Illustration for article titled My Inner Monologue Upon Learning Girl Babies Make Dads Better People

What's that? A study found that proximity to women makes men measurably more likely to share with others and give to charity? That's crazy!


Crazy or not, it's the story the New York Times is putting out there.

The mere presence of female family members — even infants — can be enough to nudge men in the generous direction.


This is so weird! And cute! Girl-babies are LITERAL MAGIC TALISMANS OF GIVING.

I feel like I'm learning so much about myself right now.

It's great to know that you can affect positive change just by existing. Really takes the pressure off.

I guess my vagina should probably go ahead and take credit for all the charitable giving in the world now. YOU'RE WELCOME, HOSPITALS AND LIBRARIES.

My vagina is hella conceited.

Interestingly, the chief executives paid their employees less after becoming fathers. On average, after chief executives had a child, they paid about $100 less in annual compensation per employee. To be a good provider, the researchers write, it’s all too common for a male chief executive to claim “his firm’s resources for himself and his growing family, at the expense of his employees.”

But there was a twist. When Professor Dahl’s team examined the data more closely, the changes in pay depended on the gender of the child that the chief executives fathered. They reduced wages after having a son, but not after having a daughter.


Wait, so for those averages to work out, does that mean that male executives statistically have more sons than daughters? That reminds me of that theory that humans tend to have more male offspring in times of prosperity, and more female offspring in times of hardship. Maybe CEOs are squirting out tons of baby sons because they're all eating eating deep-fried gold and then pooping it out into the cupped hands of obsequious monkey-butlers.

That would be self-perpetuating, too, if this study is true—a lack of daughters could stunt generosity, which would lead to increased wealth, which would lead to more sons, etc.


Wait, does that explain the Republican party?

There are even studies showing that American legislators with daughters vote more liberally; this is also true of British male voters who have daughters, especially in terms of referendum and policy choices about reproductive rights.


I KNEW IT. I KNEW IT, BITCHEZ. Y'all are biologically selfish.

Actually, I don't know if it's biological at all. It could just be the way that we're socialized to think about women.


I can imagine exactly how having daughters would affect one's understanding of the world. Life is so dangerous for women. Though I hate it when men act like they have to use specific women as a conduit to empathy (she could be your sister, your mother, your daughter—how about she's a human being?), I can understand that shit gets realer when you have a tiny woman relying on you.

But it's also kind of infantilizing, I guess?

Can you infantilize an infant?

Also, a lot of women are selfish and awful. Would you strip those women of their agency and make them into unwilling generosity machines?


Anyway, the idea that women are just "naturally" nurturing and generous because of our lady-teats starts veering uncomfortably close to evo-psych crap.

Not to mention how hardcore it reinforces gender binaries.

Ugh, should I hate this study?

I don't hate this study.

Am I having trouble being critical of this study because it flatters me? I want to be a magic baby!!!

SOCIAL scientists believe that the empathetic, nurturing behaviors of sisters rub off on their brothers. For example, studies led by the psychologist Alice Eagly at Northwestern University demonstrate that women tend to do more giving and helping in close relationships than men. It might also be that boys feel the impulse — by nature and nurture — to protect their sisters. Indeed, Professor Eagly finds that men are significantly more likely to help women than to help men.



My dad didn't have any siblings at all, and he was like the most generous dude on earth. All he wanted to do was throw as much money as possible at as many orphans as possible.


Oh, but he did have two daughters. And a wife with five sisters.

Come to think of it, he was surrounded by women pretty much all the time.

UGH, SOMEBODY TELL ME HOW TO FEEL. How about you, commenter?

"The entire thrust of this article is simple: Women good, men bad, women make men better."

This is true. And as a female, I don't want that responsibility put on me. It's not my job to make a man better or civilize him. It's not my job to be a man's rock or to help make him more generous. My role isn't to sit around and help make a man better and look pretty.


That's a good comment. Maybe we should stop thinking about women's utility as something intended to enhance men's lives. Like, I don't want to be some passive thing in the parlor that reminds powerful men to do good. I don't want to be a "Hang in There" poster. I want to be powerful, regardless of what the men around me are doing.

[Bill] Gates has reflected that two female family members — his mother, Mary, and his wife, Melinda — were major catalysts for his philanthropic surge. Mary “never stopped pressing me to do more for others,” Mr. Gates said in a Harvard commencement speech.


But Melinda Gates does hella shit on her own. It's not like she's just Bill's Jiminy-Cricket-that-he-also-has-sex-with. I don't want to diminish her by acting like her positive influence on the world is purely passive and relative to her husband.

Behind every great man is a great woman, right? Like, I get that that saying's heart is in the right place, but what a load of SHIT.


Goddamnit, why do I feel like social science is always trying to trick me?

Okay, this I can get behind wholeheartedly:

We recognize the direct advantages that women as leaders bring to the table, which often include diverse perspectives, collaborative styles, dedication to mentoring and keen understanding of female employees and customers. But we’ve largely overlooked the beneficial effects that women have on the men around them. Is it possible that when women join top management teams, they encourage male colleagues to treat employees more generously and to share knowledge more freely? Increases in motivation, cooperation, and innovation in companies may be fueled not only by the direct actions of female leaders, but also by their influence on male leaders.


YEAH. YEAH. WOOOOOOOO!!! YEAH. that also kind of devaluing women's ability to just do a really good job at their jobs? Do we have to promote some magical lady-influence to incentivize hiring women?


But, back to the beginning, if I do have magical lady-influence, I'm kind of pumped about that!

I have a headache and I'm sad.

It’s often said that behind every great man stands a great woman. In light of the profound influence that women can have on men’s generosity, it might be more accurate to say that in front of every great man walks a great woman. If we’re wise, we’ll follow her lead.


Oh, all right.

Image via Dubova/Shutterstock.

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I have the same reactions when one of my guy friends says this to me. "I didn't really believe in feminism until I had a daughter!"

I think the problem is that there's a ton missing from that statement. I sat down with a few of them to figure out why.

Most guys do not have to deal with the world of women. They're born from us, they live around us, but for the most part, we take care of our own shit. We buy our own tampons. We deal with skeevy guys who catcall us. We deal with crappier work situations. We deal with getting told we suck at things because we have a vagina, and that we need to be prettier.

Even when these guys married, they still married someone who dealt with this stuff solo. There might be stories and gripe sessions, but they tended to try to equate some part of their experience to the woman's. Sure, you're told to be beautiful, but I'm told to lift heavy things! Same, right?

Then, they had daughters.

Kids are very good at not dealing with their own shit. It's not their job. It's yours. Suddenly, you're shoved into a toy aisle where there's nary a Lego or car or building block, but instead, rows and rows of dead-eyed dolls. You realize how hard it is to find play clothes for a girl, because everything seems to be optimized for 'cute' rather than 'comfort.' You hear people compliment your daughter only on how pretty she is, and never on how smart or clever she is.

The girl goes to school, and you watch how she's never called on. You hear someone insult someone else by calling them 'a girl', and it stings. Your little girl is awesome! She's brave and smart and funny! Why would anyone use that as an insult? Then, you remember all the times you did it.

And then, you realize that, all along, you've been a part of the problem.

So, it's not a perfect way to get men to be more aware of feminism. It would be better if they were raised into it. But it's still a way.