Men Lead, Women Support.

There are some aspects of human nature that we are reluctant to address. Usually the ones that aren’t set in stone, that have just enough exceptions, that are a pull you can resist rather than a reflex you can’t help. And the pull that men and women feel towards certain roles is one of the most taboo subjects. But we do feel that pull and not only is there good reason for it, but understanding it can still be useful in today’s society, whoever you are.

One fact about humans is that, as social animals, the ways in which we contribute to society, from our tribe to our partners, are skewed by gender.

In their traditional roles across the World, men assume positions of leadership. What positions are available depends on the society, be it CEO, village headman or doctor. And what each position means also depends on the society, as a doctor in some cultures could be less revered or respected than in others. And how much authority you can command will depend on yourself and how well you and your skills fit into society. After all, an introverted master fisherman in a society where introversion and fishing are unappreciated will be doing worse than an extroverted blacksmith. But men have always capitalized their talents and made effort to become respected leaders of the community. And with this respect also come the resources they need to survive, a greater possibility of a good retirement and a wider selection of reproductive choices. By which I mean, men in positions of authority get food, protection, community and sex. The basics for human survival.

However, women’s traditional roles across the World are positions of support. Again, the availability and respect given to these positions depend on the society and how much their support contributes. And how much respect you are given will depend on yourself, your own ability to be supportive and how well your skills match the necessary skills for a more respected support role. A delicate feminine bride may be adored in a culture where her main role of support is to support her husband. But she would be far less respected in a society where women supported the tribe through toiling in the fields. But women have always supported the men and the vulnerable and made effort to ensure that the vulnerable are cared for and the men can continue leading. And when they were good at this, they were more likely to access the resources they need to survive, captivate a man’s attention and the respect of the tribe and have many healthy children. By which I mean, women in support positions get food, protection, community and sex. Again, basic human survival.

These traditional roles aren’t enforced strategies that every culture forced on its people coincidentally. They developed because of our condition. Firstly before contraception females would bear and breastfeed infants, meaning they would spend more time at home, around the tired hunters and the vulnerable members of society. Secondly, if females were having infants and infants are beneficial to the survival of a group (they are) then female energy would be highly valuable, meaning most energy-expensive activities, such as hunting and wood cutting, would fall to males. Thirdly, when males were taking over most energy-expensive, away-from-home and risky work, then they would not exactly be going to be brimming with energy to clean, tidy, cook, tan skins, weave baskets, feed the vulnerable, etc when they got home. So someone had to do it. These traits probably developed before we became Homo Sapiens Sapiens. As in, when we were still very furry tribes of humanoid primates living on the plains of Africa, these traits were firmly ingrained. So if the pull for men to lead and for women to support is pretty fixed in most humans, but expresses itself culturally, where do we see it today?

Well, everywhere. Firstly, however much people want to pretend otherwise, most relationships still follow the lead-support dynamic. Like in dancing, when you have two people trying to lead you get arguments and injury (at least emotional damage), and when you have two people trying to support not a lot gets done or finished. Unless you are operating as individuals who have no relation to each other, someone ends up taking the lead and someone ends up supporting the leader and the usual pattern is the biological one. Secondly, women are more attracted to support-based jobs, such as teaching, care or secretarial/HR style positions. Men are more attracted to careers and pursue an end goal of climbing the ranks to leadership, be it in banking, religious offices or business ownership. In our personal and professional lives, most men choose to lead and most women choose to support a leader.

Of course, some people will prefer the opposite role, be drawn to it and feel fulfilled in it. And, just as with homosexuality, there is no denying that the pull can be flipped or altered. But what happens when someone can’t fulfill their role, either because of social constraints or inability to fit the position? Then we end up seeing some sort of breakdown in them as human beings.

Men who can’t lead, either because they aren’t skilled enough at their job or because they are being led by everyone against their will, wind up unwell. They become stressed, passive and try and blend into the background. When women can’t support, either because there is no leader or because too many people depend on them, we see the same thing. Women are more stressed by work than men, even doing fewer hours. Men are more stressed by inactivity than women, even when their needs are met. Leading men being led by leading women start to break and can even become suicidal. Supportive women coexisting with supportive men become flighty and insecure. That same thing that creates the pull to begin with reacts negatively to being forced into the wrong role. It realizes it has failed to guard you. You have probably lost social standing, not gained many resources, are not desired by potential partners. So you are weak. So your body gets stressed, encouraging you to either break out of that negative position or just make yourself small and unnoticeable so the tribe doesn’t hurt you.

This is why highly successful women pair up with even more successful men. This is why men are willing to completely reinvent themselves after a few rejections. This is why women suffer more workplace stress in less busy, less physically demanding roles. This is why men in dangerous jobs are often less stressed than men involuntarily on the dole. We can’t change our role any more than we can change our sexual attraction.

But even in today’s society we can make use of this knowledge and use it to our advantage. For example, most women, being supportive and not leading, will prefer to confer or defer decisions than make one on the spot. Most men are more motivated and satisfied by additional status and respect than additional wealth in a job. Most women want to feel like someone is steering the ship when their lives get a little rocky. Most men want to feel like there’s something to fall back on in the same situation.

If you’re one of those who fall into the most common role for your gender, then this knowledge can help you understand yourself and understand thoseĀ  of the opposite gender. You can use it to see what would make you happiest and to properly look after your partner, children, friends and relatives. If you’re not one of those who fall into the common role for your gender,* then this gives you more insight into how others of your gender differ from you and some grounding from which to make your decisions and better integrate into society. All round, there are some truths you can deny. But this is one of those where denying it will cause more harm than good, to yourself and those around you.

*This doesn't mean being gay or masculine/feminine, by the way, plenty of feminine gay men could easily also be drawn to leadership and a tomboyish girl can be the support in her relationships. All these things may be fixed on an individual level, but are pretty independent of each other.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

Humans Cannot Act Against Human Nature

“We are exactly as nature “intended”. We couldn’t exist otherwise, as the process of evolution would have cut us from the tree long ago. Our minds are exactly as nature “intended”. All nature “intends” us to be is successful or dead. Our minds have made us what we are, have made us immensely successful, and that includes our rational decisions regarding our own instincts. As we are still alive, it’s safe to assume nature “intended” reason to be part of our human nature.”

Again, as always, let’s be clear on the definitions of “human nature”. The Oxford English Dictionary currently defines it as:

“The general psychological characteristics, feelings, and behavioural traits of humankind, regarded as shared by all humans.”

So, that would make “human nature” better defined as “human behaviours, feelings and other characteristics”. By paying special attention to the word “psychological”, we note that we are not talking exclusively about actions committed, ideals or instincts, but a combination of all three and more. By paying special attention to the word “regarded”, we note two things. Firstly, the opinion of human nature is not an absolute. It is perceived to be, or “regarded” as shared by all humans, however this does not mean that any specific behaviour actually is. Secondly, as an opinion, it is subjective. Need I say more?

As the view on what constitutes “human nature” is subjective, generalized and broad, we must try and regard “human nature” without trying to make it objective (implying complete knowledge of the human condition and mind), absolutist (making it automatically incorrect, as an absolute is either right or wrong and one exception makes it wrong) or specific (forcing us to focus on the nuances rather than the entire state). To do so, let’s say that “human nature” is an abstract concept. It’s intangible, we can’t witness it, but it is necessary and at the very core of our every behaviour, feeling and characteristics. It is the puppet-master behind the scenes that triggers everything we are, say, think and do. Human nature is everything that makes a human human.

Now, here is where most find their first and final pitfall: we often confuse human nature with pure instinct. We assume that, as every aspect of human nature must stem from our biology and, therefore, our instincts, that the purest form of human nature is animal instinct. That, if we act against our baser drives to eat, fight, mate, flee, or our simplest impulses we are somehow acting against human nature.

Yet, if you observe how humans behave, this Freudian simplicity is… well, too simple. Humans are social animals. Humans are rational animals. We may feel an impulse to eat, but first inspecting the berry is wise. We may feel an impulse to mate, but mounting the Alpha’s partner is unwise. We may feel an impulse to flee, but to first scan the area, follow a lead or consider other evasion tactics is also wise. The right, rational decision can make or break our success. Our behaviours are just as much influenced by our minds and society as they are by our impulses and environment. Ergo, our human nature is just as much rational and social as it is instinctive.

In fact, our minds are what make humans distinct from other animals to begin with. Instinct and impulse did not create metropoli. Sure, you could argue that the desire for food, mates and safety created metropoli. But, without our minds and social natures, humans would, like so many other animals, have settled for following the migrating game and gathering seasonal produce, forcing ourselves upon suitable partners and defending ourselves through evasive and defensive means. Our minds are absolutely necessary to explain our successes. Our social structures are also necessary, as, without intricate hierarchies and extensive bonding and trust, sedentary life and all the things that can be created within it would be impossible. Without our minds, we are animals. Without society, we can’t use our minds. When we have both, we are human. The take-away message is that, if our minds and society make us human, then anything created by our minds and our societies also stems from human nature.

“If we take the angle that reason and society are also parts of human nature, then we can understand why people act against their instincts or best interests. The woman who kills her own child does so, not because of an instinct or an impulse, but because she believed it was the best option. An anorexic starves themselves, not because of an instinct or an impulse, but because they feel they should. Humans engage in unnecessary risk-taking, not because we are following an impulse but because we consider the reward to be worth the risk. We use our minds to overcome our instincts, and often to excellent results.”

This goes a long way toward explaining that which Freudian simplicity and the absolute perspective of instinct=human nature fail to: why is it that humans act against our instincts, our impulses, even against our own best interests? If all of human nature could genuinely be boiled down to our base instincts, the survival of our genes, or sex, food and survival, then many behaviours are hard to explain. For example, faith is not instinctive, about your genes or about survival. On the contrary, faith often requires humans to make sacrifices, act against their basic reproductive instincts and even die. Yet faith continues to form part of our lives, as it fulfills emotional, social and spiritual needs that go beyond what an animal requires, but are necessary for humans to thrive.

Likewise, a mother who plans to kill her child, a man committing suicide, an anorexic starving themselves or a voluntary celibate are acting directly against their main biological imperatives. Often, they are viewed as “outliers”, or “exceptions” that act “against their nature”. However, this is just an excuse for a limited, absolutist view of human nature; a way of arguing that the absolute view is still correct, rather than accepting that it has been proven incorrect by a variation. Yet, these “exceptions” are very much the norm. If you wish to argue that the main driver of human nature is survival of the individual, then you must ignore the fact that most humans engage in risk-taking that threatens their lives, directly or indirectly, often for no apparent reason. If you wish to argue that the main driver of human nature is the spread of our genes, then you must ignore the fact that humans without access to contraception are very consciously selective about their choices of mate, rather than going by their horniness alone. On the other hand, if we take the angle that reason and society are also parts of human nature, then we can understand why people act against their instincts or best interests. The woman who kills her own child does so, not because of an instinct or an impulse, but because she believed it was the best option. An anorexic starves themselves, not because of an instinct or an impulse, but because they feel they should. Humans engage in unnecessary risk-taking, not because we are following an impulse but because we consider the reward to be worth the risk. We use our minds to overcome our instincts, and often to excellent results.

Of course, you could then say that the mind is an add-on that complicates matters. That, without the mind, we would still exist. That to act without the mind is to act the way our bodies were made to act. But to deny the mind is to deny humanity. By negating the mind, you are implying our entire lives would be better if we were instinctively driven, as “nature intended”. But nature did not “intend” us to be irrational beasts. Nature made us as we were and we took what we were and turned into what we are today. If applied to everything, the negation of the mind would cause society to disintegrate and humans to devolve. If we exclusively ate what felt good, we would get ill. But it’s natural to eat what feels good. If we exclusively eat as our ancestors ate, we would suffer famines, poisonings and malnutrition. But it’s natural to eat following nature and the seasons. If we exclusively mated with people we see as “hot” and did so whenever we wanted, we would have many illegitimate, attractive children that would die from lack of social structure, creating a bottleneck. But it’s natural to want sex with lots of hot people. If we exclusively mated with those who are functional and were very selective about ever mating before bonding, matings would be few and few matings would result in children. But it’s natural to select the very best mates we can obtain. If we acted on every impulse, would we be being “truer” to our nature? Even if acting on these impulses killed us en masse, resulting in another bottleneck or even the extinction of the human race? We are small, weak, maladaptive animals with extraordinary brains. We are exactly as nature “intended”. We couldn’t exist otherwise, as the process of evolution would have cut us from the tree long ago. Our minds are exactly as nature “intended”. All nature “intends” us to be is successful or dead. Our minds have made us what we are, have made us immensely successful, and that includes our rational decisions regarding our own instincts. As we are still alive, it’s safe to assume nature “intended” reason to be part of our human nature.

“If you are currently trying to explain why you choose to act on your instincts rather than not, you are making your instincts a matter of reason. If you try and rationalize how you embrace instinct and reject reason, or how you decide which instincts and impulses are to be followed and which not, you are making this a matter of reason. If you try and explain why all reason is, at its core, instinct-driven, you are making this a matter of reason. As a rational animal, the only way you can escape your rational and social nature is by rationalizing yourself into a state of unreason or opting for a lobotomy.”

Society, culture and faith are human. They stem from our needs and are an integral part to how our minds work. To argue that instinct trumps culture in the game of “what should we do” is, as explained above, to regress. To act against all society, all culture or all faith is to destroy these structures. By destroying social constructs we remove society as we know it, which removes the need for humanity as we know it. Therefore, we must act in accordance, or at least in harmony with our society. And that includes culture, trends, fads, religion, etc. As a human, to choose to act against your instincts is part of your nature, as you are a rational animal. As a human, to consider society in your reasoning is part of your nature, as you are a social animal. Of course, you may choose to reject religion and insist there is nothing out there. But that is also a belief, replacing the absence of a belief in a faith. You may choose to join or create a counter-culture or even an anti-culture. But that is still the formation of culture. You may choose hermitage, but that is still a socially-motivated choice. You can’t escape your human nature.

Finally, let’s consider that your choices and actions matter more than your instincts. Indeed, if you are currently trying to explain why you choose to act on your instincts rather than not, you are making your instincts a matter of reason. If you try and rationalize how you embrace instinct and reject reason, or how you decide which instincts and impulses are to be followed and which not, you are making this a matter of reason. If you try and explain why all reason is, at its core, instinct-driven, you are making this a matter of reason. As a rational animal, the only way you can escape your rational and social nature is by rationalizing yourself into a state of unreason or opting for a lobotomy. Even then, no success is guaranteed. Your mind makes you human. It makes you who you are. It gives you the choices that let you embrace or reject instinct, embrace or reject society, embrace or reject faith.

And, as a human, as a rational animal, your only biological imperative is to make whatever choices you believe are correct. If you believe you should not reproduce, you are acting against your genes’ desires, but in accordance to human nature. If you wholly embrace your basic instincts, you are acting against your reason, but in accordance to human nature. If you strictly control your diet, you are acting against your basic impulses, but in accordance to human nature. You may be biologically successful or not. Socially successful or not. You may embrace nihlism and reject any concept of success in this world. Move and behave according to your goals. But don’t try and pretend you, or anyone else, is acting against human nature. That is a complete impossibility.