Gynosympathy

I recently came across a few mentions of Gynosympathy on the internet and decided to look into its origins and meaning. The term, translating roughly as special sympathy for women and girls, is a corollary to biological and cultural gynocentrism, and a helpful addition to the lexicon.

ORIGINS

The term does not appear in any dictionaries. The earliest mention I could locate was a blog post of 22nd September 2013 which is given below in full:

Gynosympathy is the well-documented, yet poorly examined, tendency in human being to sympathize with females more than males, leading to the preferential protection and appeasement of women. As a scientific reality, gynosympathy is so well demonstrated that it is virtually irrefutable.1 As a social concept, however, it is virtually unknown.

The reasons for this discrepancy are many, not least of which is that gynosympathy is such a deeply rooted phenomenon that human beings have a very difficult time recognizing it.

It likely has both evolutionary and cultural aspects. For example, Bateman’s Principle would lead us to suspect that men would exhibit gynosympathy more often in the context of sexual relations (or their implied or imagined potential) which has been born out in a study by Rudman and Goodwin entitled Gender differences in automatic in-group bias: why do women like women more than men like men? that found “that for sexually experienced men, the more positive their attitude was toward sex, the more they implicitly favored women.2

Another excellent demonstration of gynosympathy can be found in a study by Plant, Hyde, Keltner, and Devine entitled “The Gender Stereotyping of Emotions3 wherein a variety of facial expressions were posed by professional face models, photographed, and selected for their precise muscular sameness. Participants shown photos of men and women with the exact same expressions judged the women to be more sad (eliciting sympathy) and the men to be more angry (eliciting a threat response). “Even unambiguous anger poses by women were rated as a mixture of anger and sadness.” This is a clear bias of sympathy in favor of women.

Of course, researchers often focus on conclusions other than gynosympathy; the authors of the PWQ study, for example, lamented that women were not allowed to be angry. Ironically, by sympathizing preferentially with women (why not lament that men were not allowed to be sad?) the researchers were exhibiting the very bias they thought they were addressing.

A human gynosympathetic bias is clear. It absolutely saturates gender politics, leading to exaggerations of the plight of women like the “rule of thumb” myth, the “wage gap” myth, and the widespread belief that before the 20th century no woman could own property. It leads political activists to glamorize the history of voting rights and ignore conscription, to demonize men for fighting (and dying) in war while glossing over the well-documented role of women in urging, and even shaming, men to trek off to battle while they remained home in peace and safety.

Gynosympathy distorts legislation, leading to brazenly discriminatory laws that explicitly name women as a class of victims who need special protection, even against problems (like violence) where men suffer comparable or even higher rates of victimhood. It skews medical research, leading to preferential funding for women’s health issues out of proportion to their incidence and fatality rates compared to similar men’s health issues. And, in US courts, the influence of gynosympathy drives a sexist bias in prosecution, sentencing, and execution that dwarfs the racial biases in the justice system.

It is time to recognize this cognitive bias for the systemic and dangerously discriminatory influence that it is; to seek out its discriminatory influence in ourselves, our culture, and our institutions; and to push for a more rational, scientific, ethical, equitable, humane, and universally sympathetic approach to gender issues.

Notes:

[1] Of course, valid science being defined by falsifiable theories, nothing scientific is technically “irrefutable.”

[2] Rudman and Goodwin, Gender differences in automatic in-group bias: why do women like women more than men like men?, Journal of Personal and Social Psychology, 2004 Oct;87(4):494-509.
Incidentally, the same study “confirmed that women’s automatic in-group bias is remarkably stronger than men’s” and “men lack a mechanism that bolsters automatic own group preference,” making ideological theories of a “patriarchal” conspiracy to boost men at the expense of women a scientific absurdity.

[3] Plant, Hyde, Keltner, and Devine, “The Gender Stereotyping of Emotions, Psychology of Women Quarterly, 28 JUL 2006 [DOI: 10.1111/j.1471-6402.2000.tb01024.x]

Since this apparent coining, others across the internet have used it though usually as a brief descriptor rather than an in-depth commentary on its meaning. The following, slightly shorter elaboration from Freethinker’s corner blog dated June 2014 provides a few examples of gynosympathy in action:

Gynosympathy

Society has always shown extraordinary sympathy towards women. A woman can commit the same heinous illegal act, from child abuse, to rape, and a judge, either male or female, will grant the most lenient sentence, if any sentence is applied at all.

The recent incident in Nigeria, the Boko Haram, butchered boys (some reports vary on the number), hacking them to death and burning them alive, then kidnapped girls (reports vary on number), but what do we hear of on the news? The kidnapping of the girls, without so much as a mention of the slaughter of the boys. Western media went so far as to attempt to make the kidnapping into a feminist, women’s rights issue.

There are many examples of the double standard that is applied between males and females. In TV, movies, and in print the double standard is easily seen.

If a woman commits a sexual act with a minor male, he is often depicted as being “lucky”. She usually receives a very lenient sentence, if any at all. A man commits a sexual act with a minor female, no matter how willing, and it’s rape. His name is publicized, his reputation immediately ruined, even if the incident was only something conjured up in the girl’s mind. If found guilty his sentence is noticeably more harsh than a woman’s.

The public accepts this gynocentricity without reaction. Recently Hillary Clinton said that when men are killed in war the main people who suffer are the wife and children. What about the man that was killed, Hillary?

One night I was watching an episode of the old Adam-12 series. A woman had just shot her husband to death and then rushed out of her residence firing her gun at will. If a man had killed his wife and done that he would have been full of lead before the echo from his first shot had died out. Instead, the police, treated the woman with delicacy. They hid behind their police car ducking round after round while another officer surreptitiously worked his way around behind her, and disarmed her. They seemed to have great sympathy for the woman. The man? Well, he’s dead, who cares.

Undoubtedly, thousands more examples of gynosympathy could be, or rather have been noted by observant human rights advocates, examples where women’s voices, needs and concerns were offered quick and compassionate response in comparison to the poverty of response toward males in similar situations. While our current gynocentric culture complex remains strong, gynosympathy will likely also remain the dominant use of available human sympathy.

One thought on “Gynosympathy

  1. Tom Golden

    Excellent article. Thanks for naming what I have been seeing and writing about for many years. The evidence is overwhelming but the attention to the evidence from men and women and especially the media is nearly non-existent. We are living in a crazy place.

    Reply

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