Atkinson cites John Gottschall, author of The Professor in the Cage: Why Men Fight and Why We Like to Watch, who suggests: “We have a weird, weird, cultural attitude toward violence. We want to be above it very badly, and yet we’re obsessed with it.”
It’s strange that such ideas continue to pervade society, particularly at a time where women have been outspoken about the fear they feel as a result of male behaviour and those in positions of power are being accused of sexual assault and rape. It makes such attitudes towards fighting seem archaic - and really, they are. Even so, Gottschall explains that tribalism is a major component of why we feel the instinct to fight; it stems from a need to protect our property, people and pride.
Katty Kay and Claire Shipman write in The Atlantic about the “confidence gap” which separates the sexes. They explain: “Success, it turns out, correlates just as closely with confidence as it does with competence. No wonder that women, despite all our progress, are still woefully underrepresented at the highest levels.” Their research may have looked closely at the workplace and the confidence exhibited by employees, but it still applies to men and our instinct to fight. Perhaps in a nod to the Dunning-Kruger effect, those with low ability in an area or field believe their ability to be far greater than the reality. The theory suggests that when we lack competency, we don’t know enough to accurately assess our skill.
Ultimately, as Atkinson concludes, violence may be instilled in all of us, but it’s how we choose to deal with it that matters. As he suggests, “It’s about the kind of men we choose to be.”