Are women irrationally optimistic? Is not optimism by definition irrational, in our present circumstances?You know my hypothesis articulated in the draft of The Culture of Positive Thinking. As a species we would not have survived 100,000 years without delusional thinking. The denial of death, which we only acknowledge intellectually and at rare moments, but live each day as if it were not going to happen to us or our species----is necessary to carry on---so most would argue.
The ‘self-help’ industry has definitely demonstrated that positive thinking pays dividends in personal living. And in having a child, hunter gatherers to peasant farmers to industrial serfs to post industrial Doris Days made a fantastic statement about the prospects of the human society, ignoring the odds of its demise. But this last century and particularly, this last half century, delusional thinking is not an evolutionary advantage but a decided disadvantage. Positive thinking, nothwithstanding its benefits as a personal coping strategy, is a lethal mindset for a species aboard the SS Ecological Titanic which must be concerned not with “self-help” but collective action in solving pressing problems that must be acknowledged as real and durable and not something that can vanish by being “perceived” differently.Growthists come in all shapes, sizes, colours and genders, but statistically it is North American and European women who are disproportionately afflicted by positive thinking. A disorder that can be defined as the willful disregard of the blatantly obvious in order to maintain mental buoyancy. Unfortunately, on the Titanic your perception can be buoyant but your body can be in for drowning.
In our culture, women are typically the people walking on board with a cocktail glass of champaigne slanting 20 degrees with the ship’ s list. When you mention Heinberg, Kunstler, Tainter, or Jared Diamond to them they point to the champaigne, or the bottled water as they of the Jane Fonda mold would do and offer the rebuke “You are such a downer, can’ t you see, my glass is HALF FULL, but you doomsayers say that it is half empty. What evidences this mentality? Two things. One is the membership profile of the “doomsday organzations”. I surveyed some two dozen population stabilization/reduction and immigration limitation groups in four Anglophone countries. Result, only about 20% of the membership of these groups was female. And they, according to anecdote , were mostly post-menopausal women without children or older single women. That is exhibit number two in establishing the link between delusional thinking and the maternal instinct. Apparently western women like hanging around doomsday men as much as they like dating undertakers. They are ‘downers’.It is my belief that women are hard wired for this delusional thinking. If they were not, we would not have survived as a species. But now that we are 6.8 million, and adding 200,000 per day and almost 80 million a year, it is a decisive handicap to our survival. I put this proposition to two brain scientists and both were intrigued by the argument. One was in complete agreement, but both said that I needed more research and the funding to support it. And there is the rub. Given what happened to Larry Sommers of Harvard, any research that carries the least criticism of women will be met with savage criticism at the very least. Neither academic believed that I could ever receive funding for research of this nature.
The mantra in the population movement is the politically correct one. That we have a high fertility rate in the third world because the men of patriarchal societies control womens’ options and deny their access to birth control, as well as education. And male religious authorities buttress this arrangement. This may be true of the undeveloped world. But women in affluent societies, in North America, face a different situation. They have options that women elsewhere don’t. And the one option they don’t take is to view the world realistically rather than positively, to pick up Heinburg and Kunstler and drop Peoples’ Magazine, and to stop driving the consumer economy with a shopaholism more crazed than ours.
So to the question, “Are (North American women) irrationally optimistic?”, I would answer unequivocally yes. Can I prove it ? Without research , no. Comparative data on frontal lobe activity in men and women would be enlightening.Would this research prove useful? Great question. Probably not. So we can prove that women are afflicted with optimistic thinking. What then is the remedy, a pill of some kind? Should we change our message to appeal more to women? How would we make a “doomsday” message upbeat to a female readership?