Men and women are naturally different. This should be obvious to all but the densest radical feminists. The question is how can we explain these differences without falling into negative stereotyping.
An article by Richard Dujardin (who in the interests of disclosure is a friend) on a forum on the differences between men and women held at Brown University is one of the few balanced discussions of the question I have seen.
The article suggests that the differences between sexes are caused by a combination of nature and nurture, genes and gender socialization, that even before birth there are real differences between the brains of boys and girls. Once children are born, boys react to stimuli differently than girls and parents recognize and anticipate these differences and treat boys and girls differently which causes the differences to increase.
For years I have asked myself what are the fundamental differences between the sexes and which are merely stereotypes. This question was important to me, because I wasn't a "stereotypical" girl. I liked math and science. I was attracted to things generally considered male and turned off by a lot of girl stuff. And yet as I matured I saw there were parts of the male world which were alien to me. Eventually I developed a theory of sex difference. So here is Dale's theory:
The family is the center of society both men and women are called to support the family, but their responsibility to the family is not identical.
Men and women have different vocations. A vocation is the call from God to be what you were made to be. Men are called to accept responsibility for protecting and providing for women and children. Women are responsible for the human person and the care of the home.
Having the responsibility does not necessarily mean that you do all the work. Both men and women are capable of doing almost all the tasks required to maintain the family – except for childbirth and nursing, tasks belonging solely to the woman. Depending on the situation women may engage in productive labor, men may help with the children, but doing the work is not the same as feeling the primary responsibility. A man can leave his day old baby and go to work confident that he is fulfilling his responsibility. A mother feels that the baby is her responsibility. Even if she leaves the baby with a nanny she is the one who must supervise the child's care. This division of responsibility is key to understanding the differences between men and women.
In order to protect and provide men organize themselves into groups – teams. These teams allow men to work together minimizing conflicts. Most of these male teams have some or all of the following characteristics. They are hierarchical. Some one is in charge, others follow orders. This is a necessity if the group is to accomplish its end. The hierarchy is organized through a combination of seniority and skill. Members must go through some form of initiation or training period in which their skill is evaluated. Progress up the hierarchy based on time in the organization and on proven skill. This leads to internal competition which increases the effectiveness of the organization.
Often the rank in the organization is designated by some kind of formal or informal uniform. This allows the members to relate to one another without knowing each member personally. The military and church are perfect examples of formal uniforms. A group of men gather on the altar, many of whom have not met before that moment, yet by their vestment each one knows everyone else's rank and responsibility. Some businesses have informal uniforms. Management may be known as "the suits." Teams often engage in formal or informal competition with other teams and some times the uniforms distinguish the teams.
Teams are very concerned with the rules and often spend what may seem an inordinate time setting up the rules and enforcing them. If internal and external competition is important to the cohesive nature of the team and therefore essential to the protection of the family, the rules provide a level playing field. Honor is therefore an essential virtue. An honorable man keeps his word to his teammates and follows the rules.
I am firmly convinced that the "teams" are natural to men. They can't imagine getting things done without them.
On the other hand, women organize themselves into circles of friends – women who share their fundamental values and concern, women whom they can count on for support, particular in times of stress, such as birth, death, marriage, and illness.
Women's primary responsibility to the person and the home do not require her to join a hierarchical organization with other women, indeed such an organization would impede her work. I have lectured on this and asked my female audience: How many of you would like to have your neighborhood organized into a team with a captain and have all the work of the home assigned on the basis of ability? Most women simply laugh at the suggestion.
Women don't need hierarchy. Overt competition can undermine the unity of the circle. For example, in group of older women each may be proud of her grandchildren, perhaps a little competitive in pointing out achievements, but a ladies bridge group does not set up a competition for the best grandmother and appoint her head of the group. Women don't need uniforms. When women fight, they are defending their children and home, and therefore rules which would require them to lose gracefully seem absurd.
According to the Dujardin article one expert argues that women do "not have the competitive drive to make it to the top." And another says that in Japan women are seen as not successful because they are "too competitive" and do not "have the cooperative spirit so crucial to a successful enterprise." Both perceptions may be true.
Women in business imitate the competitive behavior of their male colleagues, but not understand the importance of team spirit when the competition is over. On the other hand, some women may try to impose circle values on what is essentially a team and be perceived as anti-competitive. Their lack of a natural instinct for the team may cause problems for women in the work force.
How can we solve this problem? First, by recognizing the problem and not pretending that men are wicked because they naturally form hierarchies or women are weak because they favor circles. Each form of organization has its place. Opening up discussion of the problem may help women may understand why they find hierarchical institutions alien and at the same time help them to recognize the importance of team to the men. Men need to recognize that what is obvious to them and therefore not discussed – the reason for team and its inherent structure – is not obvious to women. Even if a woman has been brought up around men and learned to play by the rules, she may not really understand them.
Second, both men and women need to respect the other. Women need to understand that men aren't going to change. The team instinct can be found in every culture and every era. Where there are men there will be teams. Women must evaluate their own needs. Once they understand the way the male game is played, they can then decide for themselves whether they want to play.