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Male Answer Syndrom by Robert Genn

Male Answer Syndrome
- by Robert Genn

"Male Answer Syndrome" (MAS) is the tendency among men to give answers to questions whether they know anything about the subject or not, particularly when in the presence of women. The idea was first written about by Jane Campbell in the Utne Reader in 1992. It seems that women tend to be more truthful and modest about their knowledge--or lack of it--than men, and are more likely to answer, "I don't know." Some men hardly ever venture those three little words.

Psychologists tell us it's a form of "male display behavior" and is a subtle method of attracting females. It's prevalent in pretty well all cultures and can result in significant abuse when inappropriately used from positions of power--politicians, generals, salesmen, priests, critics, etc.

Researchers also report that many females actively encourage Male Answer Syndrome. Thus we have "Female Question Syndrome" (FQS), coined by Bob Genn in 2010. During a recent speech, I had an opportunity to observe the phenomenon and watch myself in action. Women asked pretty well all the questions. They were mostly good ones like, "Do you pre-visualize, or do you make it up as you go along?" or, "Why Sap green?" Straightforward and useful, these questions didn't leave much room for baloney. Questions of a more difficult nature had me catch myself to stay on track. The only male questioner was a folded-armed, glowering chap who asked, "Do you still have your Bentley?" I had the distinct feeling that he would rather be on the stage exhibiting MAS tendencies himself.

Now here's the interesting part: Jane Campbell pointed out, "Men have the courage and inventiveness to try to explain the inexplicable." This suggests the use of creativity, fictionalizing and visualization. A man may even start to believe his own baloney. This might account, in part, for the disproportionate number of men over women actively successful in the arts. While there are far more female artists than male, we often find the women networking, taking courses, and politely asking questions. At the same time, more men are riding to the top. In some cases it may be on ever-building crests of baloney.

Best regards,


PS: "Growing awareness of MAS has led some to call for a moratorium on all male-female conversation. This is alarmist. But women must remind themselves that if a man tells them something particularly interesting, there is a good chance that it is untrue." (Jane Campbell)

Esoterica: I have observed that successful male artists often exhibit some typical female tendencies (sensitivity, flair, humility, empathy, etc.), while successful female artists often exhibit some typical male tendencies (egotism, audacity, righteousness, exaggeration, etc.). Nothing to do with sexual preferences, it has lots to do with creative impulses. Men may be from Mars and women from Venus, but in the art game they both need to come together on Earth. Girls can also learn to take more liberties with the truth, to ride on a crest of baloney. And girls need to remember what boys have always known: The shakier the position, the more baloney required.


Current clickback: "The plight of perfectionists" looks into the "racket" of "never quite good enough," and the consequences, both good and bad. Remarkable input from our readers. Your further opinions and observations are appreciated.

Read this letter online and comment on the "Male Answer Syndrome" and where it has got us. Live comments are encouraged. You can also send your illustratable remarks directly to Robert at rgenn@saraphina.com.

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