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Here are the gender conventions we’ve adopted in Western society on the rules of debate:

We accept gender double standards, and tolerate more aggression towards men than we do towards women. We also tolerate more hyper-emotionalism from women than men.”

So says Richard Hanania in an essay called “Women’s Tears Win In the Marketplace of Ideas“. Hanania is the president of the Center for the Study of Partisanship and Ideology, and a research fellow at Defense Priorities. He offers some cogent examples of this disparate treatment, such as the Yale Halloween costume imbroglio and the “cancelling” of Ilya Shapiro at Georgetown Law School. To those we can add Eric Landers’ forced withdrawal as Joe Biden’s chief science advisor, and there are countless others. About this, Hanania says:

What makes these cases difficult is that male versus male argumentation just has completely different rules, norms, and expectations than male versus female. … A man can’t just yell in another man’s face for 5 or 10 minutes about how he’s hurting his feelings. If a man does behave this way, bystanders are more likely to feel disgusted than join in or play the role of white knight. The man at the receiving end of the abuse is at some point going to have to escalate towards violence, or back down and say something about how this is beneath him. Depending on the situation, observers may assume violence is a distinct possibility, and get between the two sides.

None of these options are available when getting yelled at by a woman. You certainly can’t make an implicit threat of violence. Raising your voice will turn everyone against you, and even walking away can look heartless.”

I’ve witnessed a few pathetic crying jags in the workplace myself, as well as some volleys of verbal belligerence from females on social media that were pointedly anti-social. In my experience, most women can dish out barbs good-naturedly in jest and conduct themselves with dignity in debate. On the other hand, there are too many men who become hostile in debate, which most observers will find much less sympathetic if the counter-party is a woman. And there are a few men, here and there, who have trouble holding back tears in a fraught exchange, but we all know it’s not a good look.

To state the obvious, tears are a natural reaction to grief or real hurt. Anger is well-justified in response to criminal or personal wrongs. Nevertheless, it’s necessary to distinguish between these kinds of reactions and the ignoble tears or venom sometimes brought to controversial debates by neurotic partisans. As Hanania says of our disparate gender conventions, considerable censorship is instigated by an intransigent minority of women who manage to “… indulge their passions in ways that men cannot … .” Most men, anyway… and if they do, they’ve usually lost and know it.

These passionate displays are often tied to claims of individual or group victimhood. The objector could be anyone who feels an under-appreciated beef, but acting-out in order to signal “virtuous victimhood” in this way might indicate a deeper instability.

Again, as Hanania says, females have a definite advantage in the deployment of tears, confrontational rhetoric, and screams. Coincidentally, in a post to which Hanania links, Noah Carl marshals data on the extremely skewed representation of degrees awarded to women in Grievance Studies (e.g. Gender Studies and Critical Race Theory).

Too often, claims of victimhood are invoked in attempts to rebut any number of principled policy positions. For example, your views might be construed as offensive, racist, or sexist if you oppose such things as an increase in the minimum wage, racial quotas, disparate impact actions, equal pay rules, family leave mandates, and abortion. Expressing a strong and reasoned defense of many positions can foment imagined micro-aggressions or even harassment.

The real danger here is that honest debate is suppressed, and with it, very often, the truth. I acknowledge that people must be free to express or defend their views passionately, and with tears, screams, or otherwise, which the First Amendment guarantees. Our gender conventions in this matter should be revisited, however, if men and women are truly to be on equal footing.

Whether baring fangs or shedding tears, there are self-appointed arbiters of acceptable speech represented in almost all of our public and private institutions, ready to shut down debate on account of their feelings. They have more than a few sympathetic allies, male and female, at higher levels of their organizations. In the past, Hanania has discussed the over-representation of females in Human Resource departments. In these contexts, adjudication of disputes often relies on vague notions of what constitutes “hate speech” or “harassment” under Civil Rights Law. If you manage to provoke the tears of a colleague or underling, you’re probably behind the eight ball!

Hanania considers some alternative ground rules or “options” for debate:

  1. Expect everyone who participates in the marketplace of ideas to abide by male standards, meaning you accept some level of abrasiveness and hurt feelings as the price of entry.
  2. Expect everyone to abide by female standards, meaning we care less about truth and prioritize the emotional and mental well-being of participants in debates.”

Either of these options is better than the double standard we have now, and Hanania point to a number of egregious manifestations of our double standard. As he notes, #2 might be what’s meant by the “feminization of intellectual life”, but it fosters the arbitrary prohibition against discussion of any number of ideas that belong on the policy menu.

Option #1 would undoubtedly be condemned as “traditional male dominance” of public debate, but it would bar no one from participation, and obstacles perceived by females, or any sensitive soul, can be viewed as a matter of socialization. Both tearful and ferocious argumentation should be marginalized regardless of the antagonist’s gender.

Imperfect as they are, we have laws and/or social strictures against harassment, bullying, and other aggressive behavior thought to be largely associated with malcontented males. But as Hanania says:

We haven’t even begun to think carefully about equivalent pathologies stemming from traits of the other sex.

This problem obviously pales in comparison to the fascist tactics typical of the far Left. That includes the violent behavior of Antifa and BLM, unethical attempts blame conservatives for various, often fabricated deeds, and to threaten and punish them economically, even to the point of state-sponsored thievery and threats of harm to family members. Despite the more benign nature of the disparities discussed here, restoring gender equality to the terms of civil debate, without tears and hysterics, would be a great step forward.