Megan McArdle has generated a surprising amount of discussion with a late-afternoon post arguing that “unless the group is overwhelmingly female, the dynamic of any mixed group always defaults to male, with women fading back into supporting conversational roles.” Further, she contends, “Men gain status by standing out from the group; women gain status by submerging themselves into it–by strengthening the group, often at the expense of themselves.”
Megan attends more parties than I do, so she has more examples to draw on, but this isn’t the dynamic I’ve observed. My experience is that the dynamics of groups dominated by youngish men change dramatically with the introduction of potentially datable women. Indeed, I’ve been at parties where the arrival of the world’s tallest female econoblogger caused, in short order, a clustering of males around said econoblogger.
Men have to work rather hard to stand out from the group. Women, especially reasonably attractive ones, do so without effort.
UPDATE: Kevin Drum counters, “I don’t think I agree that women generally gain status by submerging themselves into groups. They gain status the same way men do: by carving out a high-status role for themselves. They just do it differently.”
He doesn’t specify the difference.