Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Why I Drive A Small Car And Wear Kilts

Some of you may have already seen this Cornell study on how men respond when their masculinity is threatened. I know the liberal blogs have been having fun with it. Essentially the results were:
"I found that if you made men more insecure about their masculinity, they displayed more homophobic attitudes, tended to support the Iraq War more and would be more willing to purchase an SUV over another type of vehicle," said Robb Willer, a sociology doctoral candidate at Cornell.
I know that we all want to think that we are individuals with free will and we make up our minds based solely on our experience, opinion and intellect, but I suspect that it is far more complex than that. Billions of years of evolution have left a deep inprint in us and the way we respond to stimuli such as these is probably more influenced by our biochemical makeup than by our free will.

At the same time, it is a mistake to neglect our free will and intellect. Those also exist and are factors in our behavior. Otherwise we would not have the ability to turn down the offer of sexual partnership with a willing partner of the opposite sex because we were committed to someone else. We'd be unable to act against our own self-interest to benefit society as a whole. And our intellect can override an impulses to purchase something we don't need but want - like an SUV in the study.

One of the things that I would love to see addressed in future studies is how different cultures react. I mean, in Europe, where a big SUV may be totally impractical, do they want to buy the supercompact sports car instead? Do other cultures react as homophobically or is that an American deal? If there was not a war already going on, would a warlike response occur? All of these are great avenues for such research to follow.

Robb Willer has already come up with a worthy follow up to the study; he wants to use the same techniques of threatening the masculinity to determine if this changes men's attitude towards violence against women. My feeling is that if more women would be safe if men like this owned big-ass trucks, let's get these guys some King Cab Biodiesel Monster Trucks.

Just for the record, the largest vehicle I have ever owned is probably the Toyota Prius or our Saturn Station Wagon. Never wanted a pickup or an SUV really. As far back as I can remember, I have had both gay and straight friends and not had issues with their sexuality. I've opposed every armed U.S. intervention since Grenada. But I have also been an abusive, hateful alcoholic for many of those years, so I am not the ideal man either. I look at my friend, El Capitan who drives big trucks (when he can) and owns a whole passel of firearms and yet has multiple gay friends and is probably one of the more sensitive and considerate men I have ever known. I guess it just goes to show that we are more complex than any one simple study can show.