What Women Know

I ran across the UCLA study in question (see below) some years ago, & was very happy to be reminded about it recently by a writer I hugely admire.

Rebecca Solnit. Listen to what she says:

“Words bring us together, and silence separates us, leaves us bereft of the help or solidarity or just communion that speech can solicit or elicit. Some species of trees spread root systems underground that interconnect the individual trunks and weave the individual trees into a more stable whole that can’t so easily be blown down in the wind. Stories and conversation are like those roots. For a century, the human response to stress and danger has been defined as “fight or flight.” A 2000 UCLA study by several psychologists noted that this research was based largely on studies of male rats and male human beings. But studying women led them to a third, often deployed option: gather for solidarity, support, advice. They noted that “behaviorally, females’ responses are more marked by a pattern of ‘tend-and-befriend.’ Tending involves nurturant activities designed to protect the self and offspring that promote safety and reduce distress; befriending is the creation and maintenance of social networks that may aid in this process.” Much of this is done through speech, through telling of one’s plight, through being heard, through hearing compassion and understanding in the response of the people you tend to, whom you befriend. Not only women do this, but perhaps women do this more routinely. It’s how I cope, now that I have one.” – Rebecca Solnit in The Mother of All Questions

Tree Roots in forest.JPG


More on the UCLA study

What Most Men DON'T Understand (I think)

“The cultivation of a stance of invulnerability robs men of a wisdom known to most women in this culture – that people actually connect better when they expose their weakness. Linguist Deborah Tannen, analyzing women’s ‘rapport talk’ versus men’s ‘report talk,’ found that a vital component of conversation between women was what she called ‘trouble talk’ – inviting the listener in by opening up one’s own points of vulnerability. Finally, to the degree to which a man learns to ‘be strong’ and to devalue weakness, his compassion toward frailty not just in himself but also in those around him may be limited or condescending. In this and many other ways, the loss of expressivity and the loss of vulnerability inevitably lead to diminished connection with others.” – from I Don’t Want to Talk About It – Overcoming The Secret Legacy of Male Depression, by Terrence Real

This NY Times article about PTSD by Sebastian Junger seems to argue that we need each other (always have, all through our long evolution as a species), & that in combat men bond in special ways, then later miss the bonds, & the meaning.

“Personal interest is subsumed into group interest because personal survival is not possible without group survival. From an evolutionary perspective, it’s not at all surprising that many soldiers respond to combat in positive ways and miss it when it’s gone.” 

Could we not build a society in which men need not “go to war” (there are different ways to go to war, I suppose) to feel they belong, & matter, in ways that do not involve killing? (Yes, for sure, a rhetorical question.)


p.s. hugely inspiring documentary! 'Seeing Allred.' (I saw it on Netflix.) I think we all need a little inspiration these daze, hmmmm?

A heroic, surprising portrait of Gloria Allred in the admiring documentary 'Seeing Allred'

p.p.s. & some inspiring words from Howard Zinn, on "getting along."

p.p.p.s. the day after I posted this: Whoa. Women, Men and the whole damn thing. Whoa. Must-read!!!

A few quotations

“It’s antithetical to the definition of power in this culture that a person might derive power by service rather than control, but that’s the essence of midwifery.” – Elizabeth Davis, Heart & Hands: A Midwife’s Guide to Pregnancy and Birth, quoted in Rob Brezsny’s 'Pronoia'

“Only connect. This is how we make meaning. This is how we learn to think as Nature thinks.” – Gregory Bateson, anthropologist

** some quotations about community

** simply TONS of inspiring quotations here