The Two Cultures
Men and women live in two different cultures. This arises out of the different culture of honor experienced by each sex. I first began dimly to understand this when I read James Bowman's Honor: a History.
[In] spite of the discrediting that honor has undergone, the basic honor of the savage -- bravery for men, chastity for women -- is still recognizable beneath the surfaces of popular culture what has done so much to efface it. If you doubt it, try calling a man a wimp or a woman a slut.
Honor for men is courage, the courage to stand with his brothers-in-arms under fire. Honor for women is to be good, with nary a blemish on her pinafore or her reputation.
Of course a woman's honor is not just about her sexual chastity; it is more a question of her being a Good Little Girl that has done everything Mother or Teacher has demanded.
I call this the Two Cultures. In fact, there are four cultures, two each for men and for women.
Taking the negative first, men have a Culture of Insult. This is what the ancient principle of the bar fight is all about. Some drunkard at the saloon has dared to question my courage, and so I am obliged to teach him a lesson and defend my honor. A more upscale version of the bar fight is the duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr. Hamilton accepted the challenge because he felt, as a General in the United States army that might be called upon to lead his nation on the battlefield, he needed to defend his reputation for courage.
The women's version is the Culture of Complaint. This is because the culture of women is that you do not directly challenge another woman. What you do is complain about a third woman in a one-on-one with another woman in the community, using the time-honored complaint of "I can't believe she said/did that."
Of course, when a woman complains to a man, that is different. She is telling him, indirectly, to step up to the mark, to be a man and protect her. Alternatively, as George Eliot suggests in Adam Bede, she complains because she wants to be "soothed."
Enough of the dark side, let's look on the bright side.
When men are just behaving like good courageous warriors, standing beside their brothers, we have a Culture of Courage, and they are using their courage to do good things, whether it's defending the border, or being a good husband and father and going down the mine to earn wages to provide a home for his family.
Equally, when women are behaving like loving wives and mothers we have the Culture of Kindness. The kindest woman that ever lived was of course George Eliot's Dinah Morris in Adam Bede. But later Eliot evidently thought that Dinah was a bit over the top, and so she revised and expanded the concept and so created three heroines in Middlemarch: Dorothea Brooke that wanted to do good; Rosamund Vincy that is convinced that she is good; and Mary Garth who actually lives doing good. Mary is the daughter of a land-agent just like George Eliot was.
The precipitate of the male Culture of Courage is the male hierarchy, that Nature has invented to reduce violence among males. To raise your position in the hierarchy you need to demonstrate courage under fire, and so men engage in all kinds of activities -- from business to politics to climbing Mt. Everest -- to demonstrate their courage and hopefully raise their position in the hierarchy. And that is where the Culture of Insult comes in.
The consequence of the female Culture of Kindness is the formal equality of the neighborhood community of women. In that community no woman is better than any other, or the Culture of Complaint will go to work. Obviously, if you are chaste and pure -- and who dares tell a woman she is not -- then no other women in the community, be she ever so beautiful and rich, is better than any other women in the community. Thus Lizzie Bennet in Pride and Prejudice can tell Lady Catherine de Bourgh where to put it.
You see the Two Cultures at work any time you go out for a walk in the neighborhood. The men you will encounter call boys and dogs "Buddy" and expect them to come to heel. The women you observe will seek to persuade boys and dogs rather than order them.