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Hannah

Nice analysis of the differences between much of the traditionally male world and housewife world, but I think it misses a lot of the fondness that women have for hierarchy, and that men have for circles. The circles you mentioned that women have are circles of friends, those people that you count on, but I think men have those too. When men gather to play poker or watch sports, is there a leader at that point? Unless you want to say that the guy who has the biggest tv is the leader, I think not. And if you do, most circles of female friends have one who is more of a hostess than the others. The circle of friends is common to both sexes.

So, what about the importance of hierarchy in working? You're certainly right about the importance of hierarchy to men, but I think that you maybe just don't notice how a hierarchy works in female working groups. Remember, housewives didn't work in teams for housework, but did in volunteer organizations. Ladies Aid Societies generally had a formidable Head Lady who organized the meetings and got Mrs Jones to make those great cookies of hers. Even the most traditional female working groups usually had a leader, and she often had a title. And as for rules, you must not have been in any girls' clubs or known about them, because I and the other girls I always hung out with were very fond of them. One of the most popular series of books for girls, the "Baby-Sitter's Club" series is based around female hierarchical clubs. In college, I wasn't in a sorority, but I know they have plenty of rules and a governing body, and my all-female dorm had a ridiculous number of often-revised rules, a constitution, and a student government. Actually, we had more rules and more division of labor than the men's halls did. Even naturally formed cliques in high school often have a girl who functions as leader. So, while housework is generally the sport of the individualist, obviously women can and do take to hierarchy like ducks to water, sometimes outdoing equivalent male organizations in the complexity and productivity of the hierarchical structures.

I think the key to understanding the difference between the sexes attitudes toward hierarchy is that "women don't need hierarchy." Housewives don't need to be organized into neighborhood cleaning and cooking teams to get their jobs done, so those women who don't like teams or hierarchies simply don't join the Ladies Aid Society led by bossy old Mrs Know-It-All. Some men don't enjoy teamwork or hierarchy, but they don't tend to be able to avoid them. Add to all this the feminist and modernist "we don't need no stinkin' hierarchy" attitudes, and a lot of women grow up hating the very idea of structured organizations. In feminist organizations, women leaders were often undermined, not because women naturally dislike hierarchy, but because feminists were explicitly fighting much of mainstream hierarchy and were suspicious of it in all forms. It was not a natural, but an unnatural, inclination.

If spending four years in an all-female rigidly hierarchical dorm taught me anything, it's that hierarchy is good and necessary. Even working as a scientist, which gives a lot of room for independence, I am part of the structure of academia. There are departments which have a spirit of camaraderie and those that have more infighting, and there's no question as to which is more enjoyable and better as a whole. Women and men do handle social interactions differently in many ways, and I think that we should try to understand how those dynamics play out in various hierarchies. The difference is more subtle than a circle-team dynamic. The only true circles I've ever known were circles of friends with no purpose; every other female group had a de facto or de jure leader and basically worked as a team. Of course, I'm a post-title IX woman, so I and my friends grew up participating in team sports, but my fondness of pre-twentieth century literature would bear out my idea that women are not circle-oriented egalitarians.

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    Comments

    • From Benedict XVI
      “People have realized that the complete removal of the feminine element from the Christian message is a shortcoming from an anthropological viewpoint. It is theologically and anthropologically important for woman to be at the center of Christianity."
    • Anger and Patrimony (from Donna)
      This is just another of the unintended consequences of the cultural acceptance of contraception and abortion! Men's sexuality has been robbed of its creative essence. It is now viewed as something that imposes a burden on women (when conception happens to occur), something used to control women or something that is purely recreational. Why would men bother?? In taking away their responsibility, we've also robbed them of their significance! In the big picture of humanity, men have been made into nothing more than a nuisance women have to figure out how to control in order to bring about the next generation. Men don't see it as their task to protect the vulnerable because they see themselves as the vulnerable ones. A few well preserved vials of sperm would make men entirely obsolete in the world's ethos today!!
    • Excellent, Dom! (from Teresa)
      That is astounding Robin, and good for you for standing up. At the heart of that matter, I think, is even worse than a gender mixing message. There is an increased sharper and sharper focus on the "self." Solid Catholic teaching returns our focus away from ourselves to Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The original sin, Eve denied her womanhood when she desired to be like "gods." Since the only god she knew was the Father. Where was Adam? He stood impotent... in other words, they were divorced. There's a young girl at Robin's son's high school who was just told that she is the center of the universe and it's a tragic disservice to her.
    • Find the logic (from "me")
      Ditto what Mary said! A lot of high schools have very poor math and science depts, for boys and girls. I also am educated as a chemical engineer, but chose to teach the two years before we had children because its hours were more suited to spending time with children. (I was looking ahead). When it came time and I was pregnant with our first, I realized that I did not want to leave him with someone else, and was able to stay home full time. I am not sure it would have been that easy if we were used to another engineering income and not just a private school teacher income. Also some of my first job offers were out on oil rigs - I had no interest in that at all even though I enjoyed my engineering classes and did well in them. No one discouraged me from an engineering job, on the contrary I got a lot of flack for my decision not to pursue an engineering career.
    • Find the logic (from Mary)
      I've been lurking, but this is one that irritates me. Beats the heck out of me what these "barriers" are. I was educated as a chemical engineer, where 1/3 of our class was women. However, in electrical engineering, only 1 or 2 out of 30 were women. Is it possible that women are Just Not Interested in some areas? Nah, it must be The Man keeping us down so we must legislate (and, I agree -- when they say "legistlate", I hear "quota"). And actually, I have a friend that was also a chemical engineer. When she lost her job, she decided not to go back into engineering and started working from home so she could spend more time with her 3 kids. Also, if nothing else, there are all kinds of incentives for women to enter science and engineering -- scholarships not available to men, guaranteed housing on campuses that do not guarantee housing to the general population, etc. I think you hit the nail on the head when you said that schools in general are not preparing students for the hard sciences. It is truly a sad state of affairs, the lack of science education these days.

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