The Social Psychology of Gender Bias
Over at Overcoming Bias, the smartest man I know argues that we underestimate the quality of women’s lives – and overestimate the quality of men’s lives – because the genders have different propensities to complain. Women who complain get a sympathetic ear; men who complain get laughed at. The result: People with equal amounts to complain about complain at different rates depending on gender, leading to biased estimates of the genders’ relative quality of life.
This sounds dead right to me. Thought experiment: A person tells his/her friends over lunch that “My spouse is cheating on me.” If the speaker is a woman, she’s got the crowd’s sincere support. If the speaker is a man, he’s lucky if someone doesn’t make a joke at his expense during his next trip to the bathroom.
It’s easy, of course, to call to mind women who have gotten a bad deal. We know how hard it is to be a single mom because they tell us all about it. At the same time, however, we forget how hard it is to be a cuckold, a “dateless wonder,” or denied access to your kids because the men in these positions know that complaining will just make a bad situation worse.
Of course, this post could be viewed as thinly veiled male complaining. So I’d better shut up before you start to snicker at me!