Paul Smith's Articles for Spotlight Magazine
Are Women Really the Weaker Sex?
Leaving Tahiti on April 4, 1789, the Bounty embarked on the second leg of
its Pacific journey with a cargo of a thousand breadfruit saplings aboard. A
little more than three weeks later, near the island of Tonga, the crew, led
by first mate Fletcher Christian, staged a mutiny against Captain William
Bligh, under whom they claimed to have suffered inhuman treatment. Bligh and
eighteen loyal sailors were set adrift in a 23-foot open boat. The mutineers
sailed south and eventually found a safe haven on remote Pitcairn Island.
They were never brought to justice.
The irony of the story is that although the Bounty mutineers escaped capture
and almost certain execution by the British authorities, rivalry within the
group had the same effect - by the time the colony was discovered in 1808,
only one male was left alive -- twelve of the original men had been
murdered, one had committed suicide and one had died a natural death.
Surprisingly, 10 of the 13 Polynesian women who had accompanied the men
Although men may fight to the death to assert their biological rights, they
will also sacrifice themselves to ensure the survival of those who carry
their genetic inheritance. In our folk memory of sinking ships -- women and
children are always sent first to the lifeboats while the males have to take
their chances in the icy waters.
The logic is clear. In the mathematics of evolution, when push comes to
shove, men should always take second place to the women who bear their
children. According to Steve Jones in his recent bestseller "Y: the Descent
of Man" (ISBN 0-349-11389-0), men are almost redundant. The abundance of
male sperm compared to the rarity female eggs, make the so-called "stronger
sex" a cheap natural resource.
Although this 'inferiority' of men may please some women who feel put down
in male dominated organizations, - a hardening of the male-female debate
does not help meet the demands of modern life. Today's global socio-economic
systems of today bear little relation to the small hunter-gatherer groups of
our ancestors, and behaviours that guaranteed our species survival in the
jungle, may be totally inappropriate in a modern corporation.
Men and women are not better or worse than each other, they are just
different. The fact that there are more males in the upper reaches of
management doesn't simply mean that women are not programmed to be leaders
(there are enough exceptions to disprove that assumption), it may simply
mean that more women than men consider the work-life equation -- they weigh
up the time investment, the stress, the personal sacrifice,... and come to
the conclusion that the cost of high office is just too expensive.
A recent report (http://main.owad.de/gc/) involving some 5,000 professional
women in Germany suggests that many females in business simply prefer to
work in support functions or at lower management grades. Floating peacefully
in a lifeboat may not be so exciting, but the chances of survival are
marginally better than swimming with the sharks.
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