Why is it that the most ruthless and violent people in history are always men?
If there’s ever been a violent, murderous female dictator, have you heard of her? I haven’t. The closest I’ve come across is Osho’s portrayal of Mother Teresa as a charlatan and hypocrite, but she lived a life in service of the poor.
Where are the violent women? They’re hard to find.
But violent men? They’re ubiquitous. Men carry out 76% of the violent crime in the United States, and the percentage is likely at least this high throughout the world.
How about corporate crimes that are committed? Yes, men are more likely to commit white collar crime.
Is it even controversial to say that there is a major problem with the men of the world? This is the easy part. What’s more challenging is understanding where the problem stems from and what we can do about it.
In history males have always been violent
Human history is full of competition and violence. Our evolution depends on it.
Competition and violence existed because resources are scarce. There was incredible advantage for groups or tribes to have control over resources. It was the difference between surviving and perishing.
Who were the people within a tribe most biologically suitable for violence and protecting the group? Young men. They were the strongest and fastest, and had the warrior mentality to go out and aggressively protect the tribe.
For hundreds of thousands of years, we evolved in tribes where young men were rewarded for carrying out the crucial role of protecting us. They helped the group to prosper, protected the tribe from others and fought off any invaders.
Masculinity for millennia has been about protecting and providing for society. This has been our role and we were rewarded for doing this.
There was inevitably a downside for the tribes in having young and aggressive men as their members. They likely caused many issues, got in fights over who was with what woman and went into battle with each other over who would be the tribal leader. But the benefits far outweighed the costs.
The problem is that today this traditional kind of masculinity is no longer necessary for a healthy and functioning society. We don’t live under the constant threat of invasion. Wild animals aren’t entering our cities. Babies are more likely to flourish under conditions of psychological stability rather than by having the most physically strongest father.
There are hidden costs to being a man
When I was a kid, I remember being really scared to go to school. I even cried before my first day. But I knew I needed to suck it in and be a man.
In high school, I was regularly bullied by one particular guy who was a lot bigger than me. I didn’t know how to react. I asked my father for some advice. He told me the next time it happens, suck it in and socket him with a massive punch. I didn’t and for years felt like weak man for not being able to stand up to myself.
This is normal in the modern day and age. Men are living through a massive crisis where there are very strong norms encouraging us to “be a man” and impose ourselves physically on others – even in self defence. Yet at the same time society is changing so rapidly and there are other sets of norms encouraging us to play the role of provider and protector in ways that are better fit for the modern age when we don’t need violence to serve these roles.
It’s not easy being a man
Did you know that men commit suicide at five times the rate of women? Teenage boys commit suicide at nine times the rate of girls.
Men are diagnosed with depression and ADHD at a rate of 4-to-1 to girls the same age. Men make up 2/3 of the homeless population, are more than twice as likely to become alcoholics and three times more likely to become drug addicts.
It’s well known that men are far less likely than women to seek advice or ask for help when experiencing health problems and depression.
Men are also the victims of the majority of violent crime but are far less likely to report being a victim of it out of the fear of appearing weak.
It’s not easy being a man.
What is the answer?
I think it’s important that we recognize that notions of masculinity are going through a massive transition. Complex societies are a relatively recent phenomenon – it’s only ten thousand years ago that we migrated from relatively roaming tribes to fixed locations for our cities around our agricultural means of production.
It’s even more recent that we created a communication system that has connected almost all of humanity. Now, we can share our ideas with the world by posting something on a social network or by sending an email.
When you think about it, the current age is better suited for women. The world is going through a transition where men’s biological advantage isn’t an advantage anymore. Women, on the other hand, are traditionally much better communicators and are more able to live harmoniously in groups. This is what’s needed now more than ever as the world comes together in a global society.
For all of our strength and bravado, we regularly end up depressed, suicidal and carrying out violent acts against others. We rely on our women for our emotional and physical well-being to a significant degree, but we’re ill equipped to provide this to ourself.
We’re not living in a man’s world anymore. Given the state of the world we’ve created and the amount of violence we’re capable of unleashing, this is surely a good thing.
But I feel this recognition is only the first step. What is needed is a broader discussion of what masculinity means in the modern age. Traditional conceptions of masculinity won’t fit the bill anymore.
We need to devote more time and attention to understanding the unique challenges of men in the modern age.