The 'Man' Question in International Relations

By Marysia Zalewski; Jane Parpart | Go to book overview

9
Sex, Power, and the Grail of Positive Collaboration

Ralph Pettman

Though not sports fans, my then-wife and I were once watching a soccer game on television when she suddenly said: "Why don't they give them all a ball? If they each had a ball then they wouldn't have to fight over that one."1

I immediately had an image of the men before me, each with a soccer ball of his own, dribbling and shooting goals to his heart's content and bothering others only on a reciprocal basis, the better to develop his ball-handling skills and his general awareness of movement itself. Soccer players do this at practice. They do it for fun. To do it in a match, however, would defeat the whole purpose of the game.

Nonetheless, the sudden image of so many players doing nothing but practicing made me wonder why people do anything else. Why do players try so hard to win? Why do people struggle so hard to prevail?

The teams were made up entirely of highly assertive males. This does not of course mean that males are more conflictual than females; conflict behavior is manifested by "women" as well as "men." However, men do enjoy greater preponderance than women in the world in politico-strategic, politico-economic, and politico-social terms. Could this be because conflict behavior, and the penchant to prevail that motivates it, is somehow more typical of men than women?

Using conflict to prevail entails using power of more than one sort, for example, brute force, physical dexterity, material wealth, or intellectual ingenuity. The exercise of such powers may require drawing on spiritual convictions, group loyalty, rhetorical resourcefulness, or (in the case of a gun-slinging standoff) physiological reflexes. In practice, power is not a noun; it's a verb. It's always about powering, about specific patterns of human practice that promote preponderance.

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