In the beginning there was man and woman. Man never rang woman but could sometimes send thoughtless text messages, “Where R U?” and that was that. Needless to say woman didn’t waste anytime and soon moved on to the next man, and the next. The pattern was the same. Man after man was lazy, selfish and thoughtless.Thoughtful text messages still only came from fellow women friends. Although we women enjoyed being rescued, we found ourselves more and more taking the initiative. We now arrange dates and enquire about everyone’s health and gossip.
Sometimes we find ourselves facing the world with a bum the size of the earth after a season of over indulging in the stress that comes with daily decision making. How on earth do we get back in shape and into that wispy not-for-fat people designer gown? We decide that we need results- fast.
Men don’t understand this and generally accuse women of fishing for compliments or reply-if they have evolved a tiny bit- “You don’t look fat to me.” But we don’t listen, we decide to go for that ‘work out till you are sick’ regime which also includes counting and monitoring every grain that passes our lips. We fret about weight all the time-our least charming habit.
It is at this point that I am reminded of ‘Elephant Whispering’ -a powerful metaphor widely known by politicians,religious leaders, entertainers, advertisers, teachers and more. The rider is the conscious mind-the small fraction of our being that we are conscious of and the elephant everything else.
When you want to get information from another person what do you do? You ask them, in other words you ask their rider. This works very well for information the person is consciously aware of, such as the recipe for tiramisu or the capital of Togo. At the same time, your elephant is communicating with theirs and picking up subtle clues to things like their social status and emotional state: the kind of things animals love to notice about each other. For instance, it is expected that two days after our first date man calls me and asks me out again the following week. If I say am busy, am not interested, If I don’t return your calls am not interested, leave it. Persistence is at first flattering and then annoying and then outright creepy. But if I say yes to a second date then we are on.
It is all fine until you need some of the information the elephant has but the rider isn’t aware of like why do we continue with habits that we know are unhealthy?
There are still many areas in the world where the culture is such that men make all the decisions. This social structure has worked for them for thousands of years. Some people question whether it is appropriate to be trying to change the culture in the name of progress. An interesting study on decision making was done at the University of Wisconsin. It studied decision making in the form of mathematical questions and problem solving amongst boys and girls of various ages. Their conclusion was that both boys and girls have fairly equal abilities. Any discrepancies were very much because of cultural biases and stereotypes.
In one particular mathematics exam, the boys and girls had similar results, except for those girls that had been told before the exam that the exam itself would indicate gender differences. These girls did not score so well in the exam. It’s even more significant when you consider that all the students were in the top grade for mathematics. Thus, the difference in stereotypes plays a huge role in the decision making process. What somebody believes and assumes to be true about themselves drives their decision making.
This is seen in young children and how boys and girls have different toys, and play different games. The traditional boys’ games are ‘wilder’ and involve more risk than the girls’ ones. They are essentially learning to take on different roles. However, these roles seem to be changing more rapidly than at any other time in history. Children seem to be making more decisions at a younger age. Just consider the rise in teenage pregnancy rates. Many studies have shown that the effect of gender in decision making is actually quite small, and cultural and stereotypical influences are probably much more important.
We mustn’t forget the hormones. When you consider gender and decision making, the next thing to consider, of course, are the sexual differences, the differences that exist because of the different genetic makeup of males and females. Women know that hormonal fluctuations, during menstrual cycle and pregnancy, can affect emotions and in a large part thinking and decision making.
If hormones be the root of our decision making or indeed our indecisiveness, then woman must move from the old format of reality shows ‘who stays’ or ‘who goes’ to a mordern take of the Greek tradegy where she gets an audience, of ordinary men and women of different ages and experience, to spend a week living, working an arguing with her before they deliver a fully interactive verdict on her life. She could crowdsource issues like: Should I relocate? should I kick out my troublesome teen? or should we get married or part ways? Sometimes they could just observe.
Still would you allow strangers to delve into your personal circumstances and uncover problems to inform a picture of your life and how to improve it? This requires a highly evolved individual. Since I am not there yet my hormones and I will try to keep calm and carry on the way we have been doing for decades.