Omkari Williams

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The Difference Between Men and Women

Fred & Wilma Flintstone walking their dinosaur

A few years back I got into a heated debate with my oldest friend, Will. We have literally known each other since I was born and he was 1, so he’s as much a brother as a friend. We were locking horns because I said that I believe that men and women have significant inherent differences. He disagrees. He is wrong. Here’s my proof.

Let’s go back to the days of wooly mammoths. Way back then life was really hard and really dangerous. If you weren’t alert you were as likely to be a meal as to have a meal.

Here we are with our family of cave dwellers. Let’s say there are five of them, Mom, Dad, and the three little ones. It’s before dawn and Mom says (Grunts?), “The kids and I are so hungry, please go kill a wooly mammoth so that we all don’t starve to death.” Dad says, “That’s fine, just make sure the fire is ready when I bring it home.”

Off Dad goes in search of the next several meals. Fortunately he’s got the skills that it takes to be a good (read “alive”) hunter stealth, focus, and strength. Meanwhile Mom is left to make sure the kids survive so they can hook up with the kids two caves down and keep the human race going.

So, how do they do their differing jobs? Here’s where the difference between men and women comes in. Dad goes off to hunt and he is laser focused on the wooly mammoth he is tracking. He notices the tracks and other signs that one is nearby and that is all he is thinking about.

Mom, on the other hand, is trying to keep the kids alive. All of them. She needs to have a broader focus. If she only watches one of the kids then you can be sure that the other two will do something that will take them out of the realm of the living. She has to watch them all while keeping the cave clean and doing all the other things necessary to sustain life back then.

It’s the difference between a narrow focus and a broad focus. One is not better than the other. One is not more important than the other, but they are very, very different.

From a purely biological perspective, you need both. You need to keep as many of the kids alive as possible so you have to feed them; but you can’t take them hunting with you and expect that to go well. And the mono-focus that it requires to hunt is very different from the kind of focus you need to keep track of the whereabouts and activities of multiple small children.

My argument to Will was that we are literally wired differently. That women are wired to focus in a broader range because that is what the species required in order to survive. We also needed the hyper-focus and testosterone fueled aggression of men to put food in the bellies of the family. Hunting is an inherently competitive activity. Child-rearing is easiest when done collaboratively. 

Fast forward to the present day and we find ourselves (as individuals and a species) struggling. We’ve done damage to the planet and are seeming incapable of not trying to kill one another. It seems to me that these imbalances can be traced to the fact that, somewhere along the line, we (both men and women) stopped valuing the wisdom and experience of women in the way we value the wisdom and experience of men.

We dismiss half the wisdom of the world and then wonder why things are going so badly. Women have a different perspective than men. Women have different kinds of stories to contribute to the global conversation, stories based on a collaborative rather than competitive view. The voices and wisdom of women are needed, not to replace the contributions of men, to bring balance to the decisions that we make. 

From where I sit, it was the ability of those long gone cave dwellers to value both contributions that made it possible for humans to survive. Now, to continue our survival, we need to return to valuing the wisdom and input of women as we value the wisdom and input of men. 

There you have it. I rest my case. 

I would love to know what you think about this subject, so feel free to leave a comment.