Vive La Difference
by Barbara Altman Bruno, Ph.D.

Recently my husband and l went to see a one-man show on Broadway called '"Defending the Caveman." Rob Becker, the creator and performer of the show, pointed out humorously and kindly many ways in which men and women differ. Becker was responding in part to the man-bashing books and television shows that have been around during the last few years. Women and men who expect the other sex to be just like them are good candidates for upsets. So I am adding some of my thoughts to Becker's and pointing out some ways we tend to differ from the other sex. Keep in mind that all individuals do not fit all the generalizations, and that there are uniquenesses to the Dimensions population (some of which are quite useful).

When I was young, men were Men-i.e., strong and silent and working outside the home (when not smoking Marlboros on horseback). Women were Women-i.e., breasts and hips were desirable for raising babies, and work meant keeping house for the husband/breadwinner. If a woman also had to work outside the home, she could be a teacher, librarian, nurse, or secretary.

As the birth control pill liberated women from reproduction and the first Baby Boomers got involved in the political movements of the 1960's, women started seeking other options besides marriage and parenthood. Pulchritude departed, Twiggy entered, and some women tried to be more like the men, who had access to the best education, jobs, and power. A woman applying to medical school in the late 1960's had to promise not to have children (a waste of a precious medical school slot).

The women's liberation movement came to power during the Vietnam War, when the country was sharply divided between "Hawks" who wanted to make war, and "Doves," who wanted to make peace. In the 1970's, men who were not warrior-like became more attractive, like Alan Alda's sensitive, peaceable character in the television series "MASH." Women fought back against centuries of second-class citizenship. Work outside the home was "in," while housework was "out." Or women could finally elect to "have it all"-a family and a career.

In the politically correct 1980's, women defiantly set out to accomplish the same as men in school and work. Men were no longer to make passes at their female coworkers. Women trying to have it all wound up too exhausted to enjoy their anticipated fulfillment. Men and women found themselves scrambling to support a family on two incomes, when one had been sufficient in earlier years.

Men seemed obstinately to refuse to be more like women, and women blamed men for being rough and gruff.

The late 1980's and the 1990's saw a spate of angry books by women who felt they had been wronged by men. Too many had been sexually molested, often by trusted caregivers like their fathers. (Incest is also-less frequently-committed by females against males; sexual abuse also comes in homosexual varieties.)

Enter the Caveman. Becker defines men and women by different functions they have had over time-men as hunters, women as gatherers. Men would leave the cave to hunt down food, either alone or with other men. Women would forage for whatever resources were near the cave, while keeping an eye on Junior. Men had a particular goal, their quarry, which required a different spatial orientation and different ways of acting. Silence was part of their hunting strategy.

Modern equivalents of this are manifested in shopping behavior. Men seek a particular item in a store, hunt it down, and leave. Women browse through the aisles and departments, seeking resources for their families. This behavior difference is why many stores put men's departments near the exit doors.

As Becker noted, the differences are also observable regarding watching television. Men often "'channel surf" quickly with the remote control, hunting for the "kill." Women, however, will often pause at each channel, gathering information on all the options.

A primary difference between men and women is based on their different biological roles in reproduction. Men's primary job in reproduction is to sow their seed in order to produce genetically similar offspring. In order to do so, it is useful for men to get sexually aroused easily, and to try to find as many females as possible to carry their offspring to term. Their job is to accept most opportunities. They seek the most fertile females possible. One indicator of fertility is youth. That is probably the major reason why more male attention is focused on younger women than older women. Since women's waistlines thicken with age, a high hip:waist ratio is considered more desirable. This proportionally is sometimes sought by FAs, who are also seeking another trait: abundance. Especially in cultures where food resources are scarce, a female has to have enough body fat to gestate and wean a baby. Too little and she stops menstruating. As many Dimensions readers know, females with abundant curves are sought after in places where food is scarce or survival demands extra padding (such as ancient Pacific islanders making long sea voyages to islands such as Hawaii). I suspect that the preference for abundant women which many FAs discover in their childhoods derives from eons-old genetic survival programming.

Well Being