Men and Women

When I was little, periodically, a scream echoed over the village.  I don’t think I could give a description of that scream that would make you hear it, but I think it might be the sort that gave rise to legends of banshees.  It was a high, piercing lament, without words, an ullulation that carried for miles, so primal that it always sounded more or less the same, without one being able to distinguish who made it: young or old, man or woman.

I was over ten when I found out those cries were heralds of sudden, unexpected death.  The scream — usually a series of them — came out when a little boy was dragged over from the washing river and laid dead in front of his mother; when a woman fell and hit her head and expired in front of her husband; when a husband got run over and his wife saw his bloodied body.

It never happened when the death had been a long time coming, and rarely when the dead person was elderly.  No.  It was usually the sound one made when shock and grief, mingled, tore out all pretense of civilization, all disguise, all “what will they think.”

I confess it was normally a woman’s thing, or assumed to be, though twice at least mom told me it had been a father, a husband making it.

Like Miss Marple, I’m very glad I got to live in a village, a place where there wasn’t much point pretending about fundamental things, and where one could see human nature for what it was: human.

The other side of this was that we didn’t have movies.  Sure we had books.  And we had rules (usually in books of rules) on how men behaved and how women behaved.  And we tried.  But we didn’t have filmed lies constantly before us, creating a vision of “normal”.

Think about it.  In movies, a woman gets bad news and she cries (usually in a dignified way.)  The man will hold on, looking stoic, and then after people leave will sweep everything from his desk and throw a chair around.

That one is so bad, that I’ve taken to downgrading any manuscripts that come across my desk when I’m judging a contest, in which someone sweeps everything off his desk in anger because his dog died, or he just got jilted.

I don’t even think the movies have managed to teach any man to react that way.  I’ve never seen a man do that, angry at a sudden death.  (Unless he caused it, or unless he’s angry at whomever caused it.)

My dad — my family in general, because we had a position, one micron above the rest of the village — didn’t cry in public.  I don’t know if we’d have keened the sudden death knell because, thank heavens, in my time there there were no such.

I don’t remember seeing my dad cry, but I suspect he did, when he was alone.  I know for a fact he never swept things off a desk in lieu of anger.

People who have been raised in a society of restrained emotions, where people only show emotions in movies, and that’s highly choreographed and according to cliche, not reality, don’t know that there isn’t such a thing as “a male reaction” and “a female reaction” much less one rigidly enforced by “society” a society they imagine goes back through time, to primitive days.

There are dignified and undignified ways to behave, and in a society like the one I grew up in — highly patriarchal, yes — the male was the pillar of support of the family, and was expected to act strong.  The same way, its being a class-divided society, it was thought vulgar for people of some education, like my family, to display emotion in public.  I remember how hard it was when my grandfather died, to walk down main street, knowing all eyes were on me, and to keep my face impassive.

I will say there’s  a lot to be said for that, for keeping your demeanor even, for taking the blow and acting like a pillar of strength when others are depending on you.  I’ll even say there’s something to be said for men to behave that way.  For many — evolutionary — reasons families with fathers (and we’ve found that it’s better if families have a father in them) still look to them for strength for everyone.  And if you’re a woman and the head of the family, studying the responses advised for males traditionally is not a bad idea, either.  The reason the strong silent stereotype evolved is the “strong” part.  When tragedy hits, people like to believe — even though at heart sane ones know we’re all people — that there is someone strong enough not to succumb, someone they can lean on.

That’s why throughout history, in most of the world mankind evolved entire court protocols, so that people didn’t see that the royals, the people they depended on to keep society together, could break and cry like mere mortals.

But it is important to remember that’s the protocol.  Royals, if you read their biographies, are still human, and any number of them have unleashed the death knell.

Men and women are still human, too.  They are different.  My son, whose undergrad degree is in human biology, informs me that the different hormones shape our growth from the womb outward.  Our brains are different, our muscle-skeletal structure is different, and yep, our emotional response is different.

A friend I have reason to trust told me that men have an underlying fund of anger, the whole time.  (Which makes a man, I think.  Or maybe I read too much politics.)  I don’t think most women do.  (Hey, I’m myself alone.)  I’m told by medical friends that testosterone does give you more violent impulses, but it’s not so much that.  It’s more that it makes your thoughts more direct, clearer, stripped of subtlety and layering.

And right here you know these are not absolutes, because if I could, for five minutes, think in as layered a way as Dave Freer, I’d count myself fortunate.  Hold on to that thought.  It comes back later.

Our different evolutionary histories trained women to be those who watch children, a less violent, less dangerous, more social and certainly more verbal activity than the hunt men engaged in.  Women’s jockeying for position is different too.  It’s a dance of appearance and undermining, of verbal aggression and verbal bond-building.  Men tend to be more direct and immediate, to find their hierarchy with fists.  That is, they were, in the natural state.  Or in elementary before the social engineers took over.  I remember being in elementary, in an all-girls’ school next to an all-boys’ school, looking across the fence at the boys fighting and horsing around and thinking “I wish we did it that way, instead of with false friendship and gossipy knives in the back.”

But the thing is, that though I understood boys and girls were different, I didn’t imagine they were a separate species.  Villages didn’t allow that.  We were all too much in each other’s pockets.  I knew boys cried, I knew women displayed aggression.  Heaven save you if a pack of fishwomen ever come after you, and I mean that.

I knew we were different, but not so different, and usually not so different from birth that it justified a hatred of one of the sexes, or even a notion that if we could just be the other sex, all our problems would be fixed.

I knew, couldn’t avoid knowing, that at the end we were all human, and that the human mold allowed for infinite variation, regardless of what bits you had dangling.

There was no way to avoid knowing that, when my very masculine father, the one who never cried in public, the one who told me to stop lamenting because legionaries didn’t cry, was the nurturer in the family.  It was hard not to realize, pretty early, his horror of having me cry was that my cry hurt him.  And if you were really hurt, he would hug you, impart his strength to you.  If you were sick, he’d come and visit you, and — in my case — fix my covers so only my face showed (at least in winter, in our unheated house.)  He called it making me a little mouse in a hole, which was strangely comforting.

It wasn’t till I was in the US that I realized some people were really confused, not only about what men were and what women were, but how they reacted throughout history.  I heard a friend give a lecture in which she said — with a straight face — that women had had to evolve different mechanisms “because we couldn’t show anger, it wasn’t allowed.  Throughout history, men could go to war or go hunting but women couldn’t show anger.”

I didn’t cackle like an hyena.  There were several things men and women could not do, but those rules were usually not paid much attention to when it came to the fundamentals.  Men can let out the primal scream, and women —  just don’t get between a woman and her children and threaten her children in any way, okay?  Not women who haven’t been trained by movies into thinking all they can do is cry.

But more than that those roles she was mentioning weren’t neolithic roles, or even medieval roles, or the role of anything before an age of such abundance that women of a certain class were shielded from the realities of the world.  Women did fight, even peasant women in the village.  It usually involved a lot of hair pulling and slapping, but sometimes knives came out.  Like all women they were more dangerous than men in a fight, because they fought underhanded, with less show and more deadliness.  (I think men evolved rules of “fair fight” mostly because they had to — you had to keep the trust of the hunting group, after all, or you couldn’t function together.)

And while few women hunted (though it happened) women did get to kill things, as much as men did.  They usually slaughtered animals kept for food.  And neither of them did that as a way to deal with anger.  That’s the “desk sweeping” thing all over again.

It takes a very sheltered woman who learned from movies how men and women react to think that men would go hunting to “disperse anger” (anymore than doing any other violent exercise) or that women were not supposed to disperse anger violently.  (The exercise thing works, btw.  A few times, when very furious, I hand-scrapped and wax the wooden floors of the Victorian we lived in. It gives all those fight or flight hormones somewhere to go.

Medical friends assure me that testosterone makes logic and links between facts easier, but estrogen makes memory easier.

I told my son this made no sense whatsoever. After all, in my family, my brother is the one who memorizes things best, and I am the one who correlates odd facts to come up with something  sometimes brilliant, often odd.  My son said that yeah, but we were people with eidetic memory or close to it and your brain works completely differently in those cases.  He also said that even though hormones influence your thinking, it’s all in the way you use it, so you often see women who have worse memory than men, or men who reason slower.  The only inference about hormones that can be made is for the very same individual.  I.e. if you’re a woman and have testosterone for whatever reason (the reasons are limited) you’ll find that your reasoning improves.  And if you’re a man and take estrogen, it will give you better memory (and here I want to to register that having seen medical students drink from the firehose of information, I’m shocked the male students aren’t mainlining estrogen.)

But that’s the entire point.  Humans are individual. It’s a thing humans do.  And while we can make broad statistical categories, there is no such thing as perfect females and perfect males, or if they do they are a statistical anomaly.  And regardless of what movies show you, women don’t cry and men don’t sweep their desk in anger.

At the base of it, when emotion surprises you, when it’s raw and primal, you both will react the same way.  Same species.  When things are less shocking, you both modulate your answers in ways that have worked for the species for millennia.

So called feminists who think without men the world would be very peaceful and nurturing have never met real women, unfiltered by society and have grown up too comfortable and cozy to know what they, themselves, are capable of.

Pain is pain, anger is anger, grief is grief.

Yes, there are different ways of expressing it, and men tend more towards one (or at least to appearing stoic in public) because it’s their duty, and women tend more towards another (the nurturing thing is part instinct and part training) because it’s their duty.

None of which tells you anything about individuals and their responses, nor about the underlying currents of raw emotion in either sex.

Men and women are not widgets conveniently packed in a can that says “will react this way under pressure.”  They are people.  And people means individual and unique.

And thank heavens for that.



210 thoughts on “Men and Women

  1. I have cried so hard that I couldn’t breathe– but never never as hard as I cried when I realized that I was losing my husband to cancer.

  2. Bu … but … if men are not the same as women they cannot be interchanged in society’s roles without disruption! Why, it’s even possible the sexes are not social constructs … no, No! That is heresy, that way lies madness, MADNESS I TELL YOU!

    1. “Men and women are identical and interchangeable but no man can do what a women can do” – Feminism 101.

  3. I don’t claim to be “normal”, but I noticed that I was calmer than my sister was after she ran over my hand and I was the one in pain. 😉

    There was a “dip” at the end of our driveway that always got icy in the winter.

    My car got stuck in the “dip” and I was trying to put newspapers under the rear tires so she could pull it into the street.

    Gunning the motor pulled the newspaper and my hand under the rear tire. 😀

    Going along with “how I reacted”, in my early teens I was alone in my grandmother’s house and got an appendicitis attack.

    I was uncomfortable but otherwise calm until my parents got back.

    Then I started to cry but I immediately calmed down when Dad took me to the emergency room.

    The doctors were amazed at how calmly I explained “what I was feeling”. 😀

    1. I’m not sure whether that’s a male/female thing or simply the fact that for some people (including me), the idea of hurting someone else by your actions is far worse than enduring the pain yourself.

      1. I was watching a show last night and it had the same reaction to a rape and kidnapping victim. She was so collected that police did not initially believe her.

        I’ve actually had patient family members ask how I kept my head while they were hysterical. You learn when emotions are effective and when not.

        1. When I was younger (pre-teen), I read a story about two ranch-hands – a white man and an Indian. The two were on their way to a distant location on a hot day, and the white guy kept complaining about how thirsty he was. He’d ask the Indian if he was thirsty, and the Indian would always say no. Finally, they reached a water hole, and both men started gulping down water. The white guy pointed out that the Indian had kept saying he wasn’t thirsty, to which the Indian replied that he was thirsty *now*.

          That story has stuck with me. When something is wrong, I can make lots of noise. But it won’t do any good in fixing the problem. So I tend to avoid it if I can. I spent 36 hours in sheer agony from what turned out to be a dying tooth. But there wasn’t any point in carrying on about it because nothing could be done about it until the weekend was over and I could visit the dentist. So no one else had any idea that anything was wrong.

        2. I have the tendency to deal with pain, grief and anything alarming the same way, first I withdraw if possible, after that, and if withdrawing and being alone is not possible as the first response: I start thinking of the practical stuff. What needs to be done, what perhaps should be done, what is possible to do. Sometimes calmly, and sometimes acting more or less agitated but still doing stuff and making lists as what to do (I tend to do that aloud, even when I am alone).

          And I have been accused of not really caring because I don’t usually cry in public. When I feel like crying I do my best to suppress it if there is anybody around, which usually makes me act more or less wooden, and if I just can’t I leave if at all possible.

          And actually I cry very, very easily. But since it was a problem when I was very young, well before school age when we lived in an apartment house and did spend quite a lot of time the last year there running around outside with the other kids of the house (when I was from 3 to 4 years old… yep, might get parents into trouble here too nowadays, but was normal back in the 60’s). Being the crybaby with other kids makes you vulnerable and subject to at least some harassment and bullying. So I learned to think I should suppress it and not show the hurt back then, and the coping mechanism stuck so I started to do the same every time I felt like crying, for any reason. That set so well that by the time I started school I didn’t get bullied much at all (by the other kids, one teacher on the other hand…) because I didn’t show much weakness to the other kids, and what little I did show rather reaffirmed the idea that you should never ever cry in public, especially if there is anybody around who doesn’t like you.

        3. I’ve found that for some (well, at least for me), during crisis ‘keep their wits about them/keep their cool’, but fall apart emotionally (and in private) when the crisis has passed. I don’t know if that’s a nature or nurture sort of thing, but it strikes me as a positive survival characteristic. I’ve also had occasion where the crisis was an extended one – with a slow & extended resolution, leading to no big breakdown, but boy did the accumulated stress get to me… 😉
          (FWIW – I happen to be male, but I suspect there are females that work in a similar way)

          1. I agree. When there is a concrete identifiable crisis to deal with, I can do what needs to be done, and my emotions or pain don’t get in the way. But in other kinds of crisis, my reactions tend to go off randomly. Other people can be just the opposite, dealing well with less serious emergencies but losing it when the need to act in a dire situation should be pretty clear.

            I suspect it has a lot to do with individual neurological processing styles, but also with the mental or physical practice you have with similar situations. If a situation is unimaginable to you, you can’t easily figure out what to do or what is happening.

            1. I rather believe, when all the world has gone to chaos and confusion, with disaster threatening at any moment, that is when I can be relied upon to be found sitting quietly, relaxed and slowly blinking, asking, “WTF just happened?”

          2. I tend to panic and worry in advance. When the fit hits the Shan I deal with it and if I do get weepy or really upset it is later, in private. I conditioned myself in my early teens, for reasons I no longer recall, probably bullies or not wanting to upset my parents.

          3. I’m told that when my friend cut his foot open on some angle iron that I was the only one keeping his head and getting things done to get his wound wrapped and then getting him up the hill to get back to our cars. I don’t know, I have no idea what anyone else was doing while I was thinking of what needed to be done.I don’t remember what I did after a few of my friends bundled him into a car and took him to the hospital, but eventually me and the remaining people wound up back at our campsite, so someone must have guided us. I just don’t think it was me.

    2. I usually stay calm during an emergency, then get the shakes afterwards. If I cry, it’s in private — the only time I can remember crying in public it was because I was extremely angry and couldn’t do anything about it. Well, other than watching a sad movie, like when Beth dies in Little Women….

        1. Same. Since I can usually suppress it if I cry in public it usually means some very strong emotion, and anger is the most likely alternative unless somebody just died (or died recently enough that I am still mourning that – after both of my parents deaths there was well over a year when couldn’t do the usual suppressing much at all).

          It usually also means that I’m so far gone I might completely lose it and get physical, and I don’t mean physical like slapping somebody, more like going for the throat.

    3. Oh, my poor sister– I dropped a tractor axle on my hand, and she’s the one that nearly fainted! (Blood, especially human blood, double-especially human she cares about blood.)

      Thankfully, the survival “I must do THIS NOW” part does tend to over-ride the blithering idiot reaction. Until the thing that must be done is done.

  4. When my wife had complications during her pregnancy, I was calm while she was freaking out. Right up until we heard the fetal heartbeat and were told everything was fine. THEN I broke down.

    1. There’s only room for one freakout per couple. I’ve noticed that the fastest way to get one of us to calm down is to have the other one start freaking out. (Mind, this is not a *wise* tactic, since that can lead to the resentment of “now *I* need to be the calm one.”)

      1. It is amazing to me exactly how true this can be. It is also amazing to me that you usually cannot reliably predict which person in the couple would be having the freakout. When a family dog which I wasn’t as apparently close to ate rat poison, I freaked out far more than my wife did (stupid dog had actually eaten the box, leaving only a sliver of cardboard with the label. We were lucky – by the time we hit the vet, his blood wasn’t clotting, but the vet was able to save him and he lived for many years thereafter.) So, we let her drive and put me in the back with the dogs. (Turns out the elder dog had far more sense and hadn’t touched it but got the emetic anyway to be sure.)

        It’s not just couples that do this. I went over in a sail boat (Sunfish) in some weather where I really shouldn’t have been out in the first place. About a mile out, I was able to flip the boat upright but it continued to roll each time, ending up turtle more often than not. My youngest daughter, the rational one with an infinite capability to plan, is the one who freaked out. As a result, her older sister (who I would normally have expected to freak a little) remained so calm and in control, directing the Coast Guard to my location when they called back having missed me (I was busy swimming the boat in/drifting significantly) that the Coast Guard folks were convinced they were dealing with an adult. Just shows, you usually don’t know – with certain exceptions like my wife’s reaction to a little blood.

    2. well, she also had an extra dose of hormones in her system. I was hormonally insane much of my first pregnancy (with complications) and the year after, while I recovered.

      1. You know… given the way that the extra hormones tend to translate into KILL IT WITH FIRE NOW AAAAAARRRRRRHHHH!!!!!! for any sort of threat, this might be another survival thing.

        My eldest will still do a battle-cry when smashing spiders.
        I swept a black widow out from under a computer desk when I was preggers with the second. At least, I was quite sure it was a black widow, and the smear that was left didn’t have anything to contradict it. Only afterwards did I realize that it was a lot more dangerous in that situation….

        1. I was pregnant when a friend broke his ankle. I was meeting him for coffee after an interview and thus was the one who got the call that they were loading him in an ambulance and heading to the hospital. I was cool, calm, collected, holding him together in the emergency room and while he was prepped for surgery. I have a very, very long fuse. Until I have a target for righteous anger. The nurse who wouldn’t give him enough pain killers to help him get his heart rate under control so they could reattach his foot (it was a really bad break) got the fully crazed pregnant hormone mama bear. Apparently I was kinda scary. And nobody wanted to tell me I had to leave when I fell asleep in his room keeping him company.

          I don’t like to get that angry and be that scary. But I will. And I’ve learned to control it with an iron fist.

  5. It would be interesting to find some aliens and have them study human responses, because we swim in the water we are trying to analyze. One thing I suspect about human aggression is that both men and women have about the same base amount, but when and how it appears is different. Men tend to have an immediate, sharp spike that also tends to die off quicker. Women’s aggression has a slow upramp, until it hits criticality and then takes MUCH longer to die down. I can see very valid evolutionary paths to this–males fight for status, but you can’t fight if you are dead so backing off the instant it becomes clear you aren’t winning means you have a chance to pass on your DNA later. Women, on the other hand, are better off not going nuclear for minor stuff but SHOULD go nuclear if the cubs are threatened or *her* DNA won’t be passed on (and keep being aggressive until she’s dead or the threat is).

    I was on some medication (steroids) that gave me a male aggression pattern for a while. It was…eye-opening. It made me think of how military training is optimized for redirecting the typical male aggression pattern and tempering it to control the onset and to sustain it for longer times. This makes me speculate that valid *female* military training would be to get a quicker, larger aggression response and to shut it off in a controlled fashion sooner than would be natural.

    Just my odd brain at work…

    1. They would bring their own issues to the table to complicate life. The viewpoint difference would help but not settle things.

  6. “So called feminists who think without men the world would be very peaceful and nurturing have never met real women, unfiltered by society and have grown up too comfortable and cozy to know what they, themselves, are capable of.”

    I would think even in the modern, coddled, filtered world, this ought to be obvious. Every time I hear one of the aforementioned so-called feminists, I want to ask them, “Wait a second. Did you somehow manage to skip all of middle school?”

    1. There are those who claim high school(inc. jr.)/middle school/whatever are “the best years of our lives” and they seem to be the ones that make it hell for everyone else. I wonder what defense mechanisms there are now. For me, I could hide out in the computer room… but now that computers are commonplace, what?

      1. Someone saying that they loved middle school/junior high always makes me put a big question mark by them in my mind.

        1. I actually liked junior high quite a bit, but that was because it was easier for me socially than elementary school. I think my elementary school had about six hundred students total, spread across six grades. Fairly early on I got pegged as a pretty easy target for teasing, and there was not a whole lot of student turnover from year to year (at least not within a given grade). So year after year I was with the same group of kids, and they all knew at least generally what my buttons were or about different times when I got upset or how I was weird, etc.

          I want to say the junior high school I attended had at least twice as many students as my elementary school. When you add in leveled classes and at least some opportunity for schedule customization, most of the time I was not in classes with kids I went to elementary school with, and when I was, it was only one or two people.

          High school was even easier for me socially. All that said, I would not want to go back and relive those years.

          1. Middle school was kind of a big neutral for me. My class moved as a unit from second through sixth grades, so I was fairly well settled into the low end of the totem pole with that class. (Thankfully, we didn’t have horrible female bullies, though my nearest brother still wants to punch a particular girl in the face that I forgave years ago, because I’m pretty sure she grew up okay.) So I was grateful to be going to a different school from all of them, because I realized even then that it was a good chance to break the pattern. And I did. From bottom end to “off to one side.” Worked really well by the time I got to high school—people thought I had confidence, so I did.

    2. /amen

      “Are you out of your ever-loving mind?” was closer to my phrasing when I first ran into that notion, but wow.

      All I can figure is that they’re either very good at rationalizing stuff as justified, or they are the biggest bullies around.

      1. As one Barfly says “Embrace The Power Of And”.

        IE They’re good at “rationalizing their actions” and were/are the “biggest bullies around”. 👿

  7. Food for thought … and yes, when I was in middle school, I knew that girls were dirtier, more vicious fighters than boys. When boys fought, there might be a bloody nose and some scrapes and bruises. But if two girls started mixing it up, there would have to be an ambulance called – for one, or both.

    1. I think there is a reason Afghan and Plains Indian women are said to have been their torturers.

      That is, men need some sort of mores that permit social violence without costing too much of the population. (Especially in situations where total male losses to violence, acceptable and good losses, are one in four or one in three.) Women don’t need that as much if they are not as routinely involved in violence, and so are freed up for pursuing violence outside of those mores.

    2. When two males fight they rarely disrobe one another, but a “cat fight” often involves exactly such tearing at the other’s clothes. That does sorta suggest a deeper purpose.

    3. If you somehow missed middle school and/or were somehow unaware of this issue in middle school, Kipling spoke to this issue a couple of times – with the most famous tag line being “For the female of the species is more deadly than the male” from “The Female of the Species”.

      1. Yep … I was reading Kipling in middle school. I knew all about how cruel women can be. Heck, I saw how cruel they could be in middle school!

    4. Years ago, a male co-worker/friend and I were talking, and he said he didn’t understand women – that guys, when they had a problem, would go outside and duke it out, and get it out of their system and be fine, but women couldn’t do that (never mind the guys I know who wouldn’t be fine with that, but he was an ex-football player, smart guy, but someone who had never had to worry about whether he’d come out of a fight okay).

      My answer to him was, women have it out, too, but we have big verbal fights, and work things out that way. A fist fight wouldn’t work, the issues are more complex.

      The physical fights I’ve been in (as a kid with my sister) were strictly about dominance. If I fought physically now, it would be for pretty primal reasons – like survival, and I wouldn’t give a damn about honor or glory, and I doubt I’d be okay with my opponent afterward.

  8. On men as a pillar of strength: when I introduced my fiance to my mentor and a good friend in Alaska, the three of them got along just fine. The former marine helicopter pilot, who was a SWAT team trainer at the time, turned to me along with the retired air force colonel, and pronounced judgement with a huge grin. “We always knew you’d marry a combat vet! You’re too high strung!”

    …Okay, he was right, darnit. It has been wonderful to have someone who’s basic response to the truck dying in the middle of a six-lane intersection during rush hour traffic was “Hey, at least you didn’t hit a landmine.”

    On the other hand, it’s not one-way. When he’s been going through major medical complications, it’s my turn to be the calm, rational pillar of strength, and chaser of paperwork. Still, it’s very nice to have someone who is, as a rule, the eye to my storm.

      1. A hard core of anger carried me through my incarceration in the public school system. Once I got out on my own it gradually tapered off into sardonic amusement at the follies of the world. I’d say I was downright mellow now…

        1. How do you do this? I’m good at appearing mellow at work – much less good in family situations. Fortunately, I don’t have “breathtaking anger management issues” as it were but yes, I do hold a steady reserve of banked anger that I need to control and/or to mellow.

          1. Of course. You’d never want to end up back in school again…

            (I use that clip a lot, but it’s SO right about that.)

      2. Yeah, step two of how odds learn to interact “normally” in society.

        That scene in Avengers resonated with me. Just because some of us don’t take our emotions to 11 at every setback, doesn’t mean we don’t know how when it becomes appropriate.

  9. Hmm. Interesting points. It makes me realize that some of the scenes in my stories are tropes, rather than actual reflections of the characters.
    I need to go do some rewriting/thinking.
    Thank you Sarah.

  10. Did anyone else laugh when they read “Houston, we have a problem” by James Tiptree, Jr. and it said women don’t form hierarchies?

    1. No. Because if I read it, I’ve forgotten it and the reaction. 😉
      Hell, I can’t imagine how J T, being a woman, managed to grow up as one without realizing hierarchies. My friend and I who, in treaty with each other, ran our former writers’ group got so tired of newbies “testing” the hierarchy, we just told them up front “Honey, you’re not going to be the alpha bitch. This group already has two. If that doesn’t suit you, move on.”

      1. And “Your Faces, My Sisters! Your Faces Filled With Light!” A delusional woman wanders around under the impression that she lives in a post-apocalyptic world where all the men have died and utopia has results — gets murdered, of course.

        On the whole, gave me the impression the author thought the only delusional aspect was that all the men had died.

      2. You’re old and I’m patient was the last thing I said to my husband’s grandmother in anger. I didn’t yell, I didn’t scream. I leaned in as she was about to smack me on the front lawn and said it close to her face. She never laid a hand on me, never laid another hand on my husband and made damn sure, when I laid down the law, that it was followed. No push and pull for control except the last “fuck you” in her will. And her daughter is the one in charge of enforcing it. Since it suits my purposes, I’ve backed off in the fight but we both know who would win. I see it in her eyes every time I apply a little pressure.

        And that is a fucking scary paragraph that I think needs to go into my werewolf story. Time to copy and paste.

        1. Oh, gads, physically abusive women with power over other adults.

          There’s a reason that witches are generally evil.

          (Ogres/bone grinding giants being the flip side.)

          1. I used to have a part-time job delivering narcotics to nursing homes. I soon realized there’s a step between “mall cop” and “concentration camp guard.” It’s filled with the lowest level of “the healthcare profession.”

            Yes, I understand working third shift emptying bedpans probably isn’t building up their self-actualization, or whatever the current buzzwords are. But for absolute, psychopathic, pod-person viciousness, I’ve not personally met any worse people.

            1. Important jobs that are not very rewarding but have lots of individual interaction power… yeah, someone should make a list of things the crazy might gravitate to.

    2. …How did this person get to adulthood and still think that’s true?

      Good grief. I’m about as non-competitive as you can get and still be breathing–but you’d better believe that when I was one of the eldest/most experienced/only one of them who lived there year-round of a particular group of roommates in college, I *was* the alpha bitch.

      And when the youngest and newest attempted to usurp that, she got smacked down. Gently, and with much logic (as in, why what she had changed needed to put back and why), but still smacked down. *I* was the alpha in that house. 😀

      Just because it isn’t obvious and doesn’t involve screaming matches doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.

      1. Chief I worked for called it “moving the desks.”

        You’ll get a new guy in charge, and he’ll come in and frequently order people to move the desks. Not infrequently, the movement doesn’t make any sense….

        It’s sort of like how almost everybody adjusts the plate if the waiter puts it down in front of them, but not if they place it themselves. (Note: ALMOST. And the not doing it seems to run in families. My immediate family only moves it when it’s a pretty big motion– but if you watch while you’re waiting for your food, there’s a lot of “quarter inch twitch”.)

        A big danger in this is not opposing just to oppose because that screws things up— but goin’ all Proverbs 26, failing to oppose is going to make the pissing contests more explosive because they will mistake you not picking a fight as them being in charge. Even if you only didn’t oppose it because of explicitly rational reasons. /sigh

    3. Did she have no female relatives? In my family it’s always been an age-based hierarchy. Although my older sister certainly isn’t alpha to me now that we’re both adults. }:-) Parents can be superior, siblings are equals and “not the boss of me”.

    4. I probably should have mentioned that after I learned more about Alice Sheldon’s life I felt more sorry for her than amused. As I recall, she didn’t go to school but was dragged around Europe and Africa by her mother, and spent most of her adult life in heavily male environments. I don’t think she ever had any female friends or even belonged to any groups of women. Her life story was pretty sad.

    1. But people *do* that sort of thing.

      How about “we’re angry because of something we saw on TV, so now we’re going to burn our own neighborhood down!”, or “I’ll just smash up something I can’t afford to replace, because that’ll show how angry I am!”

      I’d put it as the same level of thought as when a three-year-old falls down, so it has to go over and kick the family dog.

      1. “I don’t like the fact that my preferred candidate lost the election: If that negative feeling I have as a result is not made to go away RIGHT NOW I’m going to burn Portland TO THE GROUND!!!”

      2. I’ve never seen a display of that in real life; I’ve seen it a hundred times or more on TV, etc.

        I think the actors like it – it’s a one-take thing where they get to do a show.

        Most of the humans I know are far better controlled.

        I guess I’m lucky; other people grow up with scary displays of temper – I didn’t.

        1. Most humans have to pick all their stuff up off the floor at some point, as opposed to getting one of the set dressers to do it after the director says “cut”. 🙂

          More often than not the urge for cathartic violence against inanimate objects is easily checked by an awareness that I’m the one who’d have to fix said object afterward.

          1. Exactly – that’s the mature way.

            My therapist had to provide an idea – breaking plates bought at the dollar store after I had written angry things on them – of how to let anger out physically, safely.

            I did it into a garbage can lined with a bag so I could take it out tidily when I was finished. Cathartic, yes. Destructive, yes. Messy for someone else to have to clean up, no.

            And a plastic baseball bat from the same dollar store was used to whack innocent sofa cushions with great force – and no damage. I bought ten – have never used more than the first one, and that only a couple of times. I learn quickly. Have given some away with instructions.

            1. Writing things on a paper that you burn can work, too– I can’t stand deliberate destruction, but the symbolic purification is nice.

              1. I used to. Now I am in an easier place relative to anger, and I immediately make notes and put it in a file for the chapter where I will need some for a character.

                I’ve learned I can’t afford the physical aftereffects of adrenaline, so I damp my own anger, and divert it.

    2. People do punch holes in walls or kick things from displaced anger. People do pick up things and throw them against the wall or floor, or just break them. So, why don’t they sweep things off of desks and tables?

      1. I’m guessing it’s because the original understanding was “look, his desk is all neat and tidy as a form of control, so to show he’s lost control we’ll have him sweep stuff off his desk” for movies. Then, kind of like the infamous “whoosh in space” or mandatory lens flares, it just became The Way Things Are Done for movies.

        It seems like it would take a lot more coordination than just flipping the desk, though.

          1. It must terrify children – how can an adult do that to children in her/his care?

            That alone brings self-restraint for many people.

            The way I heard some mothers talking to their children in public (Lord only knows what they did in private) was enough to make me want to interfere, if I weren’t sure it would cause further problems. But I did try to defuse the situations by smiling at the child, or distracting.

            The next step, call the cops or social services, is too big a step for most people unless there is physical abuse occurring, too. What do you do? Tell ‘someone’ that you don’t like how a mother is talking to her kids?

            A cleaning jag sounds like a way to spend some excess anger, if you can. But I wouldn’t call it the same as creating a mess by this meme.

            A few times I’ve seen the director focus on following a character who feels like and idiot AND has to clean up the mess.

      2. because it’s not satisfying. As someone who often needs to displace anger, you need something that uses MORE energy. I can see picking up furniture and throwing it against the wall (guilty) or picking up objects and throwing against the wall. Sweeping the desk? Not unless you have a row of them you can do that to. Or you learned it from movies.
        The action you’re looking for is either far more openly aggressive or — and for women, often — repetitive. Beating rugs, or scrubbing floors, or even throwing things until you’re tired. The point is the tired, the working off of adrenaline.

  11. Heh. This rather feeds into a discussion I’ve got going over on FB about how–especially in cop shows–you can almost always peg when a scene was written by a man. (Or, to be fair, a woman who is writing to those tropes, for the reasons our Esteemed Hostess discussed above.) Because sensible women who wish to remain alive/un-assaulted don’t bloody well go jogging late at night on city streets/in the woods/anywhere really with earbuds in both ears and the music turned way up. Unless, of course, she is a vampire or werewolf herself…

    (It also derailed into a rather hilarious discussion of a particular scene–not sure which show–that the ‘big clue’ hinged on the fact that the victim’s bra and panties didn’t match, and therefore the killer MUST have dressed her, because of course NO woman would be caught dead with an ‘expensive’ $36 bra and not have on the matching panties! To which every woman in the discussion of this scene went “Um…who the hell can afford a MATCHED set? And they think $36 is expensive? For a good bra? A man wrote this scene, didn’t he?”)

      1. Yeah, me neither. And sales at outlets where they normally cost your firstborn are watched for very, very closely.

        1. My wife’s bra and panties frequently matched, but primarily because she almost exclusively wore white bras and I think half her panties were white.

          Now she doesn’t wear a bra, so no matched set there…

          1. Not sure where the exclusion to gay men comes from but I’ll give you fashion conscious women who arguably are probably over represented in TV writing.

            1. [F]ashion conscious women“?

              More likely it is a reflection of what it takes for a woman to get and keep a job in a Liberal dominated field like TV writing.

        1. No, but it might be a culture/age thing; I’ve got several aunts who were utterly horrified that I wear inexpensive underwear and didn’t own a single matched set, much less several coordinated pairs.

          They’re the same kind who are horrified I go off of tangibles like “can I walk in those shoes?” or “does this purse* have room for the stuff I carry, and can they be reached easily?” rather than fashion, style and designer.

          * I’m currently using a “kid’s” messenger bag; it can just barely hold a notebook, but is wide enough to have the medical kit, the distraction kit, the snack kit and my wallet with room for random stuff.

          1. Coordinated pairs are easier than matched sets in some ways as you can have several that overlap.

            As for walking in the shoes what happened to the carry the good pair to the party?

            1. Let me tell you a story… when my mom went to college, her sister would not allow it until said sister had gone through all of her clothing and marked it– I think it was colored thread on the tags– so mom would know what she was allowed to wear with other things.

              I currently own four pairs of shoes; a pair of sneakers, a pair of insulated wet boots, a pair of “dress shoes” that are styled on ballet slippers, and a pair of lace-up boots that I really need to get re-stitched so I’ve got both angles of the “dress up” aspect covered.

              Style is really not my thing.

              1. I’m a bit embarrassed by this as I’m pretty sure I have over twice the shoes you do: two sneakers, my Docs, dress shoes, work black leather shoes, and three other pairs.

                1. One of the guys at AT core school couldn’t believe I only had my issued shoes– he had something like 12 different pairs of sneakers to match his jogging suits that he wore when off duty.

                  …of course, that is the same guy who got written up for his pinkie nail being incredibly long and out of regs, and got kicked out two weeks before graduation because he drove through the front gate of the base with a distribution sized bag of weed still on the dash. And the gate guard noticed. -.-

            1. You know, I see all these feminists complaining women’s clothes don’t have pockets. Sometime when I have a lot to carry I wish it was more acceptable for men to carry a purse. At a certain point pockets are overrated.

              1. Are either backpacks or messenger bags an option for the outfits you’re considering?

                Those cross-sling backpacks, the ones with only one band, work.

                1. I carry a backpack to work every day…used to have a messenger bag and considering a new one.

                  It isn’t just a form issue though…I’m one of those men who think women don’t understand the value of being able to be expressive through things like that (note: I get this could be “grass is greener”).

                  As for outfits, I have almost the full male range: any sport shirt, undershirt, and jeans that match 🙂

                  1. *shrugs* You’re talking to one of the girls who is glad to be a girl, ‘cus I can wear girl clothes OR boy clothes. One of the fun things about being a mom is that I get to go even more into a purse than anybody who cares about fashion can– I have the diaper bag exemption.
                    And most boy clothes look alright and notably not masculine on me– at least according to the only guy that really matters for 90% of the situations. 😀

                    1. *waggles hand* Sometimes even very feminine makeup just makes the guy look exotic, not feminine.

                      Kind of like the classic “lady in a man’s shirt” thing– it just emphasizes the differences.

                    2. I wore a lot of man’s suits as a young woman, because I have the square shoulders and was thin and relatively tall. I never looked even slightly masculine in them.

                  2. To a large extent, grass is greener. it’s counter ballanced by “women have to look better” — even I, who mostly don’t bother if it’s a normal working day, because I’m home and who cares, feel the need to style my hair and put on make up for something semi-formal. Also, men look better as they age, than women.
                    I told my husband while I have no intention of joining them, I understand the parade of our female friends who’ve decided they’re transmen in the their late forties and fifties. They stop being judged on appearance, and instead are valued for their minds. Or at least that’s the idea. When you’re done with kids, you wish you could be judged on your mind and not the mess your body has become.

    1. Ha. That was almost me two months ago at my writers group. In the manuscript, the author had described a piece of clothing as a “long skirt” and I was about to write in a snarky margin comment, “what, you mean a dress?” Fortunately I realized I should check first that I knew what I was (about to be) talking about. Which of course I didn’t.

      1. Okay, I’ll bite…why do you think “long skirt” would equal “dress”? Aren’t there various long skirts both high fashion (maxi-skirts) and more traditional (peasant skirts or Victorian).

    2. The rant in my head about matched bras and panties and the people who have to have them… well, it’s been buried deep and dark because I love my job and would like to keep it.

      But my bras tend to run that *on sale* and I would laugh myself silly at the thought that I couldn’t possibly go out of the house without a matched set.

      1. I like to have the option of matching, and I can get away with relatively cheap bras, but my nicest ones don’t have a match because it seemed silly to spend that much on one panty that looked uncomfortable and didn’t seem likely to breathe well.

        1. Yes and if you’re in the point of the relationship where you think he might be seeing the underwear and not in a hurry to take it off, having a matched set is good. That’s why there’s such a thing as a 5-minute bra. However, if he cares more about what you’re wearing than getting you out of it….

          Also, there are women who insist on matching everything and no, dear, cream won’t go with nude and that shade of gray is just slightly off from the pattern on this so I don’t think they’re really meant to go together even if all the marketing has them like that.

          1. Also, there are women who insist on matching everything and no, dear, cream won’t go with nude and that shade of gray is just slightly off from the pattern on this so I don’t think they’re really meant to go together even if all the marketing has them like that.

            Occasionally I have to kidnap my husband to come shopping with me because I really like blue, and I get tired of him informing me that I really don’t want to wear those different shades of blue because they don’t match.
            I’m glad he’ll tell me, but I want my blue and literally cannot see the differences that mean THIS robin-egg looking blue is OK with indigo blue jeans, while that one isn’t, even though third parties will agree with him. (Occasionally while looking very surprised.) Texture/weave I can figure out, and actually catch him on occasionally*, but….

            Bleeping artists.

            *mostly when his tie makes his kerchief look too shiny, so one of them looks cheap.

            1. Lol he has an excuse. Half the women who do this just want something to complain about and will say it’s a vast improvement if I pull the exact same pair of panties out of the back and say we just got them in.

              1. Oh, my, the fakers. Seriously, that makes no sense– it’s like the shoe size thing. Who CARES if the shoe that actually fits and looks good has a “14” inside of it, while the one that doesn’t fit or look good says 6?

                This is why I drive my sister, aunts, and anybody with fashion sense to drink….

            2. Whereas, I can distinguish more shades than most, as long as i can see both in relatively close proximity either in space or in time, AND can mix inks to match those colors, but I couldn’t tell you which ones coordinate with which.

          2. However, if he cares more about what you’re wearing than getting you out of it….

            Hmmm…I need to think on this one…also, isn’t the real worry when he wants to get you out of it to get him in it?

  12. I don’t know about sweeping the stuff off a desk — considering how hard men work at managing their desktops, it seems unlikely — but “punching a wall” is apparently not a Hollywood devised action. Not just in anger, either, as most readers of Doc Savage readily recognized Renny’s joy in punching panels out of heavy wooden doors.

    Cultures evolve many different ways of managing this, but any who fail to find ways of disassociating male anger from male physical strength tend to be short-lived.

    1. I haven’t punched a wall, but I have hit them on occasion when I get particularly frustrated. Sadly, the only result seems to be a continuing desire to hit things.

      I once heard of an incident in which a guy playing a game with miniatures got so upset when he lost that he flipped the table. Then he turned and ran before his now-enraged opponent, along with everyone else present, could beat the daylights out of him.

    2. Yeah, but women punch walls too. Trust me on this. I had to learn that in the US I can punch through a wall. (Not in my parents’ house where interior construction was brick.)

      1. Yeah, I’ve never punched a brick wall.

        I did, however, learn the life skill of drywall repair as a teen while fixing the result of kinetically expressing myself on good old ‘murcun 1960s interior wall construction.

        1. I used to punch boxes until I punched one that had an oxygen candle in it. I didn’t realize my hand could swell to that size.

          1. At least you didn’t punch hard enough to break through the candle can to the candle itself – you’re able to tell about it…

      2. I’ve punched walls – and made a rather significant hole. The expense of repairing the wall has kept me from doing it again.

        After the boys died, the men and I talked. We all had the urge to destroy everything in the room, but the only thing that held us back was the knowledge that we didn’t have the ability to replace several thousand dollars worth of computer equipment and figures and books. This is still the main reason why I want a full-sized, chained to a metal beam punching bag. Punching doesn’t help me get the rage out any more – I want to kick things.

        I’ve heard of stories of where, after there has been a loss – usually of children – the father does lose it. I’ve wanted to scream the way you describe – but I can’t. I know that scream though. It’s inside me all the time.

        1. Did you see the first Avenger movie?

          Cap had “destroyed” several punching bags “letting off steam”. 😉

      3. I used to break things. I don’t know what broke me of the habit–I suspect an Athena-like realization that someone, probably someone I love, would have to fix or replace it. But I wish I’d come up with a better replacement behavior than hitting my head on things.

        (Ceramic coffee cup two days ago. Still stings. Usually manage something softer.)

        1. One thing to be said for recycling is that, managed properly, it facilitates keeping a store of glass and ceramics which can be smashed when therapeutically necessary.

            1. Maybe if she was trying to work on her bitch-slapping. Otherwise they’re too doughy and soft to provide a proper workout. Then there’s the incessant whining, whining, whining! You want the solid thwack! of a well-landed blow and instead you get called names and demands for safe space (at least, until you lean in closely and whisper into their ears, “In space, no one can hear you scream.”)

      4. I never punch anything. I am very protective of my hands.

        I also learned, a long time ago, to redirect around anger most of the time, because being angry scares me. The few times I’ve had to physically express anger, I’ve managed to keep it on the level of, say, throwing beanbags at a blank wall. (My shoulder really hurt after that one, because I kept it up for a good hour at least.)

        1. I never really punched a wall, but I did put a couple of holes in walls and one hollow-core door with the butt of my hand (or whatever you call the meaty part below the pinky finger). It’s a pretty safe thing to hit against a flat surface, as long as you don’t really overdo it. After the second one, I started aiming for wall studs, so I didn’t break the drywall, but I missed once.

    3. Maybe it’s one of those weirdos who always have clean desks – the ones who, sweeping everything off onto the floor, then have to pick up one pencil, one pen, a blank pad of paper, and their desk phone.

      My desk clutter has always been truly legendary. If I were to sweep all those piles of paper off to the floor I might as well burn it all, as I’d never find anaything in it ever again.

    4. In his younger days, my father was on occasion known to punch a wall. And, on one memorable occasion, threw softened butter (it was sitting out to be made into cookies) to splatter all over a wall. He did not argue when my mother informed him he would be cleaning that up.

      The only time he ever actually frightened anyone was the results of doctor-prescribed steroids–turns out, an allergy to them can manifest as extreme aggression. I’ve always been proud of him, though, that even then it was a mirror that he went to hit, and not a person.

  13. “that men have an underlying fund of anger, the whole time.”

    I wonder how men manage this. Anger exhausts me faster than anything else. I can’t be angry all the time, I would never get anything done.

    1. Divert it. Reroute it. Focus on other things.

      If something is always present, then you either learn to deal with it or succumb to it. I’ve read that adolescent males have their aggression centers mature before much of the rest of their brain. So they’re forced to learn to deal with the extra anger before they become adults.

    2. Simple- but not easy. The anger is a deep current in a wide stream. It is not all, or even most of what makes a man, a man.

      Dealing with anger needing an outlet is something all men have to get a grip on. Some handle it better than others. Physical activity can wear down the anger, put it to rest for a while. Even sex.

      Anger can be harnessed into focus, or leashed to a purpose. Using that anger as energy is possible, but like pain, it can be distracting. It takes discipline and practice to get there.

      Young men compete with each other. We’re also quick to jeer, insult, and point out flaws at times. Practically speaking this teaches several things: how to keep your temper, what happens when you don’t, how tough you really are when you get your a$$ handed to you, the pecking order you find yourself in, and how angry you can really get sometimes.

      We’re not angry all the time, even as young men. But we could be at any moment. That’s why the discipline is necessary. Knowingly or not, we choose what we will be angry about. Some things are worth being angry over, many things are not. The further you go into this, the more it becomes about the moral code, and what a man will and will not, ever, do.

      Anger exacts a cost, too, as you’ve noted. It tires you out, but more than that, a temper ungoverned causes much mayhem and difficulty for the one who lets it free. My grandfather had a saying, “that’s not worth the cost of your anger.” Grandma had another: “you’re only as big as the things you let make you mad.”

    3. It was fairly recently that an old buddy of mine told me that teen males are mostly angry all the time, or about to be — it doesn’t take much, I guess. This explains a lot, but I’d never known it before. I was rarely angry as a teen girl (well, except at younger brothers!) — I didn’t have anything much to be angry about. These days, OTOH, I have plenty to be angry about, so I am. I am really, really good at keeping my temper, but I do a good bit of angry cleaning and so on.

              1. I my radio day I used to warn off older emos and rally my folk by reminding them that “responsible elder goths don’t let angsty teenagers go emo, they are ours”.

                It was all part of the regular dark etiquette lessons 🙂

            1. I suspect you’re just not aware of the timelines (especially given what you say below about Portugal not having punk):

              Who the first punk band was is a favorite debating game but all the contenders (New York Dolls, Ramones, Television, Patty Smith) are performing in NYC by 1974. A stronger data point is the emergence of Punk Magazine was founded in 1975 with its first issue dated January 1976. At 50 I’d be hard pressed to have been goth or punk before that and I don’t think you’re that much older than me.

              For goth, Bauhaus formed in 1978 (already late enough to be considered post-punk). That same year Nick Kent used the term “gothic rock” to describe a Siouxsie and the Banshees show. By the next year the term was already being rejected by people (btw, the biggest proof you are truly a goth is continuous not a goth claims as Andrew of The Sisters of Mercy has been doing nigh on three decades now).

              1. Ah.

                And that reminds me that I have this unused WordPress site, “elegantungulate” (“hoofing it in style”), that was once upon a time intended as place to review Second Life wardrobe… but I’ve lost interest in SL[1] and.. ox is not much of a clothes horse, even virtually. Perhaps I ought to see what else I could do with it besides having it be a laser.[2]


                [1] Perhaps the primary reason I was on SL has left SL and is now using a still-being-built platform,

                [2] “What’s that?” “A laser.” “What’s it do?” “Nothing, just lays-there.”

        1. In my early to mid teens, I floated in the waters between escapism and anger. Other children would make me angry, and I would escape into my head, either by reading or daydreaming. Seldom did i have revenge fantasies, though. Mostly I daydreamed about similar things to what I had been reading.

          I had a strange issue with the idea of fighting. On the one hand, I was afraid to get hurt. On the other, I was afraid of hurting someone else really badly, due to going overboard attacking them.

          1. I mostly daydreamed about not-me. It was much like my novels, and in fact many of my worlds come from that time. At eighteen I decided I needed to be present in the world and started weaning myself out of the fantasies.

  14. This was going to be a lengthy, charming, enlightening and witty discussion of the evolutionary effects on men of the development of the shield wall, wherein (since at least the Greek phalanx) men have had to stand, fight, die and kill (not necessarily in that order) and where any hint of weakness was to invite redoubled enemy attack and collapse of your section with resultant destruction.

    But I’ve a slight headache and am not feeling up to being more than half witty, so I leave the expansion of the idea to others.

    1. It’s also mentioned above, but an under appreciated aspect of combat discipline was not only to keep individuals from breaking ranks and running away from battle, but also to keep individuals from breaking ranks and running towards the enemy in a red haze of anger when their buddy get’s killed. The Legionary maniple was not only more effective than a like number of individual warriors fighting individually, a legion’s worth of maniples were more effective than a legion’s worth of greeks fighting in a phalanx because it retained that effective combat power while also able to be employed more flexibly – a swarm of maniples could flank and chop to pieces the phalanx, which only really worked straight ahead.

      But if Legionary Pullo breaks ranks and goes running off to chop up some Greeks or Germans or whoever is in front of him all on his own, he weakens his maniple. Standing ground, shoulder to shoulder, and doing as you are told was the essence of combat power from Alexander’s time through to probably WWI, and the same concept of not breaking ranks and removing your support from your buddies holds to today without the literal shoulder to shoulder shield wall component, even into modern air combat where the ranks are a pretty fluid concept, but you have to be where you are suppsed to be and do what you are told to do.

      So the male channelling of the manifestations of anger via discipline, just like the channelling and controlling of the effects of fear, is central to every massed combat effort throughout history.

      Now that females are solidly in air combat jobs and now getting introduced to the combat ground roles, it will be interesting to see how training and discipline have to be altered to achieve the same effects with a gender-mixed fighting force in major combat environments (also touched on by sabrinachase above). Humans have thousands of years of experience getting men to fight en masse – not so much on how to get women to do that.

  15. My son, whose undergrad degree is in human biology, informs me that the different hormones shape our growth from the womb outward. Our brains are different, our muscle-skeletal structure is different, and yep, our emotional response is different.

    One working theory on the mid-aged cohort of transwomen (until recently you saw two broad peaks of those transitioning, mid-20s and middle age) was the testosterone flood that does a big part of the brain rewiring to create a male child only partially worked for them. The higher testosterone of most of life kept the brain male (if close to the margin) and the drop that accompanies age let the neurology snap back to the female baseline.

    For those wondering about the mid-20s the theory is effeminate gay men in places that are very gay unfriendly (Iran being the poster child but the data was gathered here) but that’s not…popular right now (although replicated).

    I’m told by medical friends that testosterone does give you more violent impulses, but it’s not so much that.

    Lately I’ve read a few contentions that the causality flow is the other way, anger generates testosterone. The This American Life testosterone tests, where the bitchy women had higher T than some male staffers, might be an example.

    1. Lately I’ve read a few contentions that the causality flow is the other way, anger generates testosterone. The This American Life testosterone tests, where the bitchy women had higher T than some male staffers, might be an example.

      If there’s a feedback loop involved, this would make sense– we know that higher T is associated with higher aggression (there’s a bunch of debunking on that which I suspect is going to be a matter of defining aggression differently, and I suspect in a way that ignores self-control), but we also know that your actions can trigger higher testosterone production, too; most famously exercise, but I’d suspect some more emotional/reaction sort of involvement.

      1. Andrew Klavan has had some interesting points to make on the premise that we’re meatbots whose emotions are the result of hormonal variations rather than souls whose bodies produce hormones in response to moods.

        Being fallen, I suspect the influence is a two-way street, with the balance point leaning toward what we believe: if we conceive ourselves as the product of our emotions we are more subject to that side of the equation, while those who imagine their physical states a response to our emotions are more likely to discipline emotion and take responsibility for their tempers.

        1. A really busy two-way street, at that, and complicated because people don’t actually react to input identically.

          Heck, I’d go as far as to wager that guys learn a sort of “oh, crud, THROW THE BREAKS!” response to stuff that makes them ramp into Hulk Smash quicker than usual, same way that gals learn to slap the catty b***h quick when she gets too loud, too quick.
          Well, civilized ones do, if they’ve got the experience to have it happen often enough to recognize. Feeling yourself losing control, if you’re aware you have any, is a Really Bad Thing.

    2. I’ve got a neat book – Drop Dead Healthy – in which the author talks about a wide variety of health fads and theories. Most of the book is filled with interviews with people who are proponents of each thing being discussed, but the author also spent a little time trying many of them (but only very briefly). One of the things mentioned is a testosterone boost. And iirc it seemed to mostly have positive effects – aside from an increase in his volitilaty.

      So based on that, it seems that an increase in testosterone does make someone angrier. Whether increased anger stress will also boost testosterone is something beyond the scope of the book.

  16. It takes a very sheltered woman who learned from movies how men and women react to think that men would go hunting to “disperse anger” (anymore than doing any other violent exercise) or that women were not supposed to disperse anger violently. (The exercise thing works, btw. A few times, when very furious, I hand-scrapped and wax the wooden floors of the Victorian we lived in. It gives all those fight or flight hormones somewhere to go.

    THAT’S the problem!

    I have heard of folks doing something like sweeping everything off the desk– but it’s not anger, or sorrow, it’s nothing else to do.

    You’ve got to get the emotion out– “roles” both give you a route to go along, and serve as a warning sign for those around you for when someone is not functioning normally. Like manners, but for Really Big Things.

    Plus, it just…helps. To have something To Do.

    1. Like what happened after 9/11?

      As I recall, blood banks were overwhelmed with donors, because that was the first thing that people could think of to do. And when the blood banks started turning people away, and they couldn’t think of any other way to help that’s when people started expressing anger at the perpetrators.

      1. Or after a disaster there are enough clothes and food donated to swamp the system, or heck I think that’s how Operation BBQ got going– they are a mobile BBQ joint that drives in to disaster areas to feed people. Because there’s usually a lot of folks with chain saws and such, but not a lot of hot food that can sit there for hours and still taste good. (Also bottled water.)

  17. When my husband’s grandmother died, the first thought through my head was “good, I win”. The next was “how’s the boy?” My husband and son had been out running errands when they got the call and everybody was congregating at the house.

    Her daughter, my husband’s aunt, was sitting on a chair on the lawn and having hysterics. All the family friends had started gathering around her and she grabbed onto everybody who came by. I managed to sneak into the house and found my husband and son sitting on the couch, my son playing minecraft with red eyes while tears streamed down his cheeks.

    I sat next to him and gave him a hug. The screams outside were echoing though the house and they made me profoundly uncomfortable.

    “So, you guys want to get some lunch?” I ask.

    “Yeah,” the boy says, pausing his game. He turned it off and stood up. “Can we get McDonald’s?”

    “We can get whatever you want. Do you want to call Nana and tell her?”

    “Can you tell her? And can she meet us with Sis? I need a sister hug right now.”

    “Sure thing.”

    I called, they met us for lunch. We talked about what would happen next and everybody went home. My husband lost it later, while we were putting together everything for the memorial service, but he didn’t make the scene on the lawn.

    I understand shock. I understand that wailing and keening happen. I…didn’t understand that. It’s not *our* way, *our* being the family I was raised in, and is probably the most alien thing I’ve ever experienced.

    1. My step-mother mostly shut down in the last few months before my Dad died – spending 18 hours asleep whenever she could, and only waking up while the hospice nurse was there.

      That was definitely foreign to the way Dad’s side of the family worked (only one person can break down into uselessness at a time, and Dad, to his annoyance, got that position by default), and was very frustrating… especially when he would wake up and need help, and she couldn’t be woken because she wore noise cancelling headphones.

      It was bad enough toward the end that Dad’s sister was talking about getting power of attorney so that she and her husband could manage Dad’s care.

      1. My grandmother was like that while my grandfather was dying. She was in deep, deep denial and was just certain they were coming up for Thanksgiving (grandpa had been in hospice for months and she hadn’t told anybody yet)

  18. Public grief suppression: “wounded = vulnerable = prey” so most animals hide their injuries if possible.

    On anger/frustration release, glass shower doors are an unsatisfactory target, splinters worked out of my hand for years. OTOH, glass gallon jugs full of water (in an area not requiring clean up) + .44 Magnum was highly satisfying; high explosives are similar (Tannerite [] targets with a rifle, if one has a satisfactory firing range available.)

  19. Funny. I remember the scenes of “sweeping the desk off” being for an entirely different purpose. It did involve high emotion, but not usually anger or despair.

    1. Extreme need to dust and polish?

      Oh, you are thinking of “Gee, a clear level surface would be handy for us two folks right now…”

    2. That’s what came to my mind, too.

      Unfortunately, I’m inclined to think that sweeping the desk’s contents to the floor would be likely to cool the woman’s ardor a bit… if only because “Argh, what a mess, it’ll take an hour to sort all of that back out” is the first thing that would cross my mind.

  20. There is a scene in the Chanson de Roland where Charlemagne and the French host return to the pass of Roncesvalles to find Roland and the other Twelve Paladins slain (along with the rest of the rear guard). They react by weeping, tearing their their hair, rending their clothes, and fainting.

    Dorothy Sayers (who was a medieval languages scholar as well as a mystery writer) published a translation of the Chanson with explanatory notes. On this scene, she commented “The
    idea that a strong man should react to great personal and national
    calamities by a slight compression of the lips and by silently throwing
    his cigarette into the fireplace is of very recent origin.”

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