TIME Family

The Dad 2.0 Summit: Making the Case for a New Kind of Manhood

Father with baby son on shoulders
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"Traditional ideas of masculinity can get in our way of being the kind of fathers we want to be”

At the fourth annual Dad 2.0 Summit, Dr. Michael Kimmel reviews the four classic rules for what it means to be a “real man”:

  • No sissy stuff.
  • Be a big wheel.
  • Be a sturdy oak.
  • And give ’em hell.

Or so they say. “Traditional ideas of masculinity,” Kimmel says, “can get in our way of being the kind of fathers we want to be.”

This summit, nearly double the size it was in 2012, has been at the forefront of an ongoing revolution in how America perceives fatherhood. The new dad, the kind Kimmel’s talking about, is one who is sexy and strong because he’s involved and nurturing — just as capable of being a parent as Mom is and happily doing half the work. The attendees that Kimmel is giving his keynote speech to in San Francisco are the kind of daddy bloggers (and mommy bloggers) who have raged against the “bumbling father” stereotypes, as well as the many, many sponsors who subsidized their tickets.

For all the progress the revolution has made, Kimmel, executive director at the Center for the Study of Men and Masculinities at Stony Brook University in New York, is here to spread the message that it’s not time for back-patting yet, that men need to do more to support other men if America is really going to redefine what masculinity looks like (e.g., not just a big emotionless tree).

Young fathers today are more involved than previous generations. They are doing more housework. They are doing more of the child care. Yet, Kimmel says, the fact that a generation of men is doing more than their fathers did — which might have been financially supporting the family and never touching a diaper — can lead to “premature self-congratulation” that belies how much work there is left to do. Since 1965, according to the Pew Research Center, women have nearly tripled the amount of paid work they do each week, and while fathers are doing more to help with the house and kids, they’re still doing half what the moms are. Millennial and Gen X fathers often say they believe in having absolutely equal, 50-50, split-down-the-line relationships, but the reality is that more of the caregiving is still falling to Mom.

One of Kimmel’s core culprits when it comes to that gap is parental leave, as well as the lack of men taking it when it is available. Some companies that are dying to be on the cutting-edge of employee care, like Google and Facebook, are handing out three or more months of paid paternity leave, and some cities are working to mandate time off for moms and dads. But the U.S. is sorely lagging. Unlike almost all industrialized nations in the world, the American government does not mandate paid parental leave. Only about half of first-time moms are able to take paid leave. And according to the Society for Human Resource Management, only 12% of U.S. employers offer any paid paternity leave. So staying home in the early days, with or without pay, more often falls to the women.

The cycle of Mom staying at home in the first few weeks or months while Dad works can lead to a storyline like this: Man and woman believe they’re in a completely equal relationship. Man and woman have child. Woman takes maternity leave while Dad works. She gets more practice at child care. More child-care tasks start falling to her. Over the years, thing after thing related to the household and family falls to woman, many times unnoticed. A little cleaning here. A little appointment-scheduling there. Eventually, the relationship is decidedly unequal, even though that’s not what either of them planned. Opening his speech, Kimmel showed a picture of his son holding up a sign. It read, “I need feminism because it’s easy to ignore sexism when it works in our favor. #ItsOnUs.”

In his work with corporations, Kimmel was early on told that many men weren’t taking paternity leave when it was offered. So where’s the need the offer it?!, the corporations said. This is where the men-supporting-men thing comes in. Kimmel went and talked to men who hadn’t taken leave when their children came. What he found out was that when they told male colleagues they were considering it, they got responses like, “Oh, so you’re not really dedicated to your career.” Another man was told, “Oh, that’s great. You should go. We’ll just put you on the daddy track.” (Read: Not up for the next promotion.)

Upon finding out that one man was considering leave, a partner at his firm leaned over to him and said that he was 64 years-old with three grown kids and he didn’t know any of their birthdays; men have to make sacrifices at home. In many cases, this kind of anti-dad response was enough to keep men from taking the benefits they could. A fella doesn’t have to be a major league baseball player missing games to be with a newborn in order to be derided for putting family ahead of work.

“For the past 40 years, women have been coming out as workers,” Kimmel said toward the end of his speech. “Now men have to come out in public, in our workplaces, as dads.”

Joseph Fowler, a 38-year-old father at the summit, has gone all in and is staying at home with his two kids, a 5-year-old girl and 3-year-old boy. He’s walking around the sponsor room at the summit, where radial saws are being touted next to apple sauce, where the Lego displays are crowned with red flags and pink umbrellas. Fowler says that the lessons he learned about how to be a man from his father were precisely the rules that Kimmel laid out in his speech — to be tough, to be stoic. He looks tough, with broad shoulders and a giant ring he got after the college-football team he coached went to the Orange Bowl. And he says he’s trying to raise his son with a different idea of what it means to be a man. “You can be manly and compassionate,” he says. “And it’s O.K. to show your emotions.” He calls himself a “dad advocate” and says he’s mentoring other dads in the same vein, teaching them that it’s masculine to be a present, responsive father.

The brands at the summit, in far greater number than 2012, are clamoring to be on the right side of people like Fowler. Esquire is live-streaming dad talk at the summit. Lee is giving dads a custom-fit pair of jeans. Kia is letting them test-drive cars. Lego is throwing a party at LucasFilm studios with actual storm troopers walking around. The primary sponsor of the event continues to be Dove Men+Care, which ran a much-talked-about ad during the Super Bowl that featured loving fathers who exemplified “real strength” (which was also the wi-fi password at the summit). These ads for a new generation of dads have been pushed in part by conferences like this, and they’re going to help make it harder for men to scoff at other men who want to put home on par with, or before, the office. General Mills wants to be the official “cereal of dadhood,” which is a 180 from the 2012 Huggies commercial — which showed dads with babies in the vein of monkeys with typewriters — that prompted protest among (and got tons of attention for) the dads at the first Dad 2.0 conference.

At one point the head marketer at Unilever, Dove’s parent company, takes the stage. Behind her flash pictures of men playing with their kids and holding their kids. “This is what being a strong man looks like,” says Jennifer Bremner. “Showing emotion, helping a friend, consoling a child.” She tells the crowd that she has been in marketing a long time and her brother had never much commented on her career, until he saw their ad with the same message that played during the Super Bowl. The text she got from him had two words on it, she says: “About time.” The crowd filled the hall with claps of approval.

TIME Books

Controversy About This Feminist Manifesto Is Nothing New

Betty Friedan
Jim Seymour—;The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Betty Friedan pictured in 1965

Feb. 19, 1963: Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique is published

To feminists of the Lean In era, the revolutionary premise of The Feminine Mystique — that women could, and should, be more than full-time homemakers — seems so dated it’s almost quaint. But its lasting subversiveness is apparent in its listing on a conservative magazine’s 2005 roster of the “Ten Most Harmful Books of the 19th and 20th Centuries.” Betty Friedan’s feminist manifesto, published on this day, Feb. 19, in 1963, made the list at #7 (just behind Marx’s Das Kapital) more than four decades after becoming a wildly controversial bestseller.

The magazine found her slightly less noxious than Hitler, whose Mein Kampf measured up at #2, but took issue with her characterization of stay-at-home mothers as prisoners of “comfortable concentration camps.”

The Feminine Mystique provoked even wider outrage in its day. Even before the book came out, there were those who couldn’t stand it — within the very publishing house that ultimately produced it. According to the New York Times, while the president of W.W. Norton lauded Friedan’s book proposal, calling it “overstated at almost every point, yet entirely stimulating and provocative,” another staffer objected that Friedan’s arguments were “too obvious and feminine.”

“I got very tired of phrases like ‘feminine mystique,’” the staffer said.

The Times gave the book an ambivalent review, calling it provocative and highly readable but also challenging Friedan’s central claims. “It is superficial to blame the ‘culture’ and its handmaidens, the women’s magazines, as she does,” the review alleges. “To paraphrase a famous line, ‘The fault, dear Mrs. Friedan, is not in our culture, but in ourselves.’”

TIME, meanwhile, paid little heed to Friedan and gave more ink to a 1964 book praising traditional stay-at-home motherhood, by the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Phyllis McGinley. (According to TIME, McGinley insisted that becoming a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet was “an accident, and that her role as a housewife (was) more satisfying.”)

Rebutting the Smith College-educated Friedan and her ilk, who rejected the “sweet, simpering and sort of stupid” feminine ideals of their day, McGinley suggested that wives let their husbands educate them. “The whole duty of a wife is to bolster her husband’s self-esteem,” she writes, per TIME. “A man’s ego bruises easily. It is not nourished like a woman’s by the sheer biological ability to bear children.”

And, after being criticized for undermining the traditional family structure in some circles, she found herself criticized elsewhere for not undermining it enough.

Although she was credited with helping found the second-wave feminist movement, some of the movement’s members found her too tame to lead a revolution. Friedan was no bra-burner, after all. She shaved her legs, wore makeup, dressed stylishly, and, according to TIME, “insisted that it was not necessary to give up femininity to achieve equality.”

In her memoir, as reviewed in TIME, Friedan recalled New York Congresswoman Bella Abzug’s objection to Friedan founding the National Women’s Political Caucus: “‘This is my turf,’ she screamed at me.”

Read TIME’s full review of that memoir, here in the archives: The Friedan Mystique

TIME movies

This Is How Few Women Landed a Top Hollywood Role Last Year

"The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1" - LA Premiere
Axelle—Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic/Reuters Actress Jennifer Lawrence at the Los Angeles premiere of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay–Part 1 on Nov. 17, 2014

The number is even smaller than in 2013

Last year, only 12% of the top 100 grossing films in Hollywood had female lead characters, a three-point decline from 2013.

A study examining 23,000 roles found that in the top-grossing domestic films of 2014, women were severely underrepresented as protagonists. Furthermore, only 11% of all female characters last year were African-American, and only 4% were Latina or Asian.

The occupations in which the on-screen women were cast were often stereotypically female roles like mother, girlfriend or wife — identities that often hinged on a male lead.

The actresses who did land leading roles were also of a younger age than their male counterparts, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

“The chronic underrepresentation of girls and women reveals a kind of arrested development in the mainstream film industry,” said Martha Lauzen at the Center for the Study of Women in Television at San Diego State University.

“It is unfortunate that these beliefs continue to limit the industry’s relevance in today’s marketplace.”

[THR]

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: February 4

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. ISIS is bringing recruits onto the battlefield faster than we can kill them.

By Tim Mack and Nancy A. Youssef in the Daily Beast

2. If body cameras become standard issue for police officers, how will we protect the privacy of people being recorded?

By Paul Rosenzweig in The Christian Science Monitor

3. A university recognizes a third gender: Neutral.

By Julie Scelfo in the New York Times

4. Can the rest of the nation — and the world — learn from one Indian state’s incredible success reducing poverty and improving quality of life?

By the World Bank

5. Want better schools? Leadership matters. Invest in high-quality professional development for school principals.

By Arianna Prothero in Education Week

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Media

Meet the First Ever Female Editor of the Economist

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle speaks during a forum session at the World Economic Forum, with Moderator Zanny Minton Beddoes and Luis de Guindos Jurado, Spanish Minister for Economy, on Jan. 25, 2013 in Davos.
Raphael Huenerfauth—Photothek/Getty Images Zanny Minton Beddoes moderates a conversation between German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle and Luis de Guindos Jurado, Spanish Minister for Economy, on Jan. 25, 2013 in Davos.

Zanny Minton Beddoes is the first woman to helm the news magazine in its 172-year history

The Economist magazine has promoted its business affairs editor Zanny Minton Beddoes to the publication’s top spot, marking the first time a woman has been in the role.

Beddoes joined the Economist in 1994 after working as an economist at the International Monetary Fund, and was based in Washington, D.C., for much of her time with the magazine. She moved to London last year. The promotion will see her taking over for John Micklethwait, who was the editor of the magazine for nine years and who is leaving at the end of January to become editor-in-chief of Bloomberg News.

The Financial Times reports that 13 candidates applied for the position, including two outsiders. Rupert Pennant-Rea, chairman of the Economist Group, told the Guardian, “[Beddoes] will be a true advocate for the Economist and its values.”

[FT]

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: January 22

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Want to improve your bottom line? Diversify your workplace.

By Joann S. Lublin in the Wall Street Journal

2. Journalism shouldn’t be a transaction for communities. A local news lab can make it transformational.

By Josh Stearns in Medium

3. The spike of hysteria about artificial intelligence could threaten valuable research.

By Erik Sofge in Popular Science

4. A new vision for securing work and protecting jobs can ensure stability in the face of rising automation.

By Guy Ryder at the World Economic Forum

5. Purchasing carbon offsets is easy. With carbon ‘insetting,’ a business folds sustainable decisions into the supply chain.

By Tim Smedley in the Guardian

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME society

How To Shake Up Gender Norms

ballerina-girl-holding-basketball
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Will continuing to challenge gender norms and document their harmful impacts lead to their extinction — or evolution?

What determines your destiny? That’s a big question with what should be a complicated answer. But for many, the answer can be reduced to one word: anatomy. Freud’s assertion in 1924 that biology is the key determinant of gender identity, for instance, was for years a hegemonic idea in both law and culture.

Ever since Freud made this notion famous, critics have been objecting to body parts as central predictors of one’s professional and personal path. Many now believe that identity isn’t solely the domain of nature or nurture, but some combination of the two. Still, Freud’s theory isn’t yet dead; enduring gender norms show us that the bodies we’re born into still govern lives of women and men around the world.

But according to some recent research, its influence may be fading. In one new study, a majority of millennials surveyed argued that gender shouldn’t define us the way it has historically, and individuals shouldn’t feel pressure to conform to traditional gender roles or behaviors. Enforcing norms can even have health risks, according to another study. Some women’s colleges are now reportedly rethinking their admissions policies to account for gender non-conforming students. And even President Obama is getting in on the norm-questioning trend: While sorting holiday gifts for kids at a Toys for Tots in December, the president decided to place sporting equipment in the box for girls. “I’m just trying to break down these gender stereotypes,” he said in a viral video.

But will continuing to challenge gender norms and document their harmful impacts lead to their extinction? To answer that question, we need to first consider another: What’s so bad about traditional gender norms and the way we currently categorize men and women?

For one thing, the way we categorize gender is far too facile, explained Alice Dreger, a leading historian of science and medicine, in a 2010 TED Talk. “We now know that sex is complicated enough that we have to admit nature doesn’t draw the line for us between male and female… we actually draw that line on nature,” she told the audience. “What we have is a sort of situation where the farther our science goes, the more we have to admit to ourselves that these categories that we thought of as stable anatomical categories that mapped very simply to stable identity categories are a lot more fuzzy than we thought.”

Fuzzy – and maybe not entirely real in the first place.

“If there’s a leading edge that is the future of gender, it’s going to be one that understands that gender is relative to context,” said author and gender theorist Kate Bornstein at a recent New America event, noting that geography, religion, and family attitudes are all contextual factors that can alter one’s perception of gender as a determinant of identity. As long as we hold onto the notion that gender is a constant, “we’ll keep doing things to keep the lie in place,” she said. But the fact is that “it doesn’t stand on its own, and is always relative to something.” Bornstein argues that the trick to stripping these norms of their harmful power is to mock and expose them for both their flimsiness and stringency.

Which is what photographer Sophia Wallace attempts with her work. Girls Will Be Bois, for example, is a documentary of female masculinity, featuring women who have traditionally “un-feminine” occupations – bus driver, boxer, basketball player – and a sartorial masculinity (baggy pants, and bare-chested). In Modern Dandy, Wallace switches up the way women and men are directed to look at the camera (or not) in photographs – whether to appear submissive (traditionally feminine) or dominant (traditionally masculine). Cliteracy, Wallace’s most recent work, uses imagery of the clitoris and text about female sexuality to illuminate a paradox: we’re obsessed with sexualizing female bodies, and yet the world is “illiterate when it comes to female sexuality.”

But it’s not as bad as it once was. Wallace thinks that photography is evolving – that some gender-focused imagery is less tinged with ignorance today. “There’s so much that I’ve seen that has been hopeful,” she said. “There are actually images of female masculinity, trans-men and trans-women now that didn’t exist when I was in my teens and early 20s. In other ways we have so far to go.”

Part of the struggle of relinquishing gender norms comes from an uncomfortable truth. “Men have everything to gain when we overthrow patriarchy…but they also have something to lose from giving up their traditional masculinity,” said Tavia Nyong’o, an associate professor of performance studies at NYU, emphasizing that male rights vary widely across race and class divisions and that white men have even more to lose than men of color. What do they lose, exactly? Privileges (the ability to open carry a gun and not be worried that they’ll be shot by the police, Nyong’o argued). Control – over political, economic and cultural domains. Access – to networks, jobs and economic opportunities. Put simply, they lose power.

“You walk out the door in the morning with a penis and your income is 20 percent higher on average for nothing that you did,” said Gary Barker, the international director of Promundo, an organization that engages men and boys around the world on issues of gender equality.

When asked whether the future of gender was evolution and extinction, Barker, Nyong’o, Wallace and Bornstein all said they hoped for extinction. But at the same time, each acknowledged how difficult that goal would be to achieve. Beyond the power dynamics, there’s a level of comfort in well-worn identities. “It’s easy to sit in these old roles that we’ve watched and to feel a certain comfort in their stability in a world that feels kind of hard to understand,” Barker said.

But change is not impossible. Barker advises demonstrating how our traditional version of masculinity may not actually be worth the fight. “Men who have more rigid views of what it means to be men are more likely to suicidal thoughts, more likely to be depressed, less likely to report they’re happy with life overall, less likely to take care of their health, more likely to own guns, the list goes on,” he said. “There is something toxic about this version of masculinity out there.”

Detoxing society requires ripping off a mask of sorts. “It’s about getting as many people as possible to have that Matrix moment, Barker said, when they realize, “wait – [masculinity] isn’t real. It’s all illusory, it’s all performance.”

Elizabeth Weingarten is the associate director of New America’s Global Gender Parity Initiative. This piece was originally published in New America’s digital magazine, The Weekly Wonk. Sign up to get it delivered to your inbox each Thursday here, and follow @New America on Twitter.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Sex

Jealousy: One More Way Men and Women are Different

Trouble ahead: Just which kind depends on who's at the door
Anton Ovcharenko—Getty Images Trouble ahead: Just which kind depends on who's at the door

It's never easy to be cheated on, but how you react depends on your sex

Not that I cheated on my college girlfriend when we were both freshmen attending schools 130 miles apart. But if I did, I had an excuse: I was young, I was male and I was an idiot. These are conditions that psychologists like to call “co-morbid.”

The only good thing I can say about myself in this very hypothetical scenario, is that at least I had the honesty to ‘fess up to my faithlessness the next time I saw her. She was not—you won’t be surprised to learn—pleased with my behavior. But what I was surprised to learn (bearing in mind the young, male and stupid thing again) was that she was less upset by the sexual aspect of my infidelity than the emotional.

Soon enough, I came to learn that that was the way of things when it comes to women’s reactions to cheating—or at least that’s the stereotype. The equally glib corollary is that men can tolerate the nuzzling and canoodling part of infidelity better than they can the flesh crescendo it leads to.

Now, research out of Chapman University in Orange, California confirms that when it comes to this one aspect of the great gender divide, the big news is that there is no news to report. The stereotypes, it turns out, are spot on.

The study, published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, was an ambitious one, involving a whopping 63,894 male and female respondents of both sexes, aged 18 to 65. In addition to basic biographical information such as income, marital history and sexual orientation, the participants were asked to choose (whether from imagination or painful experience) if they’d be hurt more by the carnal or cuddly part of being cheated on.

By a margin that would qualify as a landslide in politics, heterosexual men outpaced heterosexual women 54% to 35% on the physical side of the hurt-feelings equation, while heterosexual women beat heterosexual men 65% to 46% on the emotional side. Homosexual and bisexual men and women were troubled more or less equally by both aspects.

“Heterosexual men really stand out from all other groups,” said psychologist and lead author David Frederick, in a statement. “They were the only ones more likely to be most upset by sexual infidelity.”

In fairness to the straight guys, there’s more than just the doofus factor at work here—there’s also evolution, according to the authors. Short of a paternity test (which hardly existed when our behavioral coding was first being written millions of year ago), a male can never be absolutely certain that a child his mate bears is his, so physical infidelity poses a much greater risk.

And while males in the state of nature are hardwired to mate and mate and mate some more because it’s easy, fun and a calorically cheap way to get their genes across to the next generation, females are coded to seek protection and resources since it’s awfully hard to fetch food and defend against predators while giving birth and nursing. Even modern women are thus inclined—at least evolutionarily—to worry more about the outside romance that may cost them a partner than the roll in the hay that could be a one-time thing.

Societal expectations—outmoded though they may be—exacerbate the difference. Men are still judged more harshly (if only by themselves) in terms of their sexual prowess, while women are brought up to value bonding. Being cheated on thus has a different effect on the sexes because it threatens different aspects of their self-esteem.

Making the study more impressive was that the researchers corrected for nearly every variable other than gender that could have influenced the results—and repeatedly came up empty. Marital status didn’t play a role, nor did a history of being cheated on, nor did income, length of relationship or whether a respondent had children or not. The only factor that seemed to make some difference was that younger respondents of both genders reported a higher degree of upset at the physical aspects of infidelity. That’s probably because younger people of both sexes are in the stage of their lives when they’re helping themselves to that aspect more, so it makes a bigger difference in their relational well-being.

None of this alters the larger takeaway, which is that cheating still stinks. And none of it changes the fact that even a few decades on, a hypothetical person who was guilty of such a thing might still feel kind of bad about it. Or that’s what I’ve been told, but I wouldn’t know. Really.

Read next: Here Are All the Sexist Ways the Media Portrayed Both Men and Women in 2014

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TIME politics

India’s First Openly Transgender Mayor Elected

She's from the lowest caste and beat her opponent by 4,500 votes

A transgender woman from the lowest caste in India was elected mayor on Sunday, making her the first openly transgender mayor in the country’s history.

Madhu Bai Kinnar was elected mayor of Raigarh, in the state of Chhattisgarh, and beat her opponent from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), by a margin of 4,500 votes. She is a member of the Dalit caste, previously known as the “untouchables,” and previously earned her living singing and dancing on trains, Reuters reports.

The victory comes just nine months after an Indian court ruled that transgender be recognized as a third gender. Transgender people, known in the area as hijras, are classified in India as people who were identify as the opposite of their born gender or who have undergone sex change operations.

“People have shown faith in me. I consider this win as love and blessings of people for me. I’ll put in my best efforts to accomplish their dreams,” Kinnar said in local news reports. “It was the public support that encouraged me to enter the poll fray for the first time and because of their support only, I emerged as the winner.”

TIME Research

10 Surprising Health Benefits of Being a Woman

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Being a woman carries a host of health and body payoffs

Members of the so-called weaker sex, listen up. Thanks in part to the protective benefits of female hormones, as well as the lifestyle choices women tend to make, you’re afforded a host of body payoffs guys don’t get. “Men notoriously pay less attention to their health and prefer to take a macho approach rather than go to the doctor to get things checked out,” says J. Leonard Lichtenfeld, MD, deputy chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society. The following 10 ways women come out on top health-wise will make you glad you were born with two X chromosomes.

Women blow out more birthday candles

When it comes to longevity, chicks rule. A girl born in 2012 (the most recent year statistics are available) can expect to live until age 81.2; a boy is likely to hit 76.4, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. Researchers aren’t entirely sure what accounts for those extra four years. “It might have to do with the fact that women have lower rates of heart disease compared to men, though women are catching up,” explains Nieca Goldberg, MD, medical director of the women’s heart program at the Joan H. Tisch Center for Women’s Health at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City. “But it may be a result of women maintaining stronger social ties to friends and family, because social ties are linked to longevity.

Women have a higher pain tolerance

The notion that men face pain with unflinching stoicism while women are more sensitive to every ache is not exactly reflected in research. Though the jury is still officially out, numerous studies back up the fact that women appear to have a higher pain threshold than men, says Dr. Goldberg, with pain threshold defined as the amount of pain it takes to register in the body. Of course, it makes sense that females need to be able to withstand pain, considering how much of it is typically experienced during childbirth. “Women have to be able to sustain the agony during labor and delivery,” says Dr. Goldberg.

HEALTH.COM: 10 Things That Mess With Your Period

Head and neck cancers strike more men than women

The statistics tell the story: the National Cancer Society estimates that this year, about 30,000 men will be diagnosed with oral cavity or pharynx cancer, while just 12,000 women will. And when it comes to esophageal cancer, 14,000 men can expect to develop it this year, compared to only 3,000 women. Why do head and neck cancers discriminate so openly based on sex? Cancers that occur in these body areas are strongly linked to tobacco and alcohol use. “Though women are catching up, men still indulge is smoking and drinking in higher numbers, so they develop these cancers in higher numbers too,” says Dr. Lichtenfeld.

Melanoma rates are lower in older women

Before age 45, rates of melanoma—the least common yet deadliest form of skin cancer—are higher in women, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. It’s a trend researchers attribute to the popularity of tanning indoors and out. But after that point, it’s men who bear the brunt of the disease in more significant numbers. “It’s unusual for melanoma to strike at a young age, and by the time they reach their 50s and 60s, we start to see high numbers of white men with it, probably due to accumulated skin damage over time after decades of working outside, or playing outdoor sports, without the benefit of sunscreen,” says Dr. Lichtenfeld.

HEALTH.COM: 20 Weird Facts About Sex and Love

Women have a keener sense of smell

No wonder candles, soaps, detergents, and perfumes cater to female noses. Compared to men, women appear to have a sharper odor detection, with women having up to 50% more cells in their olfactory bulb (the first region of the brain to receive signals about odors), according to a recent study in the journal PLOS ONE. The study lends weight to the idea that women are superior sniffers, but it doesn’t explain why. One theory: a keener sense of smell helps women detect the pheromones that help her pick the right mate; another postulates that being able to detect rancid odors helps a woman protect her offspring from infection and disease.

HDL cholesterol levels are higher in women

HDL cholesterol, the good kind, is associated with strong heart health. It’s credited with preventing plaque buildup in the arteries of premenopausal women and protecting them from the early heart disease that may already be developing in men in the same age group. “Estrogen raises good cholesterol throughout a woman’s childbearing years, when estrogen production peaks,” says Goldberg. Estrogen output drops off following menopause, and HDL cholesterol goes with it. But if you continue to eat nutritiously, stay at a healthy weight, and have your cholesterol tested regularly, your HDL cholesterol numbers can continue to stay in a healthy range so you can maintain that estrogen-fueled head start against heart disease.

HEALTH.COM: 25 Exercises You Can Do Anywhere

The female brain has better recall

Several scientific studies suggest what a lot of women already know anecdotally: women are simply better at remembering things. A 2014 Norwegian study of about 37,000 people from the journal BMC Psychology bears this out: though older people in general had more memory issues, men of all ages, young and old, were more forgetful than their female counterparts. Why that is isn’t exactly clear, but previous research has suggested that it may be due to brain degeneration caused by cardiovascular disease or high blood pressure, both of which strike more men than women.

Women are less likely to become alcoholics

“Men are up to twice as likely to develop alcoholism as women are,” explains Holly Phillips, MD, New York City women’s health specialist and medical contributor for WCBS News. One reason for a guy’s increased risk of addiction to booze has to do with the brain chemical dopamine, says Dr. Phillips. A recent study of male and female social drinkers found that men had a greater dopamine release than women in an area of the brain called the ventral striatum, which is strongly associated with pleasure, reinforcement, and addiction formation. There may be a psychological component as well. “While women are more likely to become depressed than men in response to common environmental triggers such as illness or grieving a death—a process some psychologists see as turning pain inward—men may be more likely to numb the pain with substances,” adds Dr. Phillips.

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Women tend to accumulate less belly fat

Instead of bemoaning the fact that you tend to pack extra pounds on your butt, hips, and thighs, be happy about it—it means your risk of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and other chronic diseases is lower than if fat tended to develop across your midsection, as it generally does in men. “Apple-shaped bodies, which more men have, hold more fat around the heart and upper abdomen, increasing heart disease risk,” says Dr. Phillips. “Pear shaped bodies keep fat away from the heart, which is a good thing.” Fat around the middle can also increase the risk of certain cancers, says Dr. Lichtenfeld. Researchers are learning that belly fat is metabolically active, producing hormones that cause a chain reaction in the body, resulting in higher levels of inflammation and insulin resistance, which leads to disease.

Women have a delayed heart attack risk

While a man’s odds of developing heart disease and having a major coronary begin in his 40s or even earlier, says Dr. Phillips, a woman’s risk doesn’t really begin until after she hits 50 and goes through menopause—giving women some extra time before being susceptible to the number one killer of both men and women. “Women have their first heart attack a full 10 years after men do,” says Dr. Goldberg. A younger woman’s better cholesterol profile plays a role, but estrogen or lifestyle choices, such as eating healthier, seems to have additional protective benefits, such as keeping blood pressure down (high blood pressure is a heart attack risk factor). However, things change after menopause. “After 50, a woman’s vulnerability to heart disease begins to resemble that of males,” says Dr. Phillips.

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This article originally appeared on Health.com

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