:56 AM

I'm not convinced that women, on the average, are all that much less competitive than men. Women who *don't* pursue careers have very often competed in terms of such traditional things as biggest house/biggest diamond ring/smartest kids/newest fashions, etc. Indeed, one advantage of expanded career opportunities for women may be the displacement of competitive instincts into more socially-useful areas.

Posted by: david foster at May 20, 2010 07:56 AM

I'm not sure we're less competitive either, David.

I think perhaps we are just socialized to feel uncomfortable/slightly ashamed about winning, just as men are socialized to feel uncomfortable/slightly ashamed about expressing emotion or allowing their vulnerable side to show.

One of the weirdest things about women (IMO) is watching the way they act when the topic of babies/children comes up. First time moms are the *worst*. Their child is always above average and they fret at the slightest sign their precious darling isn't keeping up with the neighbor's 7 month old!

I probably had an unusual perspective on this b/c we had 2 children by the time we got to our first duty station and pretty much everyone else at my husband's rank was either newly married or just going through their first pregnancy.

I used to listen to my neighbors in amazement. After a while, I'd say, "Well, how many kindergarteners do you know that don't talk yet/don't walk yet/aren't potty trained?"

Every child has a different time table. My first talked at 8 months and had a HUGE vocab by 1 year. Of course, this meant I was a SuperMom ... not :p

My second child wouldn't talk for love or GummyBears until well after his 2nd birthday. He showed little or no interest in books until about 3rd grade (though I read to him and his brother daily all the same).

Both boys were big for their age, but my first was bigger until the age of 5. My youngest turned out to be quite a bit taller, so baby height/weight was a poor indicator of adult height/weight.

The way my sons were as small children turned out to have little or nothing to do with the way they turned out as adults. I used to laugh myself silly at all the Moms who were so sure that the fact that their 2 month old was already smiling and cooing meant they had a baby Einstein on their hands :p

Posted by: Cassandra at May 20, 2010 08:38 AM

...one advantage of expanded career opportunities for women may be the displacement of competitive instincts into more socially-useful areas

Not sure working is always "more socially useful".

As a former homemaker and FT mom, I can tell you that I often got some of my best ideas after seeing another woman's home and thinking, "Wow - whatever she did is pretty smart".

I can't say I had any desire to compete, so much as I would think, "Maybe I shouldn't rest on my laurels - look at what other people are doing. I could be making our home/our lives better by learning from their example."

Posted by: Cassandra at May 20, 2010 08:42 AM

Cassandra...I wasn't at all trying to suggest that working at a job is more socially useful than being a full-time homemaker...rather, that *competitive instincts* are more usefully employed in work-related ways than in a home environment. To the extent a person feels that (s)he needs to beat other people, it is probably best to exercise this need at work, in sports, etc, rather than in day-to-day life.

Posted by: david foster at May 20, 2010 09:34 AM

I guess my confusion revolves around the fact that when I was a full time homemaker, I considered that to be my work.

My career, if you will. I am in no way attributing this sentiment to you, David, because I've never heard you express it, but I frequently hear men putting down women's work as somehow not serious or important. This confuses me, especially when it comes from guys who are constantly lamenting women's lib :p

OK, so these guys don't want women to be in the workplace but if they stay home, they're "sponging"? Wow.

A well run home and well raised children are things not easily achieved. I was a FT wife and mother for nearly 2 decades. I made my own clothes, sewed my own drapes, bedspreads and other household items, refinished and reupholstered furniture and painted several homes inside and out. I also did the lion's share of the yard work, taught our children and managed the household finances.

I've worked FT for 12 years now and frankly, it's a hell of a lot less demanding in many ways! I have the money to pay other people to do things I used to do myself and it's wonderful. Plus, I'm providing jobs for other people :) I like that.

I see a distinction between being challenged by excellence in others and wanting to beat them. That may be more an introvert/extrovert thing than a male/female thing, though. Not sure.

I see the former attribute more often in people who are inner directed and the latter more in those who are outer directed/more influenced by others. I think both have their uses.

Posted by: Cassandra at May 20, 2010 09:51 AM

That said, I agree that social competition is not a good thing! It causes hate and discontent.

Posted by: Cassandra at May 20, 2010 09:53 AM

I was trying to figure out the 'feeling like a fraud' thing and wondered whether that might happen when women succeed in a system that is more male than female? IOW, it's not that you don't deserve to succeed, but maybe more that in order to succeed you have to adopt certain behaviors and attitudes that you've been taught aren't "female" (like not paying so much attention to people's feeeeeeeeeeeeeelings) :p--Our Rosy Cheeky Hostesse

I think a personal best is more along the lines of how we are wired. I think men are wired that way too, but then take it to the next level and pit that personal best against someone else's.

I want to be the best there is at what I do, but I have to make sure that I can do it and do it better than anyone in my sphere.

I remember you talking about customer service and how it doesn't cost anything to be cordial...and why that is important in a negotiation. Along with catching more flies with honey than vinegar, it puts them off guard.

Posted by: Cricket at May 20, 2010 10:11 AM

I am always fascinated by the differences between people - not just between men and women but between individuals.

I hate confrontations, despite being (for a female) relatively unafraid to stand up to others. I can do it, and I'm good at it. But confrontations make me literally sick to my stomach.

I feel that way even when I fight with my husband: I can't sleep or even think about anything else until it's resolved. Men are so much better at "putting things on the back burner". Over the years it has been hard for me to understand that this doesn't necessarily mean they care less. Because sometimes they just aren't as bothered by certain things.

But a lot of it is that I just think they're better able to deal with conflict in the short term on a personal level. In the long term, I think women are slightly better able to deal with interpersonal conflicts. We are more apt to face them squarely and work towards a resolution, and I think part of that is that we are slightly less inclined to see conflict as a zero sum game.

When I have a disagreement with another person, it's fairly rare for me to think I have to "win". Sometimes that absolutely does happen. But most of the time I just want us to talk it out so I understand why they are upset and they understand why I'm upset. I don't care if, in the process, I have to admit I screwed up so long as in the end we patch things up.

But being stubborn - for me at least - is counterproductive since I feel so awful. The thing is, I don't think I'm a pushover by any means. But I have noticed that I view conflict differently than a lot of people I've discussed it with.

Posted by: Cassandra at May 20, 2010 10:23 AM

A man that cannot control his own emotions and prevent it from being easily observed externally, is just another meat slice ready to be preyed upon in the jungle and the social hierarchy.

Leftist re-engineering of society has separated much of what was useful from common perception. Now a days people no longer even know why they are the way they are. Their life, their existence, their purpose is defined by Leftist social engineering programs. Natural impulses are only fuel for the fire, like pornographic sex and legalized prostitution. But if natural impulses such as self-determination and protecting the weak can't be engineered to fit the Left's goals, then they will be separated out and destroyed.

Thus rather than teaching people that men have as a survival instinct a desire not to show what they are feeling to the world's predators, instead they are taught men are insensitive and do not care. Rather than see this trait as something that could be used to benefit the security situation of a woman, the woman now sees it as a stumbling block. A stumbling block that, coincidentally, the Left promises to "fix".

Humans have enough problems on their own without the Left adding to em. But instead of simply the average in human problems, the Left has engineered misunderstandings and chasms. They did so with the express purpose of weakening all people, men and women. And all kinds of people, busy bodies, religious community activists, wall street bankers, politicians, lawyers, have allowed them to do so.

Because they thought it was a "good idea".

Posted by: Ymarsakar at May 20, 2010 11:11 AM

The Housing Crash of 2008. It seemed like a good idea at the time for those bailouts.

Election of Obama. It seemed like a good idea at the time. He was calm, certain, and didn't act surprised. A historic moment. It seemed like a very totomo good idea at the time. It was if he Obama knew exactly what was going on and how to fix it, almost as if he knew ahead of time that it was going down.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at May 20, 2010 11:18 AM

I feel that way even when I fight with my husband: I can't sleep or even think about anything else until it's resolved. Men are so much better at "putting things on the back burner". Over the years it has been hard for me to understand that this doesn't necessarily mean they care less. Because sometimes they just aren't as bothered by certain things.

I think it's that men tend to not take the fight personally (but when they do take it personally, they take it *really* personally). I was in a corporate training class years ago with a marketing type who was saying that she felt personally disrespected when someone would forcefully advocate a contrary opinion. That taking the contrary opinion was fine but that a respectful disagreement should be more gentle.

My take was that if I was trying to persuade you you already had my respect. If I didn't respect you, I wouldn't bother. Why waste my time trying to convince you of a position you are too stupid to understand?

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at May 20, 2010 11:20 AM

The forceful approach is designed to test the mental fortitude of those in the group. I'm not going to rely upon anybody that is a "shaker" when voices are raised to cover any essential things, like say, the escape route or a corporate budget report.

If they are so easily pressured and upset by such minor things as a forceful disagreement, I'm not going to count on them when the fire gets really hot.

Often times it was better for a woman doing gathering and dealing with her tribe's issues, to not publicly broadcast every little problem and nitpick around. That doesn't usually create social harmony. The tribe is the tribe. There's no way to get rid of a person permanently other than through exile or execution. Thus it pays to keep social harmony going by not saying things in public or saying things in private in a "gentle" manner.

Hunters can't afford to let social illusions blind them to the realities out on the field, however. There, whether it is against animals, environmental problems, or other tribes, victory is only present if you survive. Harsh words ain't going to break your tribe. You getting killed because you relied upon a traitor or coward, may though. Other tribes may even see your group and lack of leadership as a sign of the weakness for your entire tribe and then they'll come and wipe you all out. That'll be stopped by "harsh or gentle words"? Nada.

Once accepted into a social hierarchy dominated by competitive win/lose propositions, respect then is earned by strength and results. Confidence, certainty, the ability to explain and relieve the anxiety of others, is what counts. When you are challenged or tested by a contrary position, the disrespect only accrues when you fail that challenge. Should you handle it well, your social status actually will be increased over the objector's. Rather than inciting jealousy, as may be the case for women when other women jump over them in status, men need a proper chain of command and specific personal challenges are a simple and direct way of figuring out the pack hierarchy. Once that hierarchy is figured out, and only when that hierarchy is accepted by all members, can actual real work get done.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at May 20, 2010 11:30 AM

When I worked in a large, institutional law firm, I often came up against the problem of how hard a successful person should work. There are only so many hours in a year (8,760), so it seems clear that no matter what kind of a dynamo a lawyer is, at some point he's going to have to delegate the work to others. Why is 4,000 hours a year a better cut-off point than 2,000 hours a year? Assuming that a competent lawyer billing 2,000 hours a year is willing to earn less than one billing 4,000 hours a year, taking into account fixed overhead, why does the whole law firm's success template have to hinge on which of those hourly patterns a particular lawyer is the closest to? The clients would be happier with a lawyer who took good care of their matters and was not thoroughly distracted by too many other matters he was trying to juggle at the same time. If the junior lawyers' compensation was adjusted appropriately, the senior lawyers with big points could still make the zillion dollars a year they're after. But I can hardly describe how alien this mindset is to every law firm I have known, including the ones who claimed that they had moderate billable hours requirements and valued home life (always a pure-D stinking lie!).

I've known a lot of wildly successful lawyers, hardly any of whom could bear the idea of retiring. They don't seem to know what leisure is. I'm not sure they really wanted to have more time with their families, or that they knew of anything intrinsically worthwhile to do with their time if they didn't have to be at the office 14 hours a day, seven days a week.

The only thing that kept me at the office on a schedule like that was the desire to save and invest enough to make my husband and me financially secure into old age. I wasn't willing to live a life of leisure from early youth if it meant we couldn't provide for ourselves, but by the same token I wasn't working extremely hard just because I couldn't think of anything else to do. So was I a success? Well, I have no debt and my time is my own. The more money you make, the easier it is to live within your means and save for the future -- assuming that's really what you want to do. But the key is always to live within your means and save for the future, no matter what your income is, if your goal really is to have control over how you use your time at some stage in your life. (That's assuming that the work you do is not what you'd most like to be doing with your time all day every day. For me, it was just a job and a source of income, not a personal passion.)

So if I were running a business, I wouldn't measure its success by how big it got. I'd be more likely to measure its success by how many people's needs it could take care of in comparison to the fraction of their lives it ate up. That's a sliding scale that takes into account not only how many hours a week of attention the business needs, but also how close the activities of those hours come to what the workers would like to be doing anyway.

Posted by: Texan99 at May 20, 2010 11:31 AM

In fact, the whole issue brings to mind the phrase "Nice work if you can get it."

Posted by: Texan99 at May 20, 2010 11:32 AM

I always love your comments, T99. It seems that you and Cassie have the same take on things.

Posted by: Cricket at May 20, 2010 12:35 PM

'Cept she's waaaaaay smarter than I am :p

Posted by: Cassandra at May 20, 2010 12:38 PM

Business owners should do what they love doing. Work smarter, not harder.

A business provides value. Those that are passionate about the service or product they offer, will often be the ones that provide the best value. A business transaction is also about mutual gain. If a person is in it only for the money, then that is what he will contribute and work towards. But if a person is in it for the satisfaction of doing a good job, making the best product available, helping the most people in the least amount of time, then they not only get money to expand their business, but their own personal desires are fulfilled as well.

Money is a tool. If there was an intrinsic worth to it such that people could pursue it as an end goal in and of itself, then Obama, Soros, and Warren would be saints and we would have to worship them all of the days of our lives.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at May 20, 2010 03:27 PM

I so enjoy talking with you guys. This site has made me realize how differently I approach things from a lot of men, even the men I like and respect the most, like many who post here. What a relief it is to be able to bounce ideas off of women who can get me. I get a sinking feeling every time Cassandra threatens to leave us! Don't do it! You're essential.

Posted by: Texan99 at May 20, 2010 03:35 PM

As one who has just finished battling (with success, I might add) an institutional software template, I heartily agree! Especially since the template was designed for disciplines rather different from mine. It was a tad irritating at times. Ditto when people assume that because I have two X chromosomes, I should be studying something with "more women" in it. Ah, nope, this little pilot-fluvial geomorphologist-climatologist-historian doesn't do gender history unless forced.

I like being around manly men, womenly women and vive lé difference! (No, I'm feeling no pain today. Why?)

Posted by: LittleRed1 at May 20, 2010 03:57 PM

+1 to Peanut Gallery. That's a good story. :)

Posted by: Grim at May 20, 2010 04:15 PM

One of the things that Deborah Tannen points out is that men tell stories that top other men's stories, while women tell stories that equal or share other women's stories. (Having typed that, I just got a great revelation from the mixed-gender support group I was at earlier.) Perhaps the "build it bigger" vs "build it enough" is part of this (tempered by different cultural flavorings, although the topping vs equal thing seems cross-cultural; perhaps American males are just "more so".

Posted by: htom at May 20, 2010 07:15 PM

If you build it, they will come.


Posted by: Field of Dreams at May 20, 2010 08:17 PM

Yes, I really enjoyed Peanut Gallery's story, too.

Posted by: Texan99 at May 20, 2010 09:51 PM

"And you big, strong manly men thought size didn't matter!"

Actually, that's not true; it's a deception maintained by the less well endowed...

Posted by: camojack at May 21, 2010 01:22 AM

Size matters because anything men thinks matters does matter -- to them.

Posted by: Texan99 at May 21, 2010 10:20 AM

Size is a physical attribute. Ability, skill, and character are not physical attributes.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at May 21, 2010 03:38 PM

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