The Fallacy Of Conventional Gender Wisdom

(by Eli Harman)

[T]he conventional wisdom is that women are selfless and generous and that men are selfish and acquisitive.

But this conclusion is exactly backwards, because it is formed without looking at opportunity costs.

Women’s socialism is in fact profoundly selfish and self-interested, given their risk-aversion and security seeking. Liberty and independence are risky and therefore costly and women are – by and large – not willing to take those risks or bear those costs, even to achieve the greater success it holds out as a possibility. Men are more willing to risk personal failure and destitution in order to obtain wealth and success, or to endure them stoically in order to create a prosperous society for all.

Another common misconception is that men are practical and women sentimental.

But this one, too, misses the mark.

A common trope one finds in history and fiction is men going off to war and women pleading with them not to.

This is held out as an example of women’s noble sentiments vs. men’s ruthless pragmatism.

But the explanation is actually very nearly reversed. War, even at its most necessary and helpful, represents (with certainty) taking personal risks and bearing personal costs, in order to obtain a shared (but uncertain) benefit (victory, security, etc…) Women, as the ultimate egoistic pragmatists, are simply less likely to see this as a worthwhile bargain, even a degree removed from the most severe costs and risks. It is men’s idealism and altruism which leads them to strike it.

Women *appear* more generous because they selfishly appeal to men’s generosity.

They *appear* more sentimental because they make pragmatic appeals to men’s sentimentality.

But the reality is otherwise.

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