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What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Being a Woman?

Posted: 07/26/2012 12:33 am

This question originally appeared on Quora.

By J.C. Hewitt, Product-maker


  • You're unlikely to be conscripted. In war, you're collateral damage at worst. No one is going to command you to risk your life capturing a clod of dirt.
  • You always have some baseline value to society in your reproductive system, up to a certain age. This means that even though there are disadvantages to not having other skills beyond rearing children, you're always going to have a fallback social role. Even past childbearing age, you're considered to be a capable surrogate parent. If a man has no social utility, he's tossed to the bottom of society.
  • In the modern US, family law favors women to a strong degree. If you marry a man with assets, it's likely you can divorce and get half of it along with rights to child support and alimony. This gives you a strong negotiating position in all marital disputes. If the man walks away from negotiations, he loses 50% of everything. This is less likely to be the case in a marriage in which the woman out-earns the man.
  • There are many generous welfare programs targeted to single mothers. Even if you get rid of your co-parent, you'll still collect financial benefits that will help you raise your kid.
  • Longer life spans. Women tend to avoid many of the self-inflicted early deaths that men subject themselves to. Women outlive men in the US by an average of about five years [1]. In crisis-stricken countries like Russia, that gap can be as large as about 12 years. In the US, men are far more likely to be obese than women are. [2] Why is this the case? I'm not entirely sure. I've heard arguments that societies that prize the safety and social stability of females tend to succeed. When conditions turn bad, society can shed excess males, and they kill themselves off through some combination of drinking, drug abuse, obesity, suicide, and violence.


  • Much ado is made over female sex appeal. Helen of Troy's face launched a thousand ships. I'm unconvinced that this is a real advantage to being a female. Tall, handsome men can leverage appearance just as much if not more than a woman can. I'm bucking tradition and saying that this isn't a gender based advantage. An attractive woman can get a lot, but a charismatic male executive will be able to leverage good hair and > 6 foot height for many more years than an attractive woman can use her looks.
  • I'll suggest that men and women have similar enough potentials for mental achievement that it's a waste of time to be concerned about biological differences between the sexes in general intelligence. We are for the most part similar variants of the same hairless monkey. Our bodies may be different, but when it comes to the important matters of applying our intelligence to our problems, gender provides no advantage or disadvantage.


  • The 'affirmative action' mentality. Marie Curie can't just be a great scientist. She's a great scientist ... for being a woman. If your interests and abilities take you to a traditionally male pursuit, no matter how impressive your achievements are, you'll always be impressive 'for a woman' or merely for having XX chromosomes and having male interests. The kinds of policies that entrench this mentality are well-meaning but misguided.
  • "Looking presentable" requires way more effort for women than it does for men. Just getting your hair right requires deep knowledge of hair care and of current fashions. Men just have to manage to avoid cutting themselves too badly while shaving.
  • If you are too pretty, many will assume that you can't be smart. If you're too ugly, no one is likely to notice you or consider you valuable in other ways. Men can get away with looking hideous or odd to a far greater degree as long as they have other compensating talents.
  • Critics will always leap to a woman's appearance first when attempting to tar her character.
  • High-achieving women attract far more public opprobrium than high-achieving men do. The little people are always trying to hammer down the nails that stick out. High achieving women stick out farther than high achieving men do.
  • The most popular global religions consider people with XX chromosomes to be sources of serious bad juju magic. Religion is a powerful force for defining gender roles.
  • Women were basically property in many societies throughout most of human history -- treated with consideration varying from that accorded to an ox to that given to a treasured grand piano.
  • Magazine writers are always trying to tell women how to live their lives. Magazine writers are the least qualified types of person in the world to advise others on how to live their lives.
  • Throughout most of the world, female babies are targeted disproportionately for infanticide. This can reach epidemic levels in countries that enforce population controls.
  • Some consider women to be 'crazy' by default. Until recently, 'hysteria' was considered a legitimate mental illness much like homosexuality was. This lives on in modern jokes about PMS etc. to a milder degree. If a woman in your life was distraught or emotionally disturbed over something, you could have it considered an illness to be drugged away, or you could have an unruly woman imprisoned or lobotomized. Lest we forget how prevalent this was, António Egas Moniz co-won the 1949 Nobel prize for his research and practice of lobotomy. Don't like a woman's behavior? Have her brain sliced up! While this is no longer a prevalent practice, the ghost of it continues to haunt our culture. Know a woman experiencing emotional distress? She's just crazy! Let's not bother to sympathize with her or to try to understand the source of her distress.
  • Women suffer sexual assault at a higher rate than men do. The Department of Justice claims that 91% of rapes are targeted towards females. [3]


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