Do men belong in the corridors of power, or zoos?

Here’s a neat bit of doublethink I’ve never been able to comprehend. I live in a culture which informs me:

  1. Men are natural leaders, and therefore should run countries, corporations and households. Women in charge would just do whatever their PMSing hormones made them want to do, and
  2. Men are ruled by their hormones, can’t help themselves, so it’s the job of women to avoid provoking men into raping us, cheating on us, or hitting us.

How does that work? Let’s follow the logic. If men are actually controlled by their animalistic urges, then doesn’t putting men in charge of nations equate to putting a chimpanzee in the capitol with his hand next to the Weapons of Mass Destruction button? And even though us gals are incapable of controlling our own hormones (sarcasm), women are responsible for controlling men via their hormones. So aren’t we really the ones who should be in charge, since we are the only people who can control the all-powerful male hormones?

The logic shoots itself in the ass.

Humans have this structure in the brain that’s much less developed in other species: a prefrontal cortex. It allows us to review the decisions our hormones are urging us to make and veto them when we see fit. That’s what it does. If men have them, then they must be accountable for their actions. And they do have them.

But here’s something to ponder. Studies have indicated that at least one type of human has a less developed prefrontal cortex than the norm. Guess which type? It’s not women. It’s not them black drug dealers. Nope – it’s “unsuccessful psychopaths,” meaning those psychopaths who lack the impulse control required to evade capture for their crimes. The psychopaths who do evade capture have slightly smaller prefrontal cortices than the norm, but more than their unsuccessful counterparts.

What are we really saying when we say men can’t be held accountable for their misdeeds? Are we equating them with shit-flinging monkeys, or psychopaths? What a disservice to the men who do engage their prefrontal cortices when their hormones make suggestions that might be physically gratifying for the moment but would ultimately lead to trouble. And I think that is the vast majority of men.


  1. Robin says

    Whoa, little lady, slow down with yer “logic” there. Don’t go getting your pretty head in a tizzy over things you don’t understand. [/kidding]

    You make several very good points, Jennifer. It’s really interesting to set the patriarchal arguments against each other to see which idea is more strongly ingrained in our society. And I think we all have the potential to be “shit-flinging monkeys, or psychopaths”, regardless of gender.

    The neurological study makes me wonder whether the physiological commonalities among unsuccessful psychopaths has an effect on the fact that there are fewer female serial killers. Do women have larger prefrontal corticies that makes them more successful at hiding their crimes (or even less likely to commit them in the first place), or smaller ones that make them easier to catch?

  2. says

    The latest FBI-theory-according-to-the-internet is that there may be more women serial killers/psychopaths than was previously believed, because women are more likely to use poisons and go about things in a sneaky manner. But there aren’t any estimates (to my knowledge) about whether there’s anything like parity between the number of female and male psychopaths.

    But I think social conditioning and entitlement could enter in, too – after all, the vast majority of known serial killers are white men, middle class or higher, and I can’t imagine a biological reason why they would have less in the prefrontal department than men of other socioeconomic and race groups. I would say it’s more likely they feel entitled to engage in psychopathic behavior, and figure when they get caught that might suck somewhat, but on the other hand they’ll be famous and sekritly admired because, really, all people want to be just like them.

  3. Charles RB says

    Ah, but they’re NATURAL leaders and hormones are _also_ natural. Both things are natural, and if they’re natural then they naturally must be true because natural things are unarguable and there’s clearly no disconnect if they’re both natural.


  4. Gategrrl says

    I think the target groups of known female serial killer/sociopaths are usually those who are even *less* priviledged than they are–young children, the elderly, other women. That their crimes aren’t as splashily violent as many male killers also plays into it, I think. Also, that most investigators are men, and are predisposed to think that “Ohmygosh, there’s no way that nice mother who adopted 3 children after her own 5 died of natural causes could possibly have murdered them!” (I’m thinking of a particular case, but can’t remember the specifics of it)

    Back to your article: I’ve thought of this odd disconnect, but usually in relation to other cultures that force women to veil themselves and cover themselves up. It’s not that bad here, but more subtle.

    I suppose what we need are some controlled female sociopaths climbing up the ladder.

  5. Patrick says

    This is one of my “favorite” pieces of doublethink, the other being the “persecuted hegemon” arguments from many evangelical American Christians.

  6. Brandon says

    Some years back when I was in the Army some of my (former)friends informed me that women can’t be stationed on submarines. When I asked why they informed me that a woman would be raped to death. The worst part wasn’t that everyone seemed to agree, but took it as natural and normal.

    ‘Same men accused me of putting women on a pedestial because I thought each woman was different and unique and could be reasoned with, you know, like “us.”


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