Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Good Men Project - Are Men Inherently Violent?

Well, hell, that's a provocative title. I'm not a huge fan of evolutionary psychology, but I think this is one area where that approach is useful. Men are not inherently violent, we're just better at it than are women.

We are bigger, stronger, faster, and have more testosterone - biologically, we are more suited to violence. So culturally, we have assumed that role within the family, the tribe, the community, the kingdom, the nation.

I think that we also have a natural tendency toward altruism - a willingness to sacrifice our own life to protect our DNA, our tribe, our nation.

On the other hand, when I was young (moving to rural Oregon as a 9-year-old), boys fought in school all the time (and we were not expelled). It was how we established hierarchy. The toughest guys picked the teams at recess, we got to be at the front of the line at lunch, and it's no coincidence that we were the first boys the hit puberty.

When I lived in California, the San Fernando Valley suburbs, this was not at all the norm. So what's the difference? The LA area was more liberal, more developed, and more culturally diverse than Southern Oregon. In Williams (the tiny town where I grew up), the "men were men and the sheep ran scared." OK, bad joke.

But seriously, this was a rural farming and logging community, all white, quite religious. Masculinity was very "primitive," for lack of a less offensive word, and very tied to Old West style masculinity norms. Fighting was part of growing up. Fortunately for me, my father had taught me how to fight and made me enroll in Golden Gloves. No son of his was going to be a wuss.

Anyway, so my guess it is a cultural construct that builds on innate male skills - not tendencies.

Are Men Inherently Violent?

January 7, 2011 By Tom Matlack

Is fighting an essential ingredient in manhood? Is violence a part of who we are? Guys weigh in.

One of the big issues surrounding manhood and goodness is the role violence plays in how we express our masculinity. Is violence innate, or is it learned? Even if we could unlearn it, should we?
I grew up in a household of Quaker pacifists. My dad taught me early on that civil disobedience is stronger than fists and guns. Gandhi and Martin Luther King accomplished what no army could. In Amherst, Massachusetts, where I grew up, there was an uncomfortable mix of rural kids and faculty brats—and as a brat who stood head and shoulders above the rest—six feet tall by the seventh grade—I became a natural target for bullies hoping to prove their mettle.
One particularly tough kid started bumping into me in the hall in front of all my classmates. When I wouldn’t respond, he grabbed my books and threw them down the hall, yelling at me for being a sissy. Finally, he figured out my schedule and waited for me outside each of my classes, pinning me up against the nearest locker to spit in my face.
I went to the guidance counselor’s office to use the phone so I could call my father: “Shouldn’t I fight back, Dad?”
As original Good Men Project contributor Steve Almond puts it below, “aggression is the means by which boys learn to share their feelings. Not even the most loving father can protect his son from the playgrounds, bars, and parking lots where bullies lurk, where soft emotions are hunted down and targeted, where fear becomes rage, and rage becomes violence.”
And for men, as much as we may not like it, violence is currency. When words and logic fail, when virtue isn’t shared, violence becomes power—in the schoolyard, among boys, or on the battlefield, among men. But just because it’s always been that way doesn’t mean we can’t help create a less violent world for our kids. Does it?
What do you think? Are men inherently violent?
We nerds and sissies disprove the notion.
—Bennett Schneider

Read the whole article.

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