Men and Women: Myths of Difference

By James Sale
James Sale
James Sale
James Sale has had over 50 books published, most recently, “Mapping Motivation for Top Performing Teams” (Routledge, 2021). He won first prize in The Society of Classical Poets 2017 annual competition, performing in New York in 2019. His most recent poetry collection is “HellWard.” For more information about the author, and about his Dante project, visit
March 14, 2019 Updated: March 14, 2019

Former first lady Michelle Obama recently confided her “secret” to young women everywhere so that they, presumably, could be like her: “I have been at probably every powerful table that you can think of, I have worked at nonprofits, I have been at foundations, I have worked in corporations, served on corporate boards, I have been at G-summits, I have sat in at the U.N.; they are not that smart.”

Who are not that smart, according to Obama? Well, apparently, some men in the workplace who turn out to be mediocre, although rather overconfident—despite being some of the most powerful men in the world. It is, perhaps, easy for her to say, now that her husband is no longer in office; presumably, she did not include him in the pool of mediocre men.

You would have thought that being a black woman she would have doubly understood what prejudice is. But such comments clearly play to the gallery and promote that modern myth we call feminism. Yet, this kind of virulent feminism goes way beyond the reasonable request of women in earlier generations to be treated fairly. Underpinning Obama’s comment is the presumption of female superiority.

That there are mediocre men at all levels of society should come as no surprise to anybody, but it seems not to occur to Obama that there are a nearly equal number of mediocre women everywhere we look, too. It would seem that in overlooking this fact, her “secret” is a gross distortion of reality, whatever else we might think of it.

Violence and Emotional Violence

We hear a lot about the violence and unreasonable behavior of men by feminist activists and, sadly, by good women who ought to know better, but the reality isn’t so simple.

In the UK, for example, a report by the BBC recently stated that one-third of domestic violence reports were by men in fear of their female partners. That’s quite a large number, and it says nothing about another kind of violence at which women outdo men: emotional violence. To put this in literary terms: For every Macbeth, there seems to be a Lady Macbeth somewhere, who may or may not be the wife (or more often—to no one’s surprise—the mother). In a metaphorical sense, Lady Macbeth puts the knife into Macbeth.

As human souls, men and women are absolutely equal, and under the law, they need to be treated fairly, too. But in every other way, men and women are entirely different. In fact, men themselves aren’t equal—some are truly mediocre in every way, and yet others are outstanding, charismatic, and of an order that is quite godlike.

Why, then, would anyone in their right mind think that men and women are “equal” in that feminist sense that drives them to argue that women should be able to do anything a man does?

Personally, I don’t want women in our Special Forces going around killing people; I think we have enough men to do that—and men are much more biologically dispensable, anyway—so why is it a victory for women to access the dreadful things men do?

Differences Between Men and Women

When we talk about “differences,” we need to be clear: First, and obviously, men and women are physiologically different. Even if we don’t believe in God, nature informs us that bodies have specific functionality and purpose. That male and female bodies are different, therefore, does not suggest equality, as manifested in uniformity, but rather suggests difference. And the next difference is manifestly psychological.

If we were to use shorthand, the difference would run something like this: The average woman (and there are plenty of non-average women, by definition) tends to accept invalid criticism. The net result of this is that the average woman tends to have low-esteem, lacks self-confidence, and is more vulnerable to depression because she can easily believe what’s false. On the other hand, the average man (average, I repeat) tends to reject valid criticism, and thus tends toward egotism, overconfidence, and a general stupidity deriving from an inability to receive accurate and corrective feedback.

You’ll recall that the “overconfidence” of men was something Michelle Obama noticed. It is true, but adversarially pitting women against men, as she has, and attempting to wrest “superiority” from them, is to contribute to society’s miseries and final implosion. As the dark lord Sauron says in “The Lord of the Rings,” “There is no life in the void,” and that is what the feminist position is.

The Lady Galadriel Spills the Beans

It is to “The Lord of the Rings” that we now can turn to find a wonderful mythological expression of the real distinction between men and women—one that acknowledges their potencies but keeps in mind their important differences.

You may remember that wonderful scene in the book and film at Lothlorien, where Frodo freely offers Galadriel the Ring of Power, the One Ring. Galadriel says: “You will give me the Ring freely! In place of the Dark Lord you will set up a Queen. And I shall not be dark, but beautiful and terrible as the Morning and the Night! Fair as the Sea and the Sun and the Snow upon the Mountain! Dreadful as the Storm and the Lightning! Stronger than the foundations of the earth. All shall love me and despair!” She is transfigured momentarily by this exchange, becoming “tall beyond measurement and beautiful beyond enduring, terrible and worshipful.” Then she shrinks back to her normal self again.

In essence, what this comes down to—if we may be prosaic about this poetry—is that men want strength and women want beauty, and these are not “equal” but asymmetric tendencies. If 5,000 years’ worth of history hasn’t demonstrated this, I’m not sure what ever could. The cosmetics or fashion industries, for example, are not something invented by men to enslave women, but industries women want and men applaud. Women simply love looking great, and even feminism doesn’t do away with the need for the female to “appear” striking.

Similarly, as the “strong” man (physically, financially, emotionally, mentally, creatively, spiritually, or a combination) proves irresistibly attractive to certain women, so men “work” on these “strengths” (often less consciously, perhaps, than women working on “beauty,” which, too, has components way beyond just the physical) in order to become desirable to women.

Men know they need women, and not just for sex or reproductive purposes, but because women bring “beauty” to their bare lives. Strength has no life force about it, except when operating, but beauty emanates radiance at all times and is its own proof. In short, beauty is superior to strength in that it can compel reaction by its own internal nature, whereas strength is just that—strength—and all too often has the element of coercion about it.

As Dostoyevsky memorably said, “The world will be saved by beauty.” And beauty, as Plotinus remarked, is the first attribute of the soul.

Adam and Eve Get It, Too

What I am saying is represented in the myths of long ago. Beautiful Eve (etymologically, the mother) fell because she believed an invalid criticism, a lie, about God’s creation; strong Adam (etymologically, the man) joined her in the fall because he rejected the valid criticism, the truth, from God that he would die if he transgressed. Two different psychological perspectives combined to produce what all cultures, all religions, and all myths have known from the beginning: that the human race was involved in some aboriginal calamity from which it has not fully recovered.

However, one good thing about the calamity—aside from subsequent stories of heroes and salvation—is that the two, the man and the woman, became inseparably conjoined in their mutual responsibility for the loss, and the hope that in their working—loving—together, this could be reversed.

Back to Babel

And feminism? That, too, is represented in the myths. Its roots are really pre-Enlightenment. They go back to the Tower of Babel and the idea that human beings can build a perfect society and are in themselves perfectible. This is a profoundly anti-religious idea, and after the life of Christ, the church called it the Pelagian heresy, which means a belief that human beings, by their own power, can attain salvation without reference to God or gods—that education, if we could just get enough of it, would do it. That’s why the Marxists, the feminists, and all the other ideologues always talk about education—in their sense, of course, meaning complete indoctrination. But the pagan Greeks, too, would have had a word for these anti-religious, humanistic sentiments: hubris.

In conclusion, let’s remind ourselves that feminism is an ideology, and that, as Dr. Norman Doidge said, “Ideologues are people who pretend they know how to ‘make the world a better place’ before they’ve taken care of their own chaos within.” Let’s resist this ideology and its false mythologies, and begin appreciating men as men, and women as women, and celebrate who they really are.

James Sale is an English businessman and the creator of Motivational Maps, which operates in 14 countries. He has authored over 40 books from major international publishers, including Macmillan, Pearson, and Routledge, on management, education, and poetry. As a poet, he won first prize in The Society of Classical Poets’ 2017 competition.

James Sale
James Sale
James Sale has had over 50 books published, most recently, “Mapping Motivation for Top Performing Teams” (Routledge, 2021). He won first prize in The Society of Classical Poets 2017 annual competition, performing in New York in 2019. His most recent poetry collection is “HellWard.” For more information about the author, and about his Dante project, visit