From despondent hand-wringing teen boys in their basements to angry unshaven men drinking their lives away a the corner bar, you can hear the eternal refrain, “Why are women so…….?”
It is reflected on the internet, as well, with the lonely and the heartbroken howling the question into the void: Why are women so mean? Why are women so needy? Why are women so dishonest? Why are women so immature? Why are women so confusing? Why are women so difficult to figure out?
Top Google Hints to complete the phrase: Why are women so mean? Why are women so emotional? Why are women so complicated?
Top Google search results have articles with more variations: Why are women so stupid? Why are women so unhappy? Why are women so angry?
Well, you are in luck. I have the answer.
If you ever find yourself asking “Why are women so…..?” this is what you should do: substitute the word “people” for “women”, and see what you think of the sentence.
There is a very good chance the question will still be a totally valid and sensible question.
Why are people so immature?
Why are people so dishonest?
Why are people so emotional?
Why are people so complicated?
Why are people so angry?
Why are people so difficult to figure out?
All of these are great questions. They are valid questions. After all: many men are immature, just as many men are dishonest, and many men are both emotional and complicated.
You don’t believe it? Ask someone who is married to a man… I’m sure that person will have plenty to say on the matter.
Now, if you are a heterosexual man, it’s possible that you simply haven’t particularly noticed that men are complicated and difficult to figure out. There’s a good chance you haven’t noticed, because you haven’t dated them. But that doesn’t mean women are any more complicated than men to decipher… it just means the fact that dating men is complicated doesn’t impact you at all, if you are a heterosexual man.
Here is where the hardcore defenders of the “Why are women so…?” trope will reply with the following defense:
“I never said that men are not (stupid, angry, dishonest, etc). Sure, they might be that way too. But at this moment I’m just asking about the women!”
The problem with that is that, to put it bluntly, asking the wrong question can lead you to the wrong answers. If the reason some people are complicated and difficult to figure out have to do with general human characteristics, then looking at specifically female traits will not lead you to the correct answer. It’s misdirection. It will make it harder for you to actually be able to figure out what’s going on.
Imagine how ridiculous it sounds to ask: “Why are Americans not able to leap over tall buildings in a single bound?”
It’s a question that sounds weird. It sounds wrong, because the obvious response is: no human beings can leap over tall buildings in a single bound! What on earth is the sense of singling out Americans?
Because even though, in a raw logic sense, “Americans are not able to leap over tall buildings in a single bound” is a true statement… it is misleading. By singling out “Americans” there is an implicit contrastive stress: it implies that this sentence is true about Americans in particular, but is not true of others.
I’ve talked about the psychological mechanisms behind why people understand sentences this way, in my article about the term “Muslim religious extremists.” The principle is the same: If you are criticizing “Muslim religious extremists” for things that all religious extremists do, then you are using the same type of misdirection.
In that case, the practical outcome is that people look in the wrong place for the source of the problem: they try to figure out what is wrong with Islam rather than what is wrong with religious extremism.
When you ask “Why are women so….” you are making the same mistake.
And that is why you are so confused. Women aren’t your problem. Women aren’t especially confusing: people are. Women aren’t especially dishonest: people are.
Ask yourself the question: What are some of the reasons people might lie to you? What are the reasons people might be tough for you to figure out? What are the reasons people get angry?
That will get you closer to your answers than your questions about “women” ever have.