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You have to hand it to Dan Abrams. He’s in his mid-forties, never married, and either hoping that his book will get him hitched or frightened to death that, if it does, he’ll never live up to his wife’s expectations. The claim on the back cover will probably drive men to drink (or suicide): “Women are smarter, healthier, and unequivocally better than men.” One thing is certain. This seriously important book (published in March) has not had nearly the attention it should have had. In spite of its often irreverent tone, there’s enough evidence to support the author’s contentions—enough, I suppose, to scare off serious debate, perhaps even more proof for Abrams’ thesis. The implications are clearly unacceptable to most men and, probably, for too many women.
The breezy style, the brief chapters (thirty-six, each making a further point of women’s superiority) undercut the pretensions of a more serious, and boring, academic tome. Yet what’s unclear about this—from the opening statement: This “book isn’t just the expression of an opinion; it’s evidence. In nearly every field, statistics and studies show that women are better collaborators, are more cautious, and are more adept at navigating treacherous terrain. In nearly every field, their error rate is lower. And since women also endure pain better than men, the sting of learning of their inferiority may be tough on the guys.”
Women are better doctors, newscasters, loan officers, hedge fund managers, and professionals—but also better spies, gamblers, investors, students and drivers. Compared to men, women are less corrupt, they vote more often, are better at giving and following directions, better looking (even men will agree with that). They are also healthier, live longer, sleep better, have stronger immune systems, and have a better sense of smell than men. That’s probably way too much for most men to swallow. So let’s look at a few specific examples.
Women as investors. A report in 2010 in the “Hedge Fund Journal revealed that out of the $1.5 trillion in hedge funds around the world, only 3 percent was being managed by women.” Abrams states that that’s a shame, since women are more weary of risk, unwilling to make the same errors as their male counterparts. A BBC study between 2003 and 2004 demonstrated “The average women’s portfolio rose 10 percent—three points higher than the rise of the entire market, and four higher than the average man’s.” Conclusion? New York magazine stated that if Lehman Brothers had been “Lehman Sisters,” it probably would not have collapsed.
Is this cherry-picking the evidence? Perhaps, but for issues of ethics, the differences between genders are overwhelming. A 1999 World Bank study identified “a strong, negative, and statistically significant relationship between the proportion of women in a country’s legislature and the level of corruption.” To wit, “Fewer women meant more corruption.” I doubt if this is any huge surprise to anyone, but if these conclusions are difficult to swallow, what about this one?
In Abrams’ chapter, “Women Have Better Muscular Endurance,” he sites a University of Colorado 2002 study that demonstrated that “in certain stamina-related exercises, women’s endurance was almost twice that of men in the purest terms: exertion over time. Solely in terms of time, the numbers read even more impressively for women: they were able to continue the exercises for about 75 percent longer than men.” And Forbes reported six years later the incredible story of Pamela Reed, who “won the 2002 and 2003 Badwater Ultramarathon, a grueling, 135-mile race through the Mojave Desert. She followed up by becoming the first person—male or female—to run 300 miles straight without sleep. Her male rival Dean Karnazes, who won the Badwater in 2004, attempted the 300-mile run twice and failed.” Forbes?
If these examples about women’s stamina are surprising, the ones about women as drivers should not be (unless you are a Saudi Arabian prince): “A 2007 Carnegie Mellon University study showed that, based on the number of miles driven, male drivers have a 77 percent higher risk of dying in a car accident than a woman.” So Abrams asks why women are safer drivers. “Well, maybe it’s because men get more tickets, have more accidents, and drive drunk far more often.” In other words, the issue—and this is true in almost all of Abrams’ examples—is behavior. Men versus women. No-brainer about which one behaves badly.
All right, so what did I expect that Dan Abrams would do? Write a book called Men Are Better Crooks, Adulterers, Thieves, Liars, Slouches, Exhibitionists, Cheaters, and Jerks than Women? Man up. Face reality. Accept the fact that affirmative action (and maybe an intensive course in ethics, morality, humility, and compassion) is what most men need.
A confession: I didn’t need Abrams’ book to tell me that women are superior to men is just about every way. All I needed to do was think of my wife, who says that a copy of Man Down ought to be given to every girl at birth.
Man Down: Proof beyond a Reasonable Doubt That Women Are Better Cops, Drivers, Gamblers, Spies, World Leaders, Beer Tasters, Hedge Fund Managers, and Just about Everything Else.
By Dan Abrams
Abrams Image, 144 pp., $17.95.
Charles R. Larson is Emeritus Professor of Literature at American University, in Washington, D.C. Email: Clarson@american.edu