Recently, President Obama held a press conference where only women reporters were given an opportunity to field questions. His conduct drew much speculation in the media, and the reason may have been a response to some released studies that show women tend to remain silent in forums were men are present. (Click here) Why this is the case is the subject of an article by Sheryl Sandberg, author of Lean In, a book on the struggles women face when climbing the corporate ladder, and Adam Grant of the Wharton School of Management. The article was forwarded to me by a reader who is interested in women’s issues. Nothing startling turned up in the report but the data does indicate that when a woman speaks in a professional setting either “she’s barely heard or she’s judged as too aggressive.”
That men have behaviors that can intimidate women has been documented by filmmaker, Jennifer Siebel Newsom in Miss Representation. There, she reviewed how the mainstream media perpetuates harmful female stereotypes to which men respond. The question is why? Does every man desire to become an alpha male? Is culture or biology or both at the heart masculine behavior?
In another documentary to be released by Newsom, she looks at what it means to be male: The Mask You Live In. She interviewed a number of men in her effort to understand why the ills of suicide and anti-social behavior affect males disproportionately. (“Building A Better Man,” by Michael Mechanic, Mother Jones, Jan/Feb, 2015 pg. 60.) A good deal of pain seems to arise when a man feels forced to be someone he isn’t. The constant need to prove one’s masculinity by dominating others on the playing fields or on the job can lead to regret and mental illness.
Of course these male stereotypes are as wrong and oppressive as those projected on to women. For a man, as well as a woman, there are many positive ways to exist. The Woman’s Movement was about breaking stereotypes. Getting to the root cause of men behaving badly will free them and allow them to be supportive of women.