Yes, society is gendered

By Megan McArdle

I've had about ten requests from men to explain the phrase "winning the cocktail party". None from women.

A male friend, who spends a not inconsiderable time cruising feminist sites, was one of those who asked what it meant. I find it odd to realize that most men don't observe something that is obvious to every woman I know: that there is a competitive male dynamic to groups that is completely different from the way female groups act. They don't know, of course, because unless the group is overwhelmingly female, the dynamic of any mixed group always defaults to male, with women fading back into supporting conversational roles. Maybe it's the kind of thing you can only observe by contrast to the extremely anti-competitive nature of female groups.

The easiest way to put it (and this is hardly original) is that men in groups are focused on their role within the group. Women in groups are focused on the group. Men gain status by standing out from the group; women gain status by submerging themselves into it--by strengthening the group, often at the expense of themselves.

Both these styles have advantages and drawbacks. I'm not trying to establish that one is better than the other. But I'm kind of shocked, though I shouldn't be, to realize that men don't even see it, the way they don't see catcalling, because it never happens when they're around.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2008/06/yes-society-is-gendered/3753/