THE HEADLINE OF THIS ARTICLE IS WHY MEN NEED WOMEN. But in fact, the behavioral changes described here — basically, becoming more generous — don’t actually seem to redound to the men’s benefit. Maybe a better title should be Why Women Are Good At Getting Men To Give Away Their Stuff. But the notion of women as softening up those brutish, beastly men seems kind of . . . old-fashioned, doesn’t it?
Fortunately, though, this political incorrectness is offset, as the piece by Adam Grant adheres slavishly to the Althouse Rule on writing about gender, which is that you can report anything so long as you do so in a way that portrays women as superior.
Meanwhile, I’m thinking evolution: Why would men become more generous when they have female dependents, but not when they have sons? We know that in primates, females — much more than males — build elaborate relationship networks and jockey for position in part, it is thought, to ensure that they’ll have someone to help with their babies, or maybe even look after them if they die. (I even read, I think in Sex At Dawn, a hypothesis that this is why women’s sexuality is more fluid: perhaps someone who’s shared a fling would be more likely to share her breast milk).
Men with sons tend to become less generous, we’re told, instead conserving resources within the family: Someday, son, this will be all yours! So if men with female dependents are more likely to be generous — buying allies as female primates do? — is it because they feel, subliminally, that female offspring won’t be able to make it without help? And does that mean that evolution is telling us that women can’t make it on their own? Clearly not, as that would violate the Althouse Rule.
Of course, this can be recast in a way that makes women appear superior, but that, as the old mathematics textbooks used to say, is left as an exercise for the reader.