Monday, September 29, 2008

Esquire - An Elegy for Paul Newman

Paul Newman passed away this weekend after a long battle with cancer. For many men, Newman was an archetypal figure of masculinity. Esquire recognizes this in their Elegy for Paul Newman.

An Elegy for Paul Newman

Paul Newman wasn't just some Hollywood actor. He was a guy who'd rather ride alone at 100 miles an hour and let someone else take his victory lap for him. He was a great man. He will be missed.

By Scott Raab

Paul Newman

Tom Wargacki/

I was still hooked on cigarettes when I profiled Paul Newman for Esquire at the end of 1999, and feeling none too proud of it.

"I'll tell ya how to quit," he tells me as we walk up Fifth Avenue. "Set a date for yourself -- a month, five weeks, whatever it is. Take two 20-minute periods out of your day, one after you get up and one right before the cocktail hour.

"Take that 20 minutes and in a relaxed state, fantasize. Really absorb yourself into it. It could be a favorite meal, or a tennis game with somebody you hate, or sex -- the taste, the taste of sex. After 20 minutes, you unrelax yourself and go about your business. You have such a positive feeling -- everything in your head and your taste and your enjoyment -- that when you get to quitting time, you're not giving up anything. You've gotten all these experiences. If you really honor this -- the variety of experiences you can set up for yourself, athletic, meals, sex -- every bit of feedback you get is gonna be positive."

Then Newman starts chuckling.

"Christ, by quitting day, if someone said, 'Did you quit smoking?' I'd say, 'No, but I beat Redford to the net -- every time.'"

Paul Newman was the smartest and most thoughtful celebrity I've ever interviewed at length, which also made him the most difficult. He had no "act," no regard for self-analysis, and no problem enduring long silences. When I'd visit him at home in New York City or Connecticut, he was gracious, relaxed, and quiet. When I flew down to Daytona to see him drive a racecar at the age of 75, he was cranky, tense, and quiet. And when I'd try to prod or spark him into going deeper into a subject he didn't want to talk about -- family, movies, philanthropy, you name it: Newman's utter distaste for Hollywood mythmaking was mythic -- he'd tell me, "I'm not sure I have anything to say that hasn't already been said."

But when I asked him what he was reading -- if you ever want to hear an actor bullshit, ask him what he's reading -- Newman mentioned a then-new E.L. Doctorow novel he had read in galleys, and a Robert Stone novel, and a short fiction collection by Chris Offutt -- plus a Roger Rosenblatt book on consumerism. Then he unclasped an old briefcase at his feet -- this was at his home office in Westport -- and pulled out a book about quantum physics.

"I don't understand this stuff," he said, "but I really want to get through it just so I can have some concept."

No false notes, no forced smiles, no phony gestures: Newman's work and life -- he was involved in politics for decades; he became a professional racecar driver in his 50s; he stayed married to the same woman for more than half a century; and, yeah, he was a great movie star, and a hell of a good actor, too -- are testament to a life of integrity and tough grace.

Consider, beyond all that, the engine of charity he built: Newman's Own, which has donated more than two hundred million dollars to help sick kids. Nothing made Newman more impatient than having public goodness thrust upon him just for doing the right thing, unless it was talking about it.

"I don't ask any questions about it -- it's the act in itself that is the important thing, not seeking out the motivation for it. You're not doing anything special by putting money aside for those who need it. This is an essential component of being a human being."

Humans don't come any better than Paul Newman.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Masculine Hinduism vs Feminish Hinduism

An interesting post from a blog called Great Hindu on the difference between masculine and feminine Hinduism, offering Swami Vivekananda as an example of masculine Hinduism.

I offer this as an example of how other cultures might conceive of masculinity in religion. This version, as described, seems to me highly authoritarian and militant, so it doesn't feel very mature in my mind. But it is instructive.

Masculine Hinduism vs Feminish Hinduism

These days I meet several Hindus who say that they don’t endorse violence in the name of Hinduism. I respect their views… but I will never talk to them because I believe in masculine Hinduism.

I am a person who believes in the line “Vajradapi Katorami, Kusumadapi Komalami” — To be hard as diamond and yet be sensitive like a flower.

Soft, wishy-washy, namby-pamby Hinduism does not work all the time. At a time when Hinduism is reeling under jehadi terrorism, evangelical manipulations, global machinations and intellectual terrorism of NDTV-CNN combine, we need masculine Hinduism.

Who are the mascots of masculine Hinduism. Undoubtedly, it is Swami Vivekananda for the modern times whom I consider as the father of modern Hindu nationalism. Then for old-timers, we have Rana Pratap, Shivaji, Ranjeet Singh who made Muslims bend on their knees during a time when Islamic terrorism ruled the roost. And then there is my favourite Chandrashekar Azad who sent a chill down the British spine even when the odds were against him.

As a masculine Hindu, I still believe in the age-old wisdom of Upanishad — Ahimsa Paramodharmaha (Non-violence is the greatest virtue). However, non-violence does not mean being a sitting duck to Islamic-Christian-Left-intellectual terrorists. Self-preservation (Atma Rakshan) is also our greatest dharma.

There is absolutely nothing wrong in striking at the base of terror. There is nothing wrong in defending yourself. There is nothing wrong in a good fight.

That is why I support Narendra Modi and his ilk. May their tribe increase. And I wish that those who fight for terrorist rights also spare a thought for Hindu victims who are not in the media glare.

I may sound old-fashioned. But if truth is old-fashioned, it is not my fault.

Partial truth. But it sounds very similar to the Christian militants in this country who advocate striking first against those who might strike against us. Preemptive violence is sure to generate more violence, so it never seems to me to be a good alternative.

Mature masculinity does not back down when attacked, but it also seeks peace before resorting to violence. Maybe I am too pacifistic though.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Relationships - Check-In Exercise

Arthur Gillard posted this exercise in the Robert Masters Pod (at Gaiam) that he and his partner have been doing of late - it's taken from the new book Integral Life Practice, by Ken Wilber, Terry Patton, Adam Leonard, & Marco Morelli.

This exchange sounds like a pattern I was in with some of my previous relationships.
Every Sunday evening Tessa and Luke sit down together for their weekly check-in practice. By turns, they speak their truth of the moment. The sharing could cover everything from mundane highlights of the past week to interpersonal issues toemotional dynamics to questions about meaning, direction, and purpose. Even after four years of marriage, it's a mystery what will come out when they begin speaking.

While one person shares with full honestly and authenticity, the other's job is to listen with an open heart and mind. Well, at least that's the intention behind the practice. It doesn't always happen that way.

A pattern began to develop when Tessa would confront Luke about something and Luke would immediately become defensive and shoot back an elaborate and logical argument justifying why he acted as he did. When Tessa finally became aware of this dynamic, she mirrored Luke's defensiveness so he could clearly see it in himself. When he finally saw it and reflected on it, he recognized how this same defensivenessshowed up in other areas of his life.

The next day, Luke created the affirmation, “I am open and vulnerable when confronted by someone I trust,” and began to speak and affirm it every day.

In their next check in, Tessa communicated how hurt she felt when Luke broke a promise he hadmade to her. Luke opened his mouth in defense, then stopped abruptly. Beacons flashed and his affirmation, “I am open and vulnerable when confronted by someone I trust,” streaked across his mind. Luke caught himself and chose to practice rather than react in his normal way. Dropping into his full being, he was able to take Tessa's perspective and empathically feel her hurt before evenuttering a word. When Luke finally responded, he spoke from a different place. From there, the conversation flowed into a space of mutual recognition, understanding, and love (p. 308, Integral Life Practice).
This is something all of us can do to help our relationships be deeper and stronger. It takes very little effort, only an effort to be present and open with the person you love.

Part of being in the mature masculine is owning our responsibility to our relationships.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The New Man, Episode 30: Bill Harris - Who's Running the Show?

Another cool podcast from Tripp Lanier at The New Man, this week featuring Bill Harris creator of Holosync.

Episode 30: Bill Harris - Who's Running the Show?

Listen Now
RSS: Subscribe
RSS: iTunes
Frustrated because your life is not going the way you want it to? Ever consider that it might be your own damn fault?

Bill Harris tells us that it is our own patterns, that we are not aware of, that has us running on auto-pilot making the same mistakes over and over again.

Listen as Bill Harris gives us the secret behind:
  • Harmful core beliefs and our "evidence" to support these beliefs.
  • Attracting the kind of women you really want.
  • The power of awareness in terms of changing your life.
  • What are you focusing on?
  • How to build a business with intention.
  • Finding opportunity within challenges.
  • Centerpointe Research
  • Meditation
  • Holosync
Bill gives us insights on a novel approach to getting the results we want in life. Here's a hint guys, it's not about analysis or figuring things out.

Humanity at Risk: Are the Males Going First?

This is not really about anything to do with masculinity or gender issues, but it is interesting in its own way for those of us of the male sex (or those who have or plan to have sons).

However, I do have some concerns about the 20% drop in male testosterone levels they note. Not only does this impact health (increased heart disease and testicular cancer, lower bone density, less muscle mass, less sex drive, and the list goes on), but it also has emotional and, by extension, spiritual impacts.

Anything that makes men less than they should be biologically is a serious issue.

The lower testosterone levels are almost certainly due to xenoestrogens, which would also explain the drop in conceived and birthed males.

Humanity at Risk: Are the Males Going First?

Something is happening to today's boys and men: Fewer are being born compared with girls, they're having more trouble in school, virility and fertility are down and testicular cancer rates are up. Now, scientists say these 'fragile males' may be more vulnerable than females to pollutants, affecting their development as early as the womb. If so, writes Martin Mittelstaedt, it could be a bigger threat to our future than global warming

Martin Mittelstaedt, Environment Reporter

September 20, 2008

The first clue was how difficult it was becoming to find enough young boys to cobble together a baseball team.

Then, women in prenatal groups started remarking on how everyone in their groups was having girls.

Jim Brophy remembers those casual observations with vivid clarity, and how they eventually led to one of the most puzzling scientific findings in Canada - the lopsided tally of girls compared with boys being born in the Aamjiwnaang First Nation, a community nearly surrounded by a complex of petrochemical plants.

Mr. Brophy, who runs the occupational-health centre of nearby Sarnia, Ont., was holding discussions five years ago with residents worried over the discovery of elevated levels of mercury and lead in soil on the reserve. Out of the blue, someone asked if anyone else had noticed anything odd going on - like more girls being born than boys.

"It was almost like somebody had told the family secret," Mr. Brophy recalls.

The impression was quickly backed up by a check of band records: In some years, nearly two girls were being born for every boy - a major anomaly given that the normal boy-girl sex ratio is 106 to 100.

The Sarnia area has been prone to many pollution-related woes, but the implications here seem to be arising all over the world: Males may be the more fragile sex when it comes to exposure to modern chemicals, from the embryonic stage on.

The recent sci-fi thriller Children of Men imagined a world population doomed to extinction when, over the coming years, every last human being on Earth becomes infertile. Now, some scientists are painting a similarly frightening picture of a widespread threat to male birth rates and later virility and fertility; what's more, they believe serious damage to men and boys is already occurring.

Researchers tracking childhood behavioural disorders, sperm counts, testicular cancer and even the shrinking size of male gonads are convinced that something is amiss.

The University of Pittsburgh's Devra Davis, in a study issued last year, found that the U.S. and Japan combined had a staggering tally of 262,000 "missing boys" from 1970 to about 2000 because of a decline in the sex ratio at birth. Although it could be a statistical anomaly, she says the figure is "very worrisome."

Dr. Davis, director of the Centre for Environmental Oncology at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, points out another disturbing trend - the rise in what scientists have dubbed testicular dysgenesis syndrome, a catch-all phrase for a raft of male reproductive-system ailments.

Among them is hypospadias, a disfiguring penis abnormality in babies where the urinary opening is on the underside rather than its normal position on the tip. The condition is not new, but boys today are far more likely than their fathers to be born with it. The incidence, adjusted for population size, is up about 60 per cent since the mid-1970s in Canada. Other countries have also experienced increases.

The incidence rate of testicular cancer in young Canadian men aged 20 to 44, for reasons unknown, has risen 54 per cent from 1983 to 2005, according to figures compiled by Cancer Care Ontario.

And levels of testosterone - the hormone that choreographs male development from libido to muscle mass - have inexplicably declined in U.S. men over the past two decades by nearly 20 per cent.

A recent study found that women in the San Francisco area during the 1960s who had higher levels of PCBs gave birth to a third fewer boys than women with low amounts of the chemical, suggesting in utero exposures to the now-banned toxin were able to cull males.

Oddities among males are also occurring in the animal kingdom. Studies in the laboratory and in the wild show that man-made contaminants often attack males of different species with greater ferocity.

Researchers at the University of Florida found that about 35 per cent of male toads from heavily farmed areas of the state exhibited intersex (or hermaphrobitic) attributes: Males showed female coloration and ovarian tissue growing near their testes. Compared with toads in suburban areas, the farmland males also had lower levels of testosterone, more on par with females, suggesting that something related to agricultural practices was feminizing the male amphibians.

For Dr. Davis, there are just too many peculiar things happening to be mere coincidence. "These things theoretically have a common etiology," she says. "Something is tweaking what we can think of as boy-making cells."


A theory rapidly gaining currency is that man-made substances are upsetting the intricate working of hormones - the chemical messengers that even in mere parts per trillion are able to control key aspects of sexual and mental development.

During fetal development, all humans begin life as female, with some assuming male characteristics only after prodding from hormones. If hormones aren't at precisely the right levels in the womb, something in that process might go awry.

University of Florida zoologist Theo Colborn is often heralded as a modern-day version of environmental prophet Rachel Carson. In 1996, she co-wrote Our Stolen Future, which first raised the possibility that synthetic chemicals may interfere with normal hormone functioning. More recently, she has begun giving lectures on "the Male Predicament."

"I definitely feel that the males are really suffering more," says Dr. Colborn, who is also president of the Colorado-based Endocrine Disruption Exchange.

Among her biggest fears is that some chemicals are able to harm brain development, with greater impacts on males than females. She is worried that this attack on male thinking may pose an even greater threat to society than global warming.

Read the whole article.

This last section could explain the predominance of ADHD in boys that the article mentions, not to mention other issues related to development and behavior.

We are in the midst of an environmental crisis that has nothing to do with climate change. All the chemicals in our water and food (and air) are changing our biology (especially males, who seem to be more suseptible all around) in ways we are only just now beginning to grasp.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Salon - Dude, Where's My Manhood?

An interesting article from James Hannaham at Salon looking at the new book on masculinity by Michael Kimmel, Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men.

Dude, where's my manhood?

A new book looks at American masculinity and the dangers posed by disgruntled guys.
By James Hannaham

Sept. 17, 2008 | Imagine a world where you can't express your feelings. Where women are treated as objects or bargaining chips, and alcoholism and drug abuse are the norm. Where you must reject your own mother, and your father will rebuff you. You'll belong to a kind of cult that demands that you ostracize anyone who doesn't follow the group's twisted values. This cult may pressure you into physically and sexually abusing someone incapable of fighting back. If you're an American guy age 16-26, congratulations. You probably live there already.

This is especially true if you are white and heterosexual, according to SUNY-Stony Brook sociologist Michael Kimmel. "Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men," his study of young American men, is a bleak and urgent yet compassionate analysis of young manhood in the United States. Kimmel coins the term "Guyland" not to suggest a place as much as a state of mind, an ideology into which the 400 or so young men he interviewed in the course of his research find themselves indoctrinated. He also uses the term to describe a stage of life, "a kind of suspended animation between the dependency and lack of autonomy of boyhood and the sacrifice and responsibility of manhood" -- a phase that in recent years has expanded into many guys' 30s.

While a fair number of Kimmel's observations about this new demographic are depressingly familiar, he warns that the dangers posed by disgruntled guys will rise the longer we tolerate, brush off and deny their bad behavior. "The stakes are higher, the violence more extreme, the weapons more lethal," he writes. School shootings, a relatively new phenomenon, are increasing. A new generation of girls who don't consider themselves feminists and people of color who oppose affirmative action may find themselves against a wall -- or a glass ceiling -- they thought their mothers had climbed over. All in all, reading "Guyland" has the same effect on a liberal as a good horror movie; it makes you terrified of something you're so used to that you probably manage to ignore it most of the time.

While a fair number of Kimmel's observations about this new demographic are depressingly familiar, he warns that the dangers posed by disgruntled guys will rise the longer we tolerate, brush off and deny their bad behavior. "The stakes are higher, the violence more extreme, the weapons more lethal," he writes. School shootings, a relatively new phenomenon, are increasing. A new generation of girls who don't consider themselves feminists and people of color who oppose affirmative action may find themselves against a wall -- or a glass ceiling -- they thought their mothers had climbed over. All in all, reading "Guyland" has the same effect on a liberal as a good horror movie; it makes you terrified of something you're so used to that you probably manage to ignore it most of the time.

Kimmel's passion for his subject matter comes through in his thoroughness and supporting detail, but primarily in a journalistic prose style that drops few academic bombs and frequently has the insistent cadence of a commercial for an NGO: "Boys are underperforming in school, bullying and hazing are ubiquitous, and violence is a daily reality in many boys' lives," he writes. "And when you factor in the suicide attempts, the self-medication, the violent outbursts, or the sullen withdrawals, it's clear that we must devise strategies to enable all sorts of boys to feel safe enough to go to school, and secure enough that they will be valued for who they are."

The strategies Kimmel suggests for helping young men escape this deeply entrenched conception of masculinity, however, sound like an earnest college professor's pipe dream: "We need to develop a pedagogy of resilience," he says. Boys need a "charismatic adult," he proposes, "a person with whom they can identify and from whom they gather strength." The latter seems obvious, the old "role model" solution, but the pervasiveness and dominance of Guyland's values, which are essentially racism and sexism lite, demand a more sweeping response that directly addresses the schoolyard premises on which they're based.

The world of adolescent white males that Kimmel describes puts macho boys in a curious double-bind. "The most common put-down in American high schools today is 'that's so gay,' or calling someone a 'fag,'" he tells us. "The average high school student in Des Moines, Iowa, hears an anti-gay comment every seven minutes -- and teachers intervene only about 3 percent of the time." They use "gayness" as the foul line that contains their masculinity -- and a pretty juvenile definition of homosexuality at that, according to Kimmel. To them, a homosexual man "walks a certain way" and is "sensitive." A high school girl, depressingly, is likely to suspect a boy of being gay "if he's interested in what she's talking about" or "is a good listener." These young guys think being gay "means not being a guy. That's the choice: gay or guy." Instead of throwing up our hands and saying "This is nothing new," Kimmel would have us ask, "Why haven't we erased this kind of prejudice in our children in 2008?"

Read the rest of the article.

Sounds a bit alarmist, but interesting -- it's now on my wishlist at Amazon.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Are Boys as Socially Aggressive as Girls?

The standard view is that boys are physically aggressive in social settings, while girls are more socially aggressive (spreading rumors, gossiping and intentionally excluding others). Turns out that isn't quite the case.

Boys as Socially Aggressive as Girls: Study

By Robert Preidt, HealthDay Reporter

(HealthDay News) -- Boys are as likely as girls to be socially aggressive by doing things such as spreading rumors, gossiping and intentionally excluding others, says a U.S. researcher.

"These conclusions challenge the popular misconception that indirect aggression is a female form of aggression," review lead author Noel A. Card, an assistant professor of family studies and human development at the University of Arizona, said in a Society for Research in Child Development news release.

Card and his colleagues analyzed 148 studies that included almost 74,000 children and teens. The researchers said the belief that girls are more likely to be socially aggressive than boys persists among teachers, parents and others because of social expectations that develop early in life, which are fueled by movies and books that depict girls being mean and socially aggressive toward each other.

The studies included in the review were conducted mostly in high schools and looked at both physical and social aggression, which is meant to damage a person's social standing in his or her peer group.

The analysis of the studies also revealed that children who carry out one of the two types of aggression may be more likely to carry out the other type. This connection is seen more in boys than in girls, the researchers said.

Card and his colleagues also noted ties between both forms of aggression and adjustment problems. Physical aggression is related to problems like delinquency and ADHD-type symptoms, poor relationships with peers, and low "pro-social behavior" such as helping and sharing. Social aggression is related to problems such as depression and low self-esteem, as well as higher pro-social behavior. This may be because some teens use pro-social behavior to encourage peers to exclude or gossip about others, the researchers said.

The study was published in the September/October issue of the journal Child Development.

More information

The Nemours Foundation has more about teens and bullying.

My guess is that this is a result of boys being socialized to be more like girls -- i.e., not being allowed to be physical and being made to be more socially oriented by parents and teachers.

When I was a kid, "pecking order" was determined at recess -- everyone knew the hierarchy, so if someone wanted to move up, they fought the next higher or highest person. No one ever really was hurt, and the teachers pretty much ignored it.

Not saying this was a good thing, just saying that's how it was.

However, this study looked at high school age kids. When I was that age, the pecking order was more covert and no one really challenged it (it was based more on social standing than physical strength, though good athletes tended to rank higher). But there also wasn't any of the social aggression the study saw in the today's youth.

I'd be curious to know how much socialization plays into this -- I mean at an early age. We might be making our boys more girlish in many different ways.

Boston Review - The End of Sexual Identity

This is an interesting article from the Boston Review about gender and sexuality in fiction. Stacey D'Erasmo is arguing that it's all been done -- there can no longer be any surprises in dealing with sexual identity in fiction. Or can there?

The End of Sexual Identity

Fiction's new terrain

We’ve come to the end of sexual identity. Not, that is, in the real world, where sexual identities of all sorts still roam, both free and fettered, privileged and disenfranchised; love is still exciting; sex still matters. Real people still come out, or don’t, and consequences still attach to those choices. In art, however, the sturdy house of the novel of sexual identity, with its secret passageways and walk-in/walk-out closets and tempting garden paths and labyrinths, lies in ruins. We don’t really care who enters or leaves it; we pretty much know what goes on inside; we are not trying to peep through the windows.

One can no longer write, or hide with any degree of conviction, a novel such as E.M. Forster’s Maurice, with its tortured Cambridge student and its luscious gamekeeper. After Jeanette Winterson’s first coming-out novel Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, she went on to describe many others in the basket. Will there be anything, really, in Susan Sontag’s forthcoming journals that will shock us? But if we are no longer compelled by the dramas of who may be in the house, we seem to remain attached to what is left of the charmed structure itself, to its glamour, its mystery, and its strangeness.

And yet, post-gay, like post-colonial, does not mean that the old architecture has been swept away. When I visited the tiny Caribbean island of Nevis a few years ago, I was struck by the fact that the eighteenth century stone foundations, walls, and ingenios of the old sugar plantations had simply been left where they stood, neither dismantled nor rebuilt as tourist attractions. The wind ranged through the half-open spaces. The ruins, worn down to biomorphic shapes and covered with vegetation, had become part of the island’s modern topography.

In contemporary novels, I have noticed a similar devolution of the tumbled walls of the novel of sexual identity. We seem to find ourselves, as writers, standing amidst the last century’s discarded tropes of sexual identity. Recently, writers of all sexual permutations have been recycling this narrative architecture; reworking its stones and walls and windows; borrowing and transforming the old, four-square structures of identity into Gehry-like fantasias, curves, and spires. Detached, to whatever degree, from their original purpose, these tropes are experiencing a surprisingly transformative disapora, passing from one writer to another, from one era to another, and changing as they go. In the culture generally, it may be that identity sorting only becomes more rigid and balkanized by the day. Witness the micro-categories of identity and ultra-specific consumer targeting via Facebook searches (Anglo-Irish Jewish gay men’s science fiction with a dash of cyberpunk, anyone?) and shelves marked “gay men’s fiction.” But we are, in fact, polyglot, polymorphous, and, narratively speaking, polygamous. Love’s mansion has many rooms, and the occupants tend to shift around quite a bit, particularly in the middle of the night. This is sometimes inconvenient in life, but it is, or should be, a bonanza for art. As is nearly always the case when one culture comes into contact with another, no matter what the official policies and restrictions are, intermarriage and intermingling take place; categories dissolve; we enter one another’s fantasies and get under one another’s skin. The imagination reveals itself once again to be protean, ungovernable, a constant seeker.

We do not seek coldly or politely. In regard to sexual identity, fiction writers today not only display some sort of civic obligation to “imagine” the other, but also reveal a profound curiosity, a hunger, to try on the other’s tropes, to exchange them, to press ourselves against them and be transformed. We want to know how other people do it—make narrative, that is. We want to do it the way they do and see what happens. Chain bookstores might prefer to herd shoppers into categories under fluorescent lights, but writers and readers have a way of wandering around in the dusk, curious, appetitive, mutable. From that wandering, new forms and new ways of seeing emerge. We look through the eyes of the other not via identity—this is what it’s like to be you—but via a way of making narrative—this is what it’s like to tell a story, to frame the world, the way you do—and suddenly we are able to apprehend the world anew.

What follows is a very rough map of this new terrain. It is characterized by the tropes of the closet, passing, transformation, and double lives and discontinuous selves. This is by no means a complete list; I hope it is the beginning of a conversation. (And, in the interest of full disclosure, I must confess that I know some of the authors discussed here; one or two are friends.)

Go read the rest of this essay.

Each new generation of readers looks for the books that speak to them directly, which requires new approaches to old themes. My guess is that the inventiveness needed to explore all the possibilities will continue to unfold in new and meaningful ways.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Men and Body Dysmorphic Disorder

I've been opening tabs for the past couple of weeks for articles that I wanted to include in this post. At this point, there is more than enough information to say what I think needs to be said.

As men and women become more equal in this culture, women are acquiring some of the traditionally male health issues, such as stress-related illness; and men are acquiring some traditionally female health issues, such as an unhealthy body image, also known as body dysmorphic disorder. The following, from the Mayo Clinic, explains the symptoms of BDM:

Signs and symptoms of body dysmorphic disorder include:

  • Preoccupation with your physical appearance
  • Strong belief that you have an abnormality or defect in your appearance that makes you ugly
  • Frequently examining yourself in the mirror or, conversely, avoiding mirrors altogether
  • Believing that others take special notice of your appearance in a negative way
  • Frequent cosmetic procedures with little satisfaction
  • Excessive grooming, such as hair plucking
  • Feeling extremely self-conscious
  • Refusing to appear in pictures
  • Skin picking
  • Comparing your appearance with that of others
  • Avoiding social situations
  • Wearing excessive makeup or clothing to camouflage perceived flaws

Body features you may obsess about include:

  • Nose
  • Hair
  • Skin
  • Moles or freckles
  • Acne and blemishes
  • Baldness
  • Breast size
  • Muscle size
  • Genitalia

The body feature you focus on may change over time. You may be so convinced about your perceived flaws that you become delusional, imagining something about your body that's not true, no matter how much someone tries to convince you otherwise.

This is a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). This brief article looks at how OCD plays into body image issues in a more general way, without tackling the specifics of any one manifestation.
A nose that's too big, hair that's too curly or a beauty mark in the wrong place – who hasn't focused on a small detail of their appearance while staring at a mirror?

But when these imperfections take over our thoughts, or exist only in our heads, it's a sign that such obsessing is a disorder, according to Université de Montréal psychiatry professor Kieron O'Connor.

About 350,000 Canadians suffer such a phobia, while the prevalence is higher among those already experiencing some type of anxiety. "Sufferers are convinced that part of their body is abnormal, which is not the case," says the psychologist who also works at the Fernand-Seguin Research Centre. "They have difficulty separating what is real from what is not."

And it has nothing to do with vanity, he insists. It's a bit like hypochondria, where people are convinced they are sick or may get sick, or anorexia, which comes from poor body image, he adds. People suffering from this phobia will focus on the physical attribute they consider flawed, constantly viewing it in a mirror or asking the opinions of others. They may go to obsessive lengths to "fix" the problem by wearing too much make-up, going to a tanning salon or getting plastic surgery.

"It's as if these people are looking at themselves in a mirror that deforms their image," says O'Connor, who completed his clinical training in England. "They'll carry on an internal conversation and convince themselves that there's a problem with their bodies, although it's not based in reality. I've seen people who have flagrant physical flaws, yet are preoccupied by a completely different aspect of their appearance."

Skin receives the most attention from sufferers (73 percent), while the chest gets the least (21 percent). The hair, nose and stomach are also popular objects of obsession.

O'Connor's approach to treatment is to look at the reasons a person starts criticizing a part of his or her body in the first place. The source is difficult to pin down – whether genetic, parental influence or stress – but the consequences can be serious, including suicide.

"This problem can affect all aspects of life, work, studies and love and family relationships," says O'Connor. "It can stop someone from going out, or at least hiding the body part about which he or she is obsessing."

Men are feeling more pressure than ever before to look a certain way -- the same pressure women have been dealing with for decades now. With the pressure comes various manifestations of OCD, especially in those who are already dealing with some form of anxiety disorder (general anxiety or social anxiety in particular) or childhood trauma (often abuse of some form).

Among men dealing with bigorexia, steroid use often becomes a problem. Steroids are not physically addictive the way crack or heroin are (although the body does quit making its own testosterone when the drugs are abused for too long), but the increase in self-confidence and size that comes with use can be very psychologically addictive.

The result is that even among those educated in steroid use, they don't cycle off, staying on the drugs far too long at too high of a weekly dose. The results can be devastating, as these pictures from Wired illustrate.

Steroidwarning_3Know anybody who's using steroids and just won't stop, despite all your good advice?

Then show them this picture. (Potentially NSFW, and gross -- hence its after-the-jump position.)

Depicted is a 21-year-old amateur bodybuilder who arrived at a clinic in Dusseldorf, Germany with severe acne on his chest and upper back.

He was a constant user of anabolic-androgenic steroids, of which acne is a side effect -- as is damaged sperm and shrunken testicles, both of which he also possessed.

Doctors ordered the patient to quit steroids and start taking antibiotics. Two months later, the acne was gone. So was the muscle. Only gruesome scarring remained -- and as his doctors wrote last week in the Lancet, that "is likely to remain with the young man for the rest of his life."

Clinical Picture: The Dire Consequences of Doping [Lancet]

See Also:

Scary, eh?

That is an extreme case. What generally happens is easier to look at, unless you happen to be the guy who gets "bitch tits," more appropriately known as gynecomastia (notice the swollen nipple area in the first picture above).

The breast tissue forms as a result of the increased testosterone, which then increases estrodiol levels (the most potent estrogen form), thus producing the growth of breast tissue. The body likes to maintain equilibrium so increasing one hormone results in the increase of others, in this case through the process of aromatase converting testosterone to estrogen and estrodiol.

This can be equally devastating for young men, resulting in more drug use and if the issue persists, the need for surgery. The damage to the psyche of someone already dealing BDD can be overwhelming.

* * *

It's impossible to nail this issue down to one cause. Among the many contributing factors are low self-esteem, anxiety, childhood trauma, social pressures, media pressures, and many other lesser, more personal triggers.

This post over at the Neurocritic looks at the issue of media images and men's lifestyle magazines (FHM, Nuts, Maxim, GQ, Esquire, Zoo, Loaded, Bizarre and Stuff) and how they might contribute to BDD. He also notices that English women like their men a bit femme, or, uh, metrosexual.

In the end, it all comes down to how we raise our boys. Do they have an inner sense of self-worth and agency in their lives, or do they worry too much about what others think and how they are perceived? Boys develop one way or the other depending on how they are raised, their friends, and the degree of self-reliance they accrue. It certainly isn't all about parenting, but good parents shape what kids are exposed to and help them contextualize harmful images.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Masculine Men Perceived as Less Faithful

What say you readers, true or false?

from eezy dating:
Masculine Men Perceived as Less Faithful

booster goldWomen see ‘masculine’ men as unsuitable long-term partners and more likely to be unfaithful, new research suggests.

Conversely, the psychologists from Durham and St Andrews Universities found that men with feminine facial features are seen as more committed and less likely to be cheat on their partners.

The study, published in the current edition of Personality and Individual Differences, asked over 400 British men and women to judge digitally altered pictures of male faces made to look more masculine or feminine. The participants were asked to predict personality traits including sexual behavior and parenting skills based on what they saw.

Men with masculine faces, with features such as a square jaw, larger nose and smaller eyes, were classed as significantly more dominant, less faithful, worse parents and as having personalities that were less warm, compared to their ‘feminine’ counterparts, who had finer facial features with fuller lips, wide eyes and thinner, more curved eyebrows.

The scientists say the research, partly supported by the Medical Research Council and the Economic and Social Research Council, backs up earlier research about masculinity and perceptions of personality and gives further insight into what people see in others when choosing potential partners. It will also advance studies in areas like evolutionary biology, fertility and genetics and offer new insights for relationship counseling and psychology.

Lead author, Dr Lynda Boothroyd, a lecturer with Durham University’s Department of Psychology, commented: “This research shows a high amount of agreement between women about what they see, personality wise, when asked to ‘judge a book by its cover’.

“They may well use that impression of someone to decide whether or not to engage with that person. That decision-making process all depends on what a woman is looking for in a relationship at that time of her life.”

The study asked participants to complete a web-based test. Pairs of pictures which only showed the face without any hair, ears, neck, shoulders or clothing visible, were presented side by side. The participants were asked to select which face they thought was more of a particular trait and how much more so by clicking on a point of the scale. Traits selected for judgment were dominance, ambition, wealth, faithfulness, commitment, parenting, and warmth.

The survey also found that faces which appeared healthier, for instance those with better complexion, were seen as more desirable in terms of all personality traits compared to those who looked unhealthy. Similarly, older faces were generally viewed more positively compared to younger ones.

Professor David Perrett from St Andrews University adds: “Our research also found that it is men’s health that conveys all round good qualities for partnership and personality. Our results contradict claims that machismo denotes fitness and disease immunity. Masculinity may buy you dominance but not necessarily tip top physical condition. Instead women see a healthy guy as the source of wealth, and fit for family life.”

Dr Lynda Boothroyd and research team. Macho men are seen as bad choice for long-term love. Durham University.
The obvious answer here is higher testosterone in the more masculine faces, which corresponds to a higher sex drive and more infidelity.

Obviously, again, this need not be true, but it sure seems to be the common perception.

Esquire - The 75 Books Every Man Should Read

It has been shown that reading, especially fiction and poetry, is a great way to develop and deepen empathy and compassion. So, here is a list of books, according to Esquire, that every man should read -- at least those who want to develop the masculine heart.

The 75 Books Every Man Should Read

An unranked, incomplete, utterly biased list of the greatest works of literature ever published. How many have you read?

What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, by Raymond Carver
"That morning she pours Teacher's over my belly and licks it off. That afternoon she tries to jump out the window." And that's not even the best line.

Collected Stories of John Cheever
He knew better than anyone the darkness that hides behind the costume of a carefully manicured lawn.

Deliverance, by James Dickey
A reminder of how close we are to animalism, and because there's so much more to the book than that scene.

The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck
Because it's all about the titty.

Blood Meridian, by Cormac McCarthy
Just try sleeping after the scene in which the Apaches thunder over the hills wearing the dresses of the brides they've killed.
I have to admit that this is a pretty good list, with a lot of VERY good books.

Tags: , , , ,

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Robert Augustus Masters - MEN’S WORK: GUTS, HEART, PRESENCE

A cool post from Robert Masters's blog, reposted by Adastra at Gaiam. As always, Masters has good insights and a unique point-of-view. What I think he is looking at here, in a very powerful way, is the reclaiming of vulnerability in men, the warrior's path.

This is also the work we do with Internal Family Systems Therapy, where the vulnerability often presents as a child-like "part" or subpersonality that has been exiled from consciousness. This is an incredibly useful form of shadow work.


I’ve been offering men’s groups for a while, and just did another one yesterday. There was, as usual, plenty of emotional intensity and breakthrough, most of it in the spirit of reclaiming power without losing touch with one’s heart. This meant, in part, giving the boy in each man enough room and permission to express what had mostly gone unexpressed, such as rage at witnessing violence between his parents, violence before which he had either frozen or internally fled. Such feeling had had to be suppressed at the time, because it simply wasn’t safe enough to let it out; this was not so much an actual thought mulled over by the boy, but rather his survival intuition kicking in, protecting him from taking actions that may have endangered his life.

And how does this show up in present time? In all kinds of ways, many of which appear to be the opposite of others: caved-in posture and inflated posture; aggressive hand movements and limp hand movements; hostile tone and overly nice tone; and so on., all bearing eloquent testimony to past events powerful enough to leave lasting imprints. Once a particular pattern – behavioral, postural, tonal – has been sufficiently exposed so as to be obvious (and usually the last person to whom it’s obvious is the person doing it), then the historical forces animating it can be explored and illuminated, until the original energies that’d had to be suppressed – buried, rerouted, ostracized, or denied to the point of seeming not to exist – can be contacted and given expression, however slight.

When this happens, a man’s voice usually gets younger, higher, shakier, inhabited by vulnerable feeling – his sounds naturally and spontaneously become the sounds of a boy. As such expression grows in fullness, becoming more and more deeply embodied, he starts to come alive, really alive, so much so that when he – right after his work – looks around the room, his eyes are not only full of shining boy, but also vibrantly grounded man, depressurized and unabashedly happy, rock-solid present yet also spacious and open.

Seeing a troubled man’s face losing years; seeing him settling into an effortlessly stable sense of presence; seeing him lighting up with love and insight and passion; seeing him artfully blending forcefulness and tenderness; seeing him finding a source of strength in his vulnerability; seeing him reclaiming his guts without diluting his love; seeing him exulting in the other men’s breakthroughs, seeing him honoring the feminine in himself without any diminishment of his masculinity; seeing him feeling complete in himself; seeing him really getting the primacy of connection and integrity in relationship; seeing him so deeply anchored in his being that he can really soar – all this and more is what keeps me offering men’s groups.

After the men’s group, I went out for dinner with Diane, finding a nearly empty restaurant with great food – an absolutely dynamite combo for me – and then had a wonderfully lazy and loving evening. At 1 am, I wasn’t sleeping, but watching the men’s final of the Australian Open (one of the four major tennis tournaments of the year). Two men going all out to win. Fernando Gonzalez, ranked number 10 in the world (but over the past two weeks playing at an exceptional level), versus Roger Federer, by far the best tennis player in the world. What a treat! Watching great athletes competing is an invigorating joy for me; for the last third of the match, I was off the couch and on the living room floor, doing yoga while keeping my eyes on the game, fully absorbed in every point.

A couple of times, I thought of the men’s group from earlier in the day, and the various energetic confrontations that had happened for most of the men, all of which unfolded in the context of helping to more fully access passion, intensity, and awareness. The tennis match I was watching was doing something like this on a much more contained level, within a precise framework – neat white lines on an immaculate green court – but there was a continual undercurrent of passion, intensity, and awareness. Two elite athletes with clear mastery of their game (plus an obvious respect for each other), but nevertheless operating along such a fine, fine line that even the slightest slip was immediately magnified. Great, great concentration, dotted with tiny lapses every now and then. It wasn’t over until 3 am, but I didn’t mind at all.

Sports events are often broadcast through war metaphors – football being probably the key example – but Gonzalez and Federer’s match had little or none of this. It was a contest for sure, and highly competitive, but carried too much elegance and refinement to be framed as some kind of war. Not that it wasn’t suffused with adrenaline and testosterone – but its very excitement was largely expressed through a heightened aesthetic of creativity and grace under pressure.

Back to the group: One man’s work was about his ambivalence regarding attention – he both wanted attention and didn’t want it, having as a boy mostly only received attention when his mother wanted him to take care of her. The attention that he had really needed had not been there, and in his current life still wasn’t there nearly enough, mostly because he was simply not as open to it as he needed to be. As I had him pay close attention to his push-pull relationship to attention from others – with the rest of the men serving as his audience – he let down his guard, cutting through much of his self-consciousness, disarming himself to the point of letting his grief surface. This was not a straightforward process, but slowly but surely happened as the other men held him in their unwavering attention, presence, and care. Along the way, there was not only hurt and anger, but also plenty of healing humor. By this point, every man in the group was realizing that each man’s work was, in some way, none other than his work.

A sometimes arduous but essential labor this is, birthing the authentic man and learning to fully embody the Deep Masculine – but after a certain point, what else is there for a man to do, if he is to ground himself in his heartland?

- Robert Augustus Masters

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

New Man Episode 29: Kute Blackson - What Are You Waiting For? (Part Two)

This is Part Two of the New Man interview with Kute Blackson - Part One is here. More good stuff from Tripp Lanier.

Episode 29: Kute Blackson - What Are You Waiting For?

Listen Now
RSS: Subscribe
RSS: iTunes

Is your life passing you by? Are you holding back, waiting for your best friend's funeral before you express how you really feel about them? Are you leaving things off the table...unsaid, undone, unattempted? Why?

Do it NOW!

This IS the game, there is no where else to go. This is your life, passing you by one day at a time. Are you living it to the fullest?

In Part 2 of our dialogue, Kute Blackson shakes us out of our slumber so we can really begin to live our lives.

"We think we are in a prison...but the door is open, walk through it!" exclaims Kute.

In this show we look into:

  • What game are you buying into right now?
  • What your resistance to things in your life really is.
  • Where are you holding back?
  • Why your girlfriend might be acting bitchy when you seem unsure of yourself.
  • Where to look to find your deepest wisdom
Listen as Kute helps us realize the deepest truth about our lives and how we can truly live it each and every day.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Bushido Code: The Eight Virtues of the Samurai

From The Art of Manliness, a great post on a traditional form of masculine values. The Bushido Code: The Eight Virtues of the Samurai, may seem antiquated, but there is much to learn from older codes of morality.
The Bushido Code: The Eight Virtues of the Samurai

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Tim Clark. He blogs at Soul Shelter with novelist Mark Cunningham. Make sure to check out Tim Clark’s second book, The Swordless Samurai.

satsuma-samurai-during-boshin-war-period The Bushido Code: The Eight Virtues of the Samurai

“So, boy. You wish to serve me?”

Silhouetted against the blue-black sky, the horse-mounted samurai with the horned helmet towered over me like a demon as I knelt in the dirt before him. I could not see his face but there was no mistaking the authority in his growling tone, nor the hint of mockery in his question.

I tried to speak and managed only a faint croak. My mouth had gone dry, as parched as a man dying of thirst. But I had to respond. My fate-and though I didn’t know it then, the fate of all of Japan-rested on my answer.

Raising my head just enough to brave a glance at the demonic figure, I saw him staring at me, like a hawk poised to seize a mouse in its talons.

When I managed to speak, my voice was clear and steady, and I drew courage with each syllable.

“That’s correct, Lord Nobunaga,” I said. “I do.”

It was a time of carnage and darkness: the Age of Wars, when the land was torn by bloodshed and the only law was the law of the sword. A peasant wandered the countryside alone, seeking his fortune, without a coin in his pocket. He longed to become the epitome of refined manhood-a samurai-but nothing in the demeanor of this five-foot tall, one-hundred-ten-pound boy could possibly have foretold the astounding destiny awaiting him.

His name was Hideyoshi, and on that fateful spring evening in the year 1553, the brash young warlord Nobunaga hired him as a sandal-bearer. Driven by a relentless desire to transcend his peasant roots, Hideyoshi went on to become Nobunaga’s loyal protégé and right-hand man. Ultimately he became the supreme ruler of all Japan-the first peasant ever to rise to the absolute height of power-and unified a nation torn apart by more than a hundred years of civil strife.

Hideyoshi’s true story has inspired countless novels, plays, movies-even video games-for more than four centuries. Born the weakling son of a poor farmer at a time when martial prowess or entry to the priesthood were the only ways for an ambitious commoner to escape a life of backbreaking farm toil, he rose from poverty to rule a mighty nation and command hundreds of thousands of samurai warriors. For generations of men, Hideyoshi became the ultimate underdog hero: a symbol of the possibility of reinventing oneself as a man and rising, Horatio Alger fashion, from rags to riches.

Hideyoshi was driven by a burning desire to succeed as a samurai. But he differed from his contemporaries in seeking to overcome his adversaries peaceably, through negotiation and alliance building rather than through brute force. Lacking physical strength and fighting skills, he naturally chose to rely on wits rather than weapons, on strategy over swords. An unlikely samurai, indeed. Or was he?

A Brief History of the Samurai

The word samurai originally meant “one who serves,” and referred to men of noble birth assigned to guard members of the Imperial Court. This service ethic spawned the roots of samurai nobility, both social and spiritual.

Over time, the nobility had trouble maintaining centralized control of the nation, and began “outsourcing” military, administrative, and tax collecting duties to former rivals who acted like regional governors. As the Imperial Court grew weaker, local governors grew more powerful. Eventually some evolved into daimyo, or feudal lords who ruled specific territories independently of the central government. In 1185 Minamoto no Yoritomo, a warlord of the eastern provinces who traced his lineage back to the imperial family, established the nation’s first military government and Japan entered its feudal period (1185-1867). The country was essentially under military rule for nearly 700 years.

But the initial stability Minamoto achieved failed to bring lasting peace. Other regimes came and went, and in 1467 the national military government collapsed, plunging Japan into turmoil. Thus began the infamous Age of Wars, a bloody century of strife when local warlords fought to protect their domains and schemed to conquer rivals.

By the time Japan plunged into the turbulent Age of Wars, the term samurai had come to signify armed government officials, peacekeeping officers, and professional soldiers: in short, almost anyone who carried a sword and was ready and able to exercise deadly force.

The worst of these medieval Japanese warriors were little better than street thugs; the best were fiercely loyal to their masters and true to the unwritten code of chivalrous behavior known today as Bushido (usually translated as “Precepts of Knighthood” or “Way of the Warrior”). Virtuous or villainous, the samurai emerged as the colorful central figures of Japanese history: a romantic archetype akin to Europe’s medieval knights or the American cowboy of the Wild West.

But the samurai changed dramatically after Hideyoshi pacified Japan. With civil society at peace, their role as professional fighters disappeared, and they became less preoccupied with martial training and more concerned with spiritual development, teaching, and the arts. By 1867, when the public wearing of swords was outlawed and the warrior class was abolished, they had evolved into what Hideyoshi had envisioned nearly three centuries earlier: swordless samurai.

Go to the site to read the rest, including the Eight Virtues, which I will list below. The full explication, however, is very useful.
I. Rectitude or Justice
II. Courage
III. Benevolence or Mercy
IV. Politeness
V. Honesty and Sincerity
VI. Honor
VII. Loyalty
VIII. Character and Self-Control

Monday, September 15, 2008

As Barriers Disappear, Some Gender Gaps Widen

This is an interesting article from the New York Times on the gender gap. It poses some interesting questions about just what gender roles are and how they are upheld in other cultures (or not).

Try ignore the annoying mention of Mars and Venus -- I realize that kind of thinking is frustrating, but some people can't help themselves.

As Barriers Disappear, Some Gender Gaps Widen

Published: September 8, 2008

Correction Appended

When men and women take personality tests, some of the old Mars-Venus stereotypes keep reappearing. On average, women are more cooperative, nurturing, cautious and emotionally responsive. Men tend to be more competitive, assertive, reckless and emotionally flat. Clear differences appear in early childhood and never disappear.

What’s not clear is the origin of these differences. Evolutionary psychologists contend that these are innate traits inherited from ancient hunters and gatherers. Another school of psychologists asserts that both sexes’ personalities have been shaped by traditional social roles, and that personality differences will shrink as women spend less time nurturing children and more time in jobs outside the home.

To test these hypotheses, a series of research teams have repeatedly analyzed personality tests taken by men and women in more than 60 countries around the world. For evolutionary psychologists, the bad news is that the size of the gender gap in personality varies among cultures. For social-role psychologists, the bad news is that the variation is going in the wrong direction. It looks as if personality differences between men and women are smaller in traditional cultures like India’s or Zimbabwe’s than in the Netherlands or the United States. A husband and a stay-at-home wife in a patriarchal Botswanan clan seem to be more alike than a working couple in Denmark or France. The more Venus and Mars have equal rights and similar jobs, the more their personalities seem to diverge.

These findings are so counterintuitive that some researchers have argued they must be because of cross-cultural problems with the personality tests. But after crunching new data from 40,000 men and women on six continents, David P. Schmitt and his colleagues conclude that the trends are real. Dr. Schmitt, a psychologist at Bradley University in Illinois and the director of the International Sexuality Description Project, suggests that as wealthy modern societies level external barriers between women and men, some ancient internal differences are being revived.

The biggest changes recorded by the researchers involve the personalities of men, not women. Men in traditional agricultural societies and poorer countries seem more cautious and anxious, less assertive and less competitive than men in the most progressive and rich countries of Europe and North America.

To explain these differences, Dr. Schmitt and his collaborators from Austria and Estonia point to the hardships of life in poorer countries. They note that in some other species, environmental stress tends to disproportionately affect the larger sex and mute costly secondary sexual characteristics (like male birds’ displays of plumage). And, they say, there are examples of stress muting biological sex differences in humans. For instance, the average disparity in height between men and women isn’t as pronounced in poor countries as it is in rich countries, because boys’ growth is disproportionately stunted by stresses like malnutrition and disease.

Personality is more complicated than height, of course, and Dr. Schmitt suggests it’s affected by not just the physical but also the social stresses in traditional agricultural societies. These villagers have had to adapt their personalities to rules, hierarchies and gender roles more constraining than those in modern Western countries — or in clans of hunter-gatherers.

“Humanity’s jaunt into monotheism, agriculturally based economies and the monopolization of power and resources by a few men was ‘unnatural’ in many ways,” Dr. Schmitt says, alluding to evidence that hunter-gatherers were relatively egalitarian. “In some ways modern progressive cultures are returning us psychologically to our hunter-gatherer roots,” he argues. “That means high sociopolitical gender equality over all, but with men and women expressing predisposed interests in different domains. Removing the stresses of traditional agricultural societies could allow men’s, and to a lesser extent women’s, more ‘natural’ personality traits to emerge.”

Some critics of this hypothesis question whether the international variations in personality have more to do with the way people in different cultures interpret questions on personality tests. (For more on this debate, go here.) The critics would like to see more direct measures of personality traits, and so would Dr. Schmitt. But he notes that there’s already an intriguing trend reported for one trait — competitiveness — based on direct measures of male and female runners.

Competitive running makes a good case study because, to mix athletic metaphors, it has offered a level playing field to women the past two decades in the United States. Similar numbers of males and females run on high school and college teams and in road races. Female runners have been competing for equal shares of prize money and receiving nearly 50 percent more scholarship aid from Division I colleges than their male counterparts, according to the N.C.A.A.

But these social changes have not shrunk a gender gap among runners analyzed by Robert Deaner, a psychologist at Grand Valley State University in Michigan, who classifies runners as relatively fast if they keep close to the pace of the world’s best runners of their own sex. When Dr. Deaner looks at, say, the top 40 finishers of each sex in a race, he typically finds two to four times as many relatively fast male runners as relatively fast female runners.

This large gender gap has persisted for two decades in all kinds of races — high school and college meets, elite and nonelite road races — and it jibes with other studies reporting that male runners train harder and are more motivated by competition, Dr. Deaner says. This enduring “sex difference in competitiveness,” he concludes, “must be considered a genuine failure for the sociocultural conditions hypothesis” that the personality gap will shrink as new roles open for women.

If he and Dr. Schmitt are right, then men and women shouldn’t expect to understand each other much better anytime soon. Things could get confusing if the personality gap widens further as the sexes become equal. But then, maybe it was that allure of the mysterious other that kept Mars and Venus together so long on the savanna.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: September 10, 2008
The Findings column on Tuesday, about gender gaps, misidentified the educational affiliation of Robert Deaner, a psychologist who analyzed competitive runners. He is at Grand Valley State University, in Michigan — not Colgate University, where he received his bachelor’s degree.

What the article seems to be looking at, but unaware of, is developmental differences in how gender roles manifest that can be explained with a model such as Spiral Dynamics, but look anomalous within the frameworks the researcher are using.

It only makes sense that gender roles will change as people move through different developmental stages, both as individual as cultures. The masculine role in a hunter-gatherer society is much different than it would be in an agricultural society than it would be in a corporate society -- than it will be in the future.

And, again, it makes sense that as culturally-imposed gender roles are dropped, men and women will evolve in their roles, picking up some lost but crucial biological differences and exploring new ways to be whole in who they are.