Sample text for It's a jungle out there, Jane : understanding the male animal / Joy Browne.
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A day in the life of a male baboon is one long struggle for status. Only dominant males breed. They get the girl, eat the best food, enjoy gazing out over the savannah while other baboons groom their coats. It's a good life . . . if you're troop leader. For all the rest of the males, it's a life of envy and plots to overthrow the number one guy. A young male baboon continuously attempts to gain status by approaching dominant males and flashing his deadly canine teeth. If an elder flinches and retreats, the studly young baboon moves up in the world. If the dominant male displays bigger fangs and greater fierceness, the Alpha wanna-be turns on his heels and bares his backside in defeat.
A day in the life of a human male is one long struggle for status. The most successful guy gets the cover girl, the expense account, the corner office. He has minions to cut his hair, tailor his Armani suits, shine his Bruno Magli shoes. It's a good life . . . if you're CEO. Less powerful males feel that life is about getting ahead, beating the competition, making the sale, garnering a promotion, scoring a bonus, or just keeping younger, hungrier predators off their derrieres.
In this country, when a man is between the ages of twenty-five and fifty-five, his identity is primarily defined by what he does to earn a living. Ask a man to describe himself and he'll tell you what he does. Ask a woman and she'll tell you her marital status. It's not that one is bad and the other is good, it's just that they are quite different. Not only does a guy live through his work, his work is who he is. To a man, the world of work is a jungle--a teeming, exhilarating, dangerous, frightening, proving ground. The law is survival of the fittest. The rat race is unrelenting, and whether you're dealing with government regulations, a cranky boss, a stubborn customer, or a competitor, it's a dog-eat-dog world. For a man, what he does is who he is.
The male animal's--any male animal's--drive to dominate is a powerful primal urge. Nowhere is this more evident than in the human jungle of the workplace, where guys are constantly looking for ways to brandish their fangs, gain status, cover their butts, become top dog. The beginning of understanding men is understanding how men act at work. When it comes to the adult male of the human species, the way to gather the most relevant data in the shortest time is to study him on the job, whether that's at an office, a construction site, a sales territory, a train engine, or a tractor.
Yeah, women also hack their way through the nine-to-five jungle, work the room, the land, the firm, but there's a major difference: Men define themselves through their work. A man without a job is a bum; a woman without a job is a wife or a daughter with some guy supporting her. While men may also be dads, husbands, lovers, beer buddies, racquetball players, or amateur auto mechanics, the idea of being out of work feels like dying. Everything stops--the familiar world disappears. He disappears as his reason for being seems to vanish. (Even from a genetic standpoint, if you can't stick around to protect and provide for your offspring, what's the point in bringing them forth?)
Understanding men at work means understanding dominance, aggression, and status. For most men, working is not just about making a living, it's about gaining and maintaining status. Interestingly, the word status comes from the same Latin root as "statura," meaning "upright position or body height." The original definition of status is "the way one stands." A guy feels his status is quite literally the true measure of himself as a man. His stature. His state of being.
Men have been taught that aggressive behavior will elevate their status at work. Aggression has a long history of being a prerequisite for successful men. Shareholders want a killer, not a CEO who's "understanding."
One of the Fortune 500's giants, Maurice "Hank" Greenberg of AIG Insurance, was dubbed A.I.G. for Aggressive Inscrutable Greenberg by his friends. Think what his competition called him! Another giant on the list, Jack Levy, managing director of Merrill Lynch's Mergers and Acquisitions, says his secret to success is "Never let the other guys breathe." Look at recent best-sellers on the business bookshelf: Trouncing the Dow, Eat the Rich, Winning Every Day, Unleashing the Killer App. What's this mean? Guys feel they need to "go for the throat" to succeed at work and achieve the status that goes with being the head honcho. Men are threatened by younger, more successful men, since these are the young lions who can smell weakness and obliterate an aging animal's manhood in one masterful swipe. The most dominant male wins . . . and winning is everything.
Winning can be fun or confusing or even important for women, but winning is crucial for men. Women rarely invest
as much self-worth in the outcome. Losing doesn't feel life-threatening to a woman, just disappointing. When a man loses,
he feels beaten, whipped, emasculated, humiliated--destined to spend his life grooming the winners, eating leftovers, and never, ever getting the girl.
Guys assert their dominance at work all the time, often without even realizing it. They stand instead of sit, they "bark" orders to coworkers, they "forget" to do something their boss asks them to do, they undercut another's achievements.
Library of Congress subject headings for this publication: Men Psychology, Men Humor, Masculinity, Sex role, Man-woman relationships