Can I just say that I was a Larry Summers defender? I want to put that out there. A lot of people (women, especially) were furious when he asked if innate mathematical ability might possibly be at least a partial explanation for the preponderance of senior male academic scientists.
I’m thinking of the Larry Summers imbroligo in the context of what I wrote on Tuesday at TIME.com. I am, frankly, stunned by how touchy and overwrought certain commenters have been. Andrew Sullivan thinks it’s just “lefties” who are flipping out over sex differences in human behavior. (He mentioned my column a couple days ago.) But it’s conservatives, too. It leaves me almost (but not quite) speechless.
Who knew so many people are convinced that men are too delicate to handle basic epidemiological data? Who knew men could be so easily aggrieved and offended? From what I’m hearing, you’d think I was saying something really crazy, like 80 percent of murder victims are male and men are nine times more likely to commit murder than women. Oh, wait, I did say that.
I’m still puzzling over the furious response to Tuesday’s TIME.com column and my apparently scandalous suggestion that we take an honest look at the risk factors for murder. I am officially exhausted by this ‘discourse’ — though I do genuinely appreciate the people who chose to have a dialogue, even if they disagreed with me — and I know I should move on. Yet I can’t quite let it go because I keep thinking if people actually understood what I was trying to say, they would stop fighting with me and sending me Youtube videos and newspaper headlines about women who have murdered their children.
Yes: I get it, thank you. Women are sometimes violent. Men are not always, or even usually, violent. Check. And on a personal note, I’d like to add that I am a huge appreciator of male chivalry. Sexual dimorphism has always worked for me! Of course I accept that gender roles are fluid and very few differences are set in stone. Yet I personally love traditional manliness and am married to a guy who really deeply believes that one of his essential roles is to protect me and our children. I’m mostly cool with testosterone, okay?
And who isn’t deeply moved by the stories of men who have sacrificed their lives for loved ones. (Women, of course, do this all the time, too, and have done so throughout history. Take maternal mortality, for example. And it’s probably churlish of me to mention – but also true – that a lot of the “protecting” men do of their womenfolk and children involves protecting them from other men! But still… there is something beautiful and admirable about men who take their traditional role as providers/protectors seriously. I understand all of this. I like it quite a lot.
And, how, exactly, does any of that change this reality: Maleness is a major risk factor – not a determinant, but a risk factor – for being both a perpetrator and a victim of murder. And I didn’t even touch on the issue of other forms of violence, such as rape, but I’d love to hear the mental gymnastics that would be required to make the case that women are equally rapey. Please, enlighten me.
I’m not engaged in ‘gender-bashing,’, I’m not discounting the “vast majority of great guys.” I’m not pretending women aren’t capable of inflicting horror on others. I’m honoring the inexcusable number of senseless deaths each year by trying to understand how to prevent more of them. These aren’t sensationalist rare events. Murder is an everyday occurrence. Lesser forms of violence are even more frequent. Instead of being offended and self-righteous, how about figuring out how we can prevent this scourge?
Now I am ‘closed’ on this subject – for the immediate future, anyway.
Thanks for listening.