Are Men Threatened by High-Achieving Women?

Why men feel compelled to “put women in their place.”

Posted Jun 17, 2017

Those of us who have had our eyes on Washington, DC in the past several months have seen several attempts by male members of the U.S. Senate to quiet female members. Whether it was Mitch McConnell’s recent attempt to silence Elizabeth Warren in the Jeff Sessions confirmation hearing (“Nevertheless she persisted”), or the more recent attempts to discount the questioning of Senator Kamala Harris (“she’s hysterical”), there is a double standard in the treatment of powerful and outspoken women.

This is not unique to politics. In an article in Elle magazine, Laurie Abraham discussed the negative reactions caused by a female athlete, the WNBA phenom Brittney Griner, who shows professional skills on a par with male players (e.g., she can dunk). Abraham labels this backlash as caused by "MAD" – Masculine Anxiety Disorder – the notion that males seem somehow threatened by a high-achieving woman, particularly in a typically male environment.

Although MAD is in no way a clinical diagnosis or category, I had been searching for a term to explain why I get negative reactions from men when I discuss the research finding that women have higher leadership potential than men. Some of the comments I receive are very misogynistic. Moreover, I also get a similar MAD reaction when I mention that women are outperforming men in college, and are taking on more and more of the leadership positions in universities.

I guess Abraham is as puzzled as I am by the extreme male reactions against high-achieving women, in politics, sports and elsewhere. Here’s an interesting report on a study of males being threatened by a female supervisor, and a link to Abraham’s article on Brittney Griner:

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