Today I was listening to some '70s rock (which lasted into 1981 or '82, before new wave took over), and it struck me how strong the female stars are -- Joan Jett, Pat Benatar, Blondie, even tiny Rachel Sweet. According to feminist dogma, it should have been the opposite: given how openly masculine and gender-insensitive that period of rock music was, women should have felt intimidated, perhaps even disgusted, and stayed away.
Contrast that period with the alternative rock period of the early-mid '90s -- the famous women are all of the neurotic trainwreck type. Sure, some of them yelled a lot, but then emotionally fragile people are prone to doing that. It hardly makes them strong. And just as before, this pattern among the women mirrored that found among the male stars, most of whom were afraid of their own balls (aside from Red Hot Chili Peppers, who formed their identity back in 1983). Dude, they're like, latent instruments of oppression, man...
It's easy to see that if the trend in pop culture favors the masculine, this will propel masculine men and women both into the spotlight, while if it favors moping, wusses of both sexes will crowd out their stronger alternatives. But we miss this simple truth when it comes to the jobs that we're supposed to worry about -- business, law, medicine, politics, academia, etc.
The roles, mores, and so on, that are expected in those institutions select for certain types of people. If we're supposed to re-fashion those roles so that they are more typically feminine, then guess what -- self-defeating, passive-aggressive people of both sexes will rise. Among men who were in the workforce before women's liberation, one of the main benefits of the old system was not only that they themselves could get shit done more easily, but that the women who did pass the test were close to them too -- unlike the catty, bitchy career women of today. Now everyone has to waste a lot of time and effort dancing around all sorts of "touchy" topics.
To make it simpler, how would you make girls physically stronger than they are now? It's not a trick question -- by putting a greater emphasis on strength in gym class! Make weightlifting regular, or at least have the kids do push-ups or toss medicine balls every day. The boys and the girls would grow bigger muscles. However, strip away the focus on strength -- say, by turning gym class into an aerobics class -- and suddenly the boys and girls alike will become weaklings. (Most people who you see exerting themselves lifting weights look to be in decent shape, while the people who you see riding bikes or jogging around town tend to look like hell.)
Of course, many girls -- probably most of them -- would just sit it out and maintain their pleasantly soft figure instead of bulking up. And women who couldn't hang with the men back in the pre-women's lib days would have happily taken a more feminine job instead. We don't really have to worry about that. But what about women who could become Olympic athletes or competent businesswomen? If the zeitgeist constrains the roles to be less masculine, then they will never be pushed to succeed and will remain underdeveloped. (Same goes for the men too, of course.)
Before women's lib, we had greater diversity in roles -- from very feminine to very masculine -- allowing a wider range of specialization and greater choice for individuals. But by biasing the roles systematically toward the feminine side, current institutions choke off half of the source of social and cultural dynamism, as people of both sexes who would thrive on the masculine side must join what they see as the namby-pamby side.
One encouraging sign comes, for once, from the obstreperousness of little boys. At least we know that the tolerance of emasculated social roles is beaten into them, rather than easily impressed upon a blank slate. Higher costs make it less stable over time. Most of the time when you hear some brat throwing a fit in public, you want to go over and put him in his place. But I make one exception, when I'll actually shoot him a nod of respect -- "ah maaaaaan, i don't wanna. that stuff's for girrrrls!"