Scientific Progress, Roles, and Culture – Part 3

Scientific progress has taken a lot of the work out of the essentials of everyday life.  Food and shelter take less hard work and less time.  Women’s housework automation has increased their free time.  The result of that is a lot role requirements have changed over the last 100 to 150 years.  Primarily because of scientific advancements, both men and women work together in heated and air-conditioned office buildings.  Not so 150 years ago.  Roles have changed significantly over that time, but I’m not sure the culture and it’s rules have caught up with the change in roles.  Today, almost daily we have scandals reported in the paper of un-wanted sexual comments by men to women that is called sexual molestation.  These are not criminal charges that would end up in court with hearing from both sides by a jury of their peers. Instead they are charges in the headlines of inappropriate behavior for things that may have happened 30 to 50 years ago.  Companies and other organizations who want to maintain their public images of “good” are firing these people or forcing them to resign.  It’s women against men it would seem.  And most men are paying the price without any real recourse.  In the last couple of parts to this blog, I’ve tried to make the point that the world is changing and the roles of both men and women are changing.  Hence the cultural rules of behavior need to change with it.  In today’s paper a column by one of my favorite editorial writers – Walter Williams – says that many customs have changed over the years. But I think maybe not enough and not all for the good.   He also says that “Society’s first line of defense is not law, but customs, traditions and moral values.”  I’m not sure what the new rules will, or should, be, but I think I know some things that are important for the continuation of human existence and should be supported by whatever the new rules are.

In the editorial pages of the papers that I read, there are both men and women writing columns rejoicing at what is going on and there are also both sexes expressing concern about where we are and where we might end up.  But if we can agree on what’s important, we might have a chance on ending up with new rules, customs and morals that support the important things.  For the human race to continue to survive I think some of the important things are food, shelter, and sex.  These are also the things that scientific development has mostly affected.  Food and shelter have improved and require much less effort and this has caused some changes in the roles of both men and women.  In a Wall Street Journal article in The week-end “Review” section, a woman wrote an article headlined “Is Office Romance Still Allowed?”.  I learned some things reading it that I had not known.  For example she cited a survey that said that 27% of single and divorced men and women viewed work as a way to meet partners and with millennial’s it was approximately 33% who were likely to view the work place as a “dating pool”.  She doesn’t think it surprising that “… many of us find lovers and spouses where we spend most of our waking hours.”  The roles have changed and interaction of men and women is different so it “…maybe time to rethink the rules”.

When I graduated from high school several decades ago, it was said that “A woman goes to college to find a man to marry.”  Now it would seem that a woman goes to college to get a job and finds a man to marry in the work place.  Other things in the office and world have changed.  Women have entered what has been mainly a “man’s world” and  demanded acceptance as people of equal ability.  This should happen, and we are well on the way there.  But men have always told other men at work, off-color jokes.  We all have different sensitivities, and some men don’t like that, but they tolerate it.  Men used to treat women with more respect and courtesy than other men, but women want to be treated as “equals”.  But until the customs and rules change, they may have to put up with some stuff they are not used to.

In the WSJ article, the writer says she thinks that “flirting is mutual”.  I believe that and I think men and women have about the same sex drives.  For both sexes, there is a variation from person to person, but if both men and women did not find sex enjoyable, then the human race would have long since died out.  The physical differences between men and women have not changed over the years, but the consequences of sexual intercourse have become much more controllable with modern technology.  For most of history, men could enjoy sex and walk away without a lot of concern for the consequences.  Not so with women, who might be pregnant and have a child that would need to be raised to adulthood.  With modern birth control alternatives, women can have sex pretty much free of any concern.  My younger friends have told me that unmarried girls having sex today is much more likely  than when I was young and single and birth control pills were not readily available to everyone.  In our culture in the past having children outside of marriage has always been frowned upon.  But today it’s possible to have sex without children.  (There are today women who want to have children without marriage, because they get money from the government – but getting pregnant is not their fault?)  I think the human race is better off having children by a couple with a long-term commitment to each other.  Most children learn helpful things from a family environment with two loving people, rather than a single parent who is going to be fully occupied with doing all the things necessary to provide food and shelter as well child development.

So I would add “responsible child up bringing” by a man and a woman to the other three things needed for the effective propagation of the human race.  Should sex outside of marriage still be outside the rules?  Maybe, maybe not.

In the workplace, fairness should be the major criteria, along with order, and the achievement of necessary objectives for the organization to prosper.  If a manager is having an affair with a subordinate, it will be difficult to maintain “fairness” or the appearances of fairness in work assignments, performance reviews, raises and promotions.  So that should be out.  Other parts of the company, maybe it should be at least restrained.  Sexual propositions in the public bar are OK and may be expected.

In the past, it’s been the men who have been expected to initiate relationships.  Women have tried to look attractive to men – maybe to one man in particular.  But she may not know which man she will attract – it may not be one she isn’t interested in.  The only way a man may know is to make a pass.  But “no” means “no”.  If she is not interested, she should tell him and he should respect that.  Maybe women should feel they can initiate things without criticism.  But if he’s not interested, then “no” means “no”.  Honesty is important.  Maybe these roles and expectations of who should initiate and who should respond should change.  I think in the past this has been maybe a function of who is responsible for support outside the house and the consequences of sex.  All this is different today.  But as Walter Williams pointed out, society’s customs, traditions, and values are the first line of defense – not the law.  The roles have been changed so maybe we need new customs, traditions, and informal rules – a new culture.




About tjc13

BE - Chem Engineering, Vanderbilt Univ, MBA, University of Tulsa - Worked for an energy and chemical company for many years and then started a management consulting business working for both for-profit and not-for-profit organizations.
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