Any man who reads the newspapers will encounter the phrase “even women and children” a couple times a month, usually about being killed. The literal meaning of this phrase is that men’s lives have less value than other people’s lives. The idea is usually “It’s bad if people are killed, but it’s especially bad if women and children are killed.

Excerpt from the transcript of the invited address titled Is there Anything Good about Men? by Prof. R. Baumeister at the annual convention of the American Psychological Association this year. He goes on to explain.

If a group loses half its men, the next generation can still be full-sized. But if it loses half its women, the size of the next generation will be severely curtailed. Hence most cultures keep their women out of harm’s way while using men for risky jobs.

An interesting text that focuses on the present role of men in society and its evolutionary origins. A few of the key points made are:

  • Men lie at extremes of a distribution – for e.g. there are more men than women in positions of leadership as also in prisons.
  • Differences between genders have more to do with motivation than ability.
  • Most of us have descended from fewer men than women. This means that in our evolutionary past, women could play it safe since there was a higher likelihood of them producing an offspring, while men had to be aggressive and ambitious, and had to take bigger risks for a bigger pay-off (read having an offspring).
  • Women favor small networks of close relationships, while men favor large networks of shallow relationships, where individuals are dispensable much like a modern day corporation.

It is interesting how one or more aspects of human behavior is traced back to our evolutionary origins, especially the hunter-gatherer theory that was more recently used as an explanation for why women favor pink.