I'm fairly certain many married men had already figured this one out.*
One perspective, often advanced by social conservatives, is that males and females are inherently different from one another, while others claim women and men are essentially the same. Usually claims of difference are based on either biological distinctiveness (i.e. evolution/god made us different on a physical level) or spiritial distinctiveness (i.e. god intended for us to be different on a metaphysical level). Additionally, we sometimes run into the idea that we're different on a physical psychological level (i.e. evolution/god made our brains work a little differently). Now, nobody with half a brain claims that there are no sources of physical distinctivness. Sexual dimorphism, among other things, makes that claim untenable. Yet, there have been claims that women are physically not suited for some tasks that men are suited for and vice versa. Often, these sorts of claims get meshed with the psychological distinctiveness claims and yield some fairly interesting assertions, such as Newt Gingrich's famous remarks about women and men in the military:
"If combat means living in a ditch, females have biological problems staying in a ditch for thirty days because they get infections and they don't have upper body strength. I mean, some do, but they're relatively rare. On the other hand, men are basically little piglets, you drop them in the ditch, they roll around in it, doesn't matter, you know. These things are very real. On the other hand, if combat means being on an Aegis-class cruiser managing the computer controls for twelve ships and their rockets, a female may be again dramatically better than a male who gets very, very frustrated sitting in a chair all the time because males are biologically driven to go out and hunt giraffes."
Of course, often the issue isn't whether or not there are differences but, rather, whether we should attend to those differences and whether they're a result of genetics or experience. So, for example, perhaps on average women have less upper body strength than men, but that said I think there are plenty of female gymnasts who could kick my ass. Shouldn't we judge based on the attribute we're interested in (e.g. strength) rather than something that has a correlation with it (e.g. sex)? At the same time, just because women and men are different in adulthood it doesn't mean that those differences are inborn but, rather, could be the result of life experiences. W.I. Thomas had a pretty awesome article on this in the American Journal of Sociology with the title "The Mind of Woman and the Lower Races."** Despite the title, it is a pretty progressive argument that men and women are different mostly because their lives are made different by structure. I'm not going to touch the spiritual argument about differences between men and women- as a materialist atheist, I find the entire question to be ludicrous.
Often efforts to portray men and women as different stem from a desire to restrict female activity or, alternatively, to delineate the proper sphere of female action. Ahem. Still, sometimes it works in a different manner. It has, from time to time, been suggested that women are kinder, gentler and more decent than men. Particularly, it has been argued that women are less violent and may make better leaders. This argument was part of the women's suffrage movement in the 19th century*** and is at the heart of Robin Williams' famous remark that if a woman were President there would never be any wars- never ever. Just every 28 days there would be serious negotiations. It has even lurked beneath some feminist thought, arguing in a sort of odd reversal that women are different from men, as has been traditionally believed, it's just that they're better.
I have no interest in passing judgment on that view as a whole and, indeed, am well aware that from an evolutionary and biological perspective, males of our species are considerably more expendable than are females.**** Yet, I have always been more than a little skeptical of the notion that a society ruled by women would inevitably be more just and less violent than one ruled by men. What can I say? I'm a structuralist at heart.
And, as it turns out, new research suggests that my skepticism may have been justified:
Anthropologists have never directly observed a female-dominated society among humans, but many have speculated that such societies would be less violent than male-dominated ones. Now that postulate has been challenged by hard evidence. Bonobos, a primate species that is female-dominated and bisexual, have been observed repeatedly hunting and killing other apes in the wild.
Or, to quote directly from the researchers:
In chimpanzees, male-dominance is associated with physical violence, hunting, and meat consumption. By inference, the lack of male dominance and physical violence is often used to explain the relative absence of hunting and meat eating in bonobos. Our observations suggest that, in contrast to previous assumptions, these behaviors may persist in societies with different social relations.
Does this mean that human females aren't naturally less violent than human males? No, but it does provide reason for us to believe that they probably aren't. And in the end that's probably for the best.
We're an aggressive, hardy, tough species and that goes for the women as well as the men. It just so happens that wishful counterfactuals aren't going to help us learn to deal with that.
* Not talking about my wife, mind you, I just get to hear stories of bitterness from other men now and then.
**Thomas, William I. 1907. "The Mind of Woman and the Lower Races." The American Journal of Sociology, 12(4): 435-469.
*** e.g. Holly McCammon's work on suffrage.
**** I sometimes like to observe that human males traditionally had two roles: father the next generation, get eaten by tigers. And we pretty much had to do it in that order, too.