How Marriage Changed My View of Men
Earlier this year I reflected at Her.meneutics on lessons learned in anticipating my upcoming marriage. I continue to learn new lessons, for marriage is an ever-present schoolmaster. You see, I married relatively late (39), and through those single years, I had far fewer positive relationships with males than I would like to admit, not to mention a couple extremely negative ones. I've been tempted to attribute the failings of a few to the larger group, at times wielding what C. S. Lewis called the "hidden or flaunted […] sword between the sexes," which Lewis himself thought could be removed by what he called an "entire marriage."
For me, marriage has indeed dispelled certain prejudices against men. I realize now how I had drawn big conclusions from small, unrepresentative samples. Such fallacious patterns writ large are exactly what generate gender stereotypes, in both directions. Women, so the stereotype trumpets, are passive followers, emotional, relational—the feelers. Men, in contrast, are assertive and rational—the leaders and problem solvers, the thinkers. Or worse: aggressive, exploitative, predatory.
As a philosophy professor, my husband has taught many business ethics classes, and he's told me that those students who are the staunchest defenders of the most cutthroat and unscrupulous business practices, almost without exception, are men. He admits with chagrin that sometimes, because of such anecdotal evidence, he's tempted to believe that women in general and on average (with plenty of room for exceptions) just "get" ethics better than men. Why are 90 percent of people in jails male? Why are the majority of violent sociopaths in our society men, and why is the number so high?
Some even attempt to formalize theories supporting this claim about men's lacking morality. Feminist Carol Gilligan, for example, is well known for arguing in her influential book In a Different Voice that women deal differently with moral dilemmas than men. Women, she claims, are more caring, less competitive, less abstract, and more sensitive than men in making moral decisions. Because they speak in this "different voice," their culture of nurturing, caring, and peaceful accommodation could cure the world governed by hyper-competitive males and their habits of abstract, less interpersonal moral reasoning.
If women are more in touch with their feelings, they may be more likely to think in relational and empathetic terms. In light of the vital importance morality attaches to imaginatively and empathetically putting yourself into the shoes of another and seeing from their perspective, perhaps it makes sense that those more in touch with their feelings and sentiments would be the more proficient at the moral task. But is there enough evidence and research to back up such an explanation?