The following passage is the beginning of the first chapter, which puts into context the subsequent chapters outlining the science.
Progressing Backwards: The political and social foreground
We’re told that men and women are the same. Or, rather, some of the time we’re told this. At other times we’re told that men and women are essentially and irrevocably different. We’re further told that although men and women are different, this is really just something to do with the way we are at the moment, albeit that we have been that way for a long time, living in the sort of society we do. In time, we keep being reminded, all will revert to how supposedly it should be and how it used to be in times of yore: i.e. men and women are the same after all. Even so, it’s then insisted that actually, in the end, no matter what we do, men will never get to be truly the same as women: men and women are forever and totally different (except when it’s more convenient to regard them as exactly the same).
We’re also told that women are disadvantaged, and that they’ve got this way because of oppression by men. We’re never told how or why this could be. We’re not told why — especially if men and women are supposedly the same — there would be any point in one sex oppressing the other. We’re not told how it can be — if indeed men are different to women and oppress them — that by most measures it is not women who are disadvantaged but men (or, at least, a large sub-group or even the majority of men).
Nobody tells us why men are maligned as if they’re at one with the very few at the top of the pile, whereas all women are championed irrespective of who they are, what they have done, or how they have lived their lives. Confused? You certainly should be. The notion that males and females — or some essence of what is male or female — are the same or different, oppressed or actually advantaged, is like a juggler with two balls up in the air. He never gets hold of either of them but is constantly palming each upwards and across the path of the other. Eventually the whole spectacle has to come crashing to the ground. That’s what is about to happen to what we currently think about men and women.
The contradictory madness about men and women in which we wallow is not shallow. As I will be explaining in depth, it arises from the most profound prejudices we have; prejudices that are currently denied, being invisible to us. We are too close to them, so we can’t see the wood for the trees, even though they are the very basis of our politics. They are what the philosopher R.G. Collingwood called ‘absolute’ presuppositions. They come from the hidden heart of what we are, in the fundamental difference — and complementarity — between men and women. These hidden prejudices are against men and in favour of women. It is because of this that astonishing nonsense about men and women can hold sway, hanging unsupported from the political sky. The general consensus about human social behaviour—at least within the chattering classes — is the most plainly false in history. In no other culture — and at no other point in the history of our own culture — have people got things so spectacularly wrong.
The real story of men and women, that cuts through all of this, has only fully crystallised within the last few years with a deluge of new science. It will be a revelation to almost all, having been merely scratched on the surface in self-help pop titles like Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus. It is not merely that men and women are different. We all knew that. And ordinary people, at least, admit it. It is that they are different in ways far beyond what anyone had thought. Men and women are also unequal, but it is not women at all, but men — not all men, but the majority — who make up the biggest disadvantaged sub-group in every society. Women by contrast are universally and perennially privileged: over-privileged. This unconditional favour has no counterpart for men, who have to meet certain criteria even to be afforded the most basic consideration.
Even so, you won’t find me suggesting adding men to the ever-expanding list of ‘victims’. As it stands there’s but a minority of people who aren’t already on this list. It really would be the case that ‘we’re all victims now’. Instead, the real story of men and women is the key to tearing up the entire list and throwing it away.
The revolution that we are supposedly undergoing towards an androgynous, unisexual world is all but dead. Revolution has always been a case of ‘meet the new boss, same as the old boss’ (as The Who’s Roger Daltrey sang back in 1971), and the revolution regarding men and women is very much a case in point. We’ve merely been chasing our own shadows, perpetuating the same old attitudes in disguise. The benign consequences of wising up to see this can hardly be over-stated. We’re set now for what really is a revolution: a science-inspired revolution of understanding.
This is a book of popular science, intended to explain the psychology that underlies the prejudice that in turn reveals why politics manifests in the way that it does. Of necessity I tackle political issues, and I’m aware that this is an awkward mix, but such is the nature of the project. Thus the rest of this chapter sets the scene before the science proper starts. This may appear to distract from the science, but it’s essential to outline the seriousness of the political issues from the off. Some readers will disagree with me on the politics, but that need not affect the science. If you’re not interested in my analysis of the political and cultural developments that have led to our current problems then by all means skip the rest of this chapter.
Politics is in the end a matter of conjecture, but its manifestation and the social psychology that underlies it can be informed by science. Never before has there been a time when political debate was more in need of this than today