Bryan Caplan  

Men of Respect

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Seen through the lens of men's rights, this quote (from Do I Want to Be a Mom?) is unintentionally outrageous:

My youngest son just turned eighteen. This is when you want them to develop opinions and morals and hopefully somewhere in there become an adult who's going to be sensitive to others and caring. With men, have respect for women, and for women, have respect for yourself.
Respect turns out to be a one-way street: Men are supposed to collectively respect women, and women "hold up their end" by individually respecting themselves!

Question: Why does gender enter into it at all - what's wrong with the gender-neutral advice to "Respect other people, and respect yourself"? Or how about the meritocratic advice to "Respect those who earn it"?


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COMMENTS (28 to date)
Variable writes:

Yes, well, that's all well and good, but lord man... to say such things without the benefit of anonymity... my hat's off to you.

Brad Hutchings writes:

Gender enters into it because the comment is specifically about gender roles, whereas your suggestion about something more broad (and gender neutral) is not about gender roles.

I have this theory based on the introspective method that without some strong direction and correction in their formative years, men turn into terrible pigs when it comes to dealing with women. And women, without some strong help to stand up to such behavior, acquiesce to it. Watch a week's worth of Maury Povitch and tell me you want a world where everyone behaves like those people. I'd think not.

TGGP writes:

This is off-topic, but more support for your theory that class/income is not a good predictor of politics relative to race is at http://www.themonkeycage.org/2007/12/does_wealth_make_blacks_more_c_1.html

Josh writes:

Bryan, I think it has to do with fighting one's natural urges. I think men tend to respect themselves just fine but many men don't respect women. Conversely, I think women usually respect men without much prodding but many women have little respect for themselves, especially when dealing with men.

nicole writes:

I also get very different readings of "respect" for the different genders. Men "having respect for women" means not beating them up or being misogynistic. Women "having respect for themselves" means not being (or seeming) promiscuous (with religious overtones). I suggest that he is in fact implying two very different things with the same words.

Adam writes:

I could accept the "resist your natural urges" excuse if it seemed true, but I don't think that women are any more likely to respect men than men are to respect women. Certainly popular culture does not encourage women to respect men (this quote as an obvious example). Also, see here (which was written as relationship advice for women, and so probably reflects actual attitudes).

Robin Hanson writes:

I'm with Bryan and Adam - women do need to learn to respect typical men, just as men need to learn to respect women.

Taimyoboi writes:

Read I am Charlotte Simmons by Tom Wolfe if you think the remark is off base.

Dan Weber writes:
My youngest son just turned eighteen. This is when you want them to develop opinions and morals and...
If you want your son to develop morals when he's eighteen, you're at least 10 years too late.

You need to start working on that stuff when your kids are much younger.

dearieme writes:

Are American men still hen-pecked conformists, or has the world turned upside down?

Variable writes:
Men "having respect for women" means not beating them up or being misogynistic.

I was not aware that "not beating women" was a learned skill. IMO, guys should learn not to fawn over women --- and we should call them on their BS. We do that readily enough with other man, but let women get away with the apex of inanity, all in the name of "chivalry" or "equality" or "feminism" or whatever. It's B S. Just like this book excerpt. Earn your own damn respect, regardless of gender.

It is, perhaps, logical BS, since men are biologically cheap and disposable, and women can group up on the alpha males, so men need to compete for females. But pandering isn't an effective strategy to begin with, and so long as women (claim to) want marriage, men shouldn't have trouble finding a mate.

Daublin writes:

I have to put in a me, too. Can't any commenter give a credible challenge?

There is a pattern with the defenders of the slanted view of Bryan's that I see with a lot of grass roots political activists. In both cases, the activist claims that there is a prevailing bias that they are counteracting, and thus that they themselves are justified in being biased in the opposite direction.

The disturbing question is: What if the original perception of bias was incorrect?

Brad Hutchings writes:

I'll offer two examples from my childhood in the 80s. One time when I was 11 or 12, my sister smacked me and I smacked her back. My Dad interfered an hour or so after the fact and made it very clear that I should never, ever, ever hit a woman. This memory has probably saved my arse and the arses of friends I've shared it with 100 times, and not from physical confrontation, but from escalating things or just not letting little things go.

Another one from when I was 15. I was required to take "Career Ed" one quarter in conjunction with Driver's Ed the following quarter. The class was a joke, with more than half being discussions of comparable worth, feminism, and other deconstructionist claptrap. One night at dinner, I mentioned what BS it all was, and my Mom (Ms. conservative Republican) went ballistic. I ended up not having a ride to school for a few days because I didn't understand what women went through in the workplace. The lesson there is that even though lots of feminism is garbage, a man has to be a little bit sensitive and clever in arguing the point, even around those who should/would agree with conclusions based on the same information.

Antonio writes:

It seems most people do "respect those who earn it". However, the quote does give the right advice for 90% of women. Men should continue being the way they are until they find a woman who deserves respect. I don't give anyone respect until they show they deserve it, and most women my age don't deserve it.

8 writes:

I also get very different readings of "respect" for the different genders. Men "having respect for women" means not beating them up or being misogynistic. Women "having respect for themselves" means not being (or seeming) promiscuous (with religious overtones).

I agree, but I think it's the same thing. Men who respect women don't treat them like sex objects; women who respect themselves don't act like sex objects.

On the other hand, it's possible it's typical feminist claptrap. Men evil, women victims.

conchis writes:

"The disturbing question is: What if the original perception of bias was incorrect?"

What if it wasn't?

I'm with Josh. Work on the binding constraints.

David Tufte writes:

Outrageous, yet very consistent with the treatment of men in TV and movies outside of the action and historical drama genres.

CT writes:

Brad Hutchings,

Oddly, I had a similar experience to your first anecdote. My sister was bugging me on a long car ride so I smacked her in the arm. She started crying for my parents to reprimand me, but instead of doing that (what your father eventually did) my Mom said "Your brother is a lot bigger than you, so I would not hit him if I were you." Ha! I'm not sure what these opposing reactions by our respective parents entails about their respective parenting skills, but at the time I remember feeling like all was right with the world: my Mom stood up for me and my sister couldn't get away with being a brat just because she was smaller, younger and female.

Of course, I'm sure there were other times when "don't hit girls" was the lesson of such incidents, but they don't stand out in my mind the way the "don't poke the bear" advice does.

Justin Bowen writes:
I have this theory based on the introspective method that without some strong direction and correction in their formative years, men turn into terrible pigs when it comes to dealing with women. And women, without some strong help to stand up to such behavior, acquiesce to it.

I have a couple of problems with your "theory".

First, I think it is important to define what a "pig" is. The term is so loosely thrown about that it could be applied to almost anything that a man does. A man could disagree with a radical feminist who believed that VAWA was good legislation and be labeled a pig. A man could also engage in consensual sex with a woman with no other desires except for sex and be labeled a pig. A male business owner could engage in hiring practices that limited the amount of women that he hired based upon the belief that women take more sick leave and get pregnant and take maternity leave and be labeled a pig. There are so many behaviors that are labeled piggish that some, if not many, people might consider perfectly acceptable behavior. I think people need to be very careful about what behaviors they consider piggish.

Second, I have problems with the idea that women, without some form of help to develop their inner-strength, will acquiesce to men who only use women for their own needs. First, this idea implies that women do not benefit in their own ways from such voluntary associations. The best example that I can think of to illustrate this point is the idea that men use women for sex and that women are harmed by this, whether the sex is paid for or not. People who cling to this belief continue to hold the belief that women don't and can't enjoy sex as much as a man and that there are not trade-offs for that sex. Second, your theory suggests that women are innately unable to think for themselves and therefore must be helped along; the nature vs. nurture argument. I happen to believe that both sides of the argument are both right and wrong. For the sake of this argument, I believe that your nature position (that being that women are incapable of developing their own feelings of self-worth and making "good" decisions) is wrong. I believe that while men and women are biologically different, that they are both capable of developing their own feelings of self-worth, even if those feelings focus on different aspects of each gender's abilities and realities. I also believe that your nurture position (that women can be taught to develop feelings of self-worth and to make "good" decisions) is wrong. I don't believe that any amount of nurturing can develop a woman's feelings of self-worth or help her make good decisions. The very fact that women date men whom most people would consider dangerous individuals (whether they are violent criminals or habitual liars) is proof of this. I happen to believe that self-worth comes from within and that no amount of external influences can change those feelings until the woman changes herself.

We do that readily enough with other man, but let women get away with the apex of inanity, all in the name of "chivalry" or "equality" or "feminism" or whatever. It's B S.

I just thought I'd mention something here. Marc Rudov wrote a great piece on chivalry last year. The piece, titled "Chivalry Died in the Garden of Eden", addressed the issue of chivalry and double standards. Mr. Rudov calls chivalry benevolent sexism, or BS. You can read it here: http://themansnononsenseguidetowomen.com/Media/EdenChivalry.pdf.

Heather writes:

What percent of abusive relationships involve the woman being the abuser versus the man? From observation, I would say that women are more likely to accept poor treatment from a man than vice versa, most likely due to how they define their self image. From this standpoint, I would contend that the father's statement makes sense. Taken in context of the population as a whole, I'm not sure what percent of relationships are abusive (my guess is > 10%) and for those that aren't, this advice is nonsensical and somewhat sexist.

Variable writes:
What percent of abusive relationships involve the woman being the abuser versus the man? From observation,

Observe this: http://www.mensrights.com.au/dvfac13f.htm

Or, if you dislike the source, try this: http://www.safe4all.org/dv_flyers/research_flyer.pdf

CT writes:

Variable, I'm inclined to believe those reports based on my having lived next to three separate couples at three different points in my life where it was clear to me that the female was the aggressor/instigator in the (very loud) disputes I overheard. My guess at why most of us perceive men to be the problem is that men who are abused do not talk about that fact in public. Women, on the other hand, are encouraged to seek help and admit they are in an abusive relationship (and rightly so, obviously). Plus, as a male, even though its terrible that women abuse men, the average size and strength differences make men who abuse women much more scary to me. Women, like it or not, evoke more sympathy, as maybe they should...

Heather, does it matter what particular lesson you're trying to teach your children at the time? Or should the lesson always be "boys can't hit girls"? Like I said, at the time my sister was being a brat, and I think teaching her she could not get away with such behavior just by virtue of being a small girl, and me being a big boy, was at least a sanity preserving lesson from my parent's point of view. If they had reprimanded me, my sister may have taken that as a license to annoy me with impunity, which in a car also means annoying my parents. Just a thought...

Justin Bowen writes:
What percent of abusive relationships involve the woman being the abuser versus the man? From observation,

Observe this: http://www.mensrights.com.au/dvfac13f.htm

Or, if you dislike the source, try this: http://www.safe4all.org/dv_flyers/research_flyer.pdf

Though this will require a significant amount of reading to get a true answer to the question, here is a better reference, IMHO: http://www.csulb.edu/~mfiebert/assault.htm.

Heather writes:

CT, I would agree that it matters what lesson you are trying to teach your children. My daughter routinely bothers my son and then she gets hit. I talk with both of them and make it clear that 1) it's never okay to hit and 2) if you are treating someone badly, that's what happens. Most conflict involves fault from both parties and I try to keep this in mind when arbitrating.

And my answer to the "boys should never hit girls" is that "you should never hit anyone, nor tolerate someone hitting you," (ie leave a situation where you are likely to get hit and don't antagonize someone else). I am not advocating pacifism in general by this statement, but on an individual level this generally works.

CT writes:

Agreed Heather. Hitting people never gets anyone anywhere...except jail maybe.

conchis writes:

Justin,

"I have problems with the idea that women, without some form of help to develop their inner-strength, will acquiesce to men who only use women for their own needs. First, this idea implies that women do not benefit in their own ways from such voluntary associations."

No it doesn't, at least if you stop caricaturing the original argument. It implies that they often benefit less, because they're frequently more willing to take shit.

"Second, your theory suggests that women are innately unable to think for themselves and therefore must be helped along; the nature vs. nurture argument."

Again. No, it really doesn't. It implies that women may be more likely to make particular sorts of mistakes, and men others. It is also entirely agnostic about whether the reasons for this are genetic, environmental or both.

Please stop beating straw men.

conchis writes:

...or women.

Justin Bowen writes:
It implies that they often benefit less, because they're frequently more willing to take shit.

The problem that I see with this argument is that you are placing your own value judgments on the benefits of another person. The fact that a woman is willing to take more shit for benefits that you don't value is a choice that you should not have control over.

..or women.

I see my first argument was correct.

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