| My son and I were recently discussing the difference between men and women and how they react to, and handle certain situations. He was questioning why it is that men seem to handle conflict with their friends and associates by having it out and then forgetting about it while women seem to hold grudges forever and plot and carry out long term vengeance when they are angry or feel that they have suffered some injury at the hands of another female. In fairness, he had come to these conclusions of gender stereotypes from observation over 18 years of interaction with his peers rather than any kind of preconception. Chuck is nothing if not scrupulously fair when it comes to these kinds of things.
It is an interesting question and a common enough difference that has been observed in philosophy and literature since anyone bothered to think about it and write it down. It appears as a theme in the Iliad, numerous myths from a variety of cultures, and countless fiction. Rudyard Kipling, who served in the British Army during one of their two wars in Afghanistan during the 19th century, wrote a poem once advising the British soldier that if he is wounded it would be wise to commit suicide if possible rather than allow himself to fall into the hands of the Afghan women. Evidently, submitting to the tender mercies of those ladies was considered something far worse than death, and that ought to tell you something.
I have a theory about this question. I have lots of theories on lots of questions and some of them are undoubtedly entirely bogus, but I like thinking about interesting questions and attempting to come up with interesting answers, so I have no problem risking the possibility of being bogus in the interest of finding answers to difficult questions. Besides, I could be right now and then, couldn't I? I like to think so, anyway.
My theory about why women and men often react differently in situations involving conflict is simple. Traditionally, men have always been the soldiers and warriors in most societies. Men have historically enjoyed organized conflict involving lots of people, deadly weapons, and the notable lack of women except those involved in what is euphemistically referred to as, “The world's oldest profession”, which you might think is nursing if you are laughably innocent, unrealistically optimistic, or pathetically naïve. The bottom line is that men have generally liked the idea of leaving home to kill people or get killed in pursuit of land, power, money, religion, or any other ridiculous excuse they can think of. The wives, mothers, sisters, and daughters are left behind to worry about them and make do as best they can. Sometimes they managed well enough, usually if they were on the top of the social heap and had money, but more often they ended up suffering abandonment in some pretty nasty ways. They were infinitely more vulnerable without the male members of their family around and they frequently ended up homeless, hungry, miserable, or worse. Often, their male protector and provider ended his illustrious military career dead in some far away place and they were left entirely on their own. Yippee.
Being left behind to take care of a family and property, worry about your male family members and wonder whether they are going to return carrying their shields or on them is pretty awful. If your husband gets himself killed in some stupid conflict there are basically two ways you can go with it. You can either hate the stupid Neanderthal for going off in the first place or hate the enemy for sending him to his final reward. In my mind, if a woman blamed her stupid husband for going off and getting himself killed in the Punic Wars, leaving her with nothing and a batch of kids, I wouldn't blame her in the least, but it usually didn't work that way. Plenty of women turned all that anger on the enemy and had plenty of hard times on her hands to plot revenge and indoctrinate her sons in a hatred for the other guy and a lust for vengeance and prepare her daughters for the likelihood of it happening to them. It is, after all, frequently easier to die than be left behind. The same could be said for women who had no choice in marriage and no power to object when their husbands played around with numerous other women. To this day women are quick to blame and hate the other woman long before they figure out that it makes far more sense to blame the guy who made the choice to cheat on them. When you go for many centuries with no recourse for justice and no power to alter harsh reality you have plenty of time to brood and plot and hold a grudge.
It might change a thousand years from now, but for the moment, we are all products of our history. For the moment, that's my theory about this particular difference between men and women and I'm sticking to it.