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the munk debates

Are men necessary?


And I can prove it in eight words: Rob Ford. Ted Cruz. Dick Cheney. Anthony Weiner.

For centuries, it was widely thought that women were biologically unsuited to hold leadership positions.

Power was best wielded by men, theorists felt, because men were impersonal, unemotional, forthright and reasonable.

Aristotle wrote that women's minds should be kept free from exertion because "children evidently draw on the mother who carries them in her womb, just as plants draw on the soil." Darwin observed that while the female spent her energy forming her ova, the male spent "much force in fierce contests with his rivals." Even as late as 1970, after the social revolution of the 60s, Dr. Edgar F. Berman, Hubert Humphrey's personal physician and an official on a national policy-making committee of the Democratic Party, declared that his "scientific position" was that "women are different physically, physiologically and psychically." "If doctors do not know that there is such a thing as premenstrual tension," he said, huffily, "they'd better go back to medical school." He stuck to his guns even after his remarks caused such a furor that he had to resign. He left his job with this parting shot: "Pandora's box is no tender trap."

But the tables have finally turned. Men have not only stopped evolving. They're devolving.

Now it is unstable male temperament that is causing alarm. Male politicians are engaging in sneaky, catty, weepy, ditzy, shrewish behaviour that is anything but reasonable and impersonal.

Women are affected by lunar tides only once a month, after all. Men have raging hormones every day, as we noticed when Dick Cheney rampaged around the globe like Godzilla.

Rob Ford, a hot mess of a mayor, has had many wild outbursts that, if he were a woman, would certainly be labelled hysteria (from the Greek for womb.) Who but a hysteric excuses himself for smoking crack by saying he was in a drunken stupor when he did it?

Ted Cruz, your Canadian senator south of the border, is a scary Mean Girl. He threw a hissy fit over Obamacare that shut down the government for 16 days and cost the American economy $24-billion. Afterwards, with a feline grin, he flounced around, calling it a good model going forward for "empowering" Americans.

Rand Paul, the libertarian senator from Kentucky, grew sulky and needed a fainting couch when the relentless Rachel Maddow blasted out that he was a kleptomaniac with Wikipedia; an aberration that will now be recorded on his Wikipedia page.

The most emotional member of Congress is John Boehner, who starts blubbering at the slightest sentimental provocation. Unlike his macho Democratic counterpart, Nancy Pelosi, he's not adept at math and counting. He keeps acting ditzy, bringing Tea Party bills to the floor of the House that do not have the votes to pass.

If you want to talk about catty behaviour, consider this: Ken Cuccinelli – the Republican who lost the Virginia governor's race because he scared off a lot of women voters by sponsoring a "personhood" bill giving legal rights to embryos from the moment of fertilization – refused to call the Democratic winner, Terry McAuliffe, to congratulate him.

Anthony Weiner, the digital diva who self-destructed in the New York mayor's race, makes Kim Kardashian seem modest and retiring. The manic magpie, who couldn't stop vamping and sending out naked priapic selfies to strangers, especially repulsed his wife's boss, Hillary Clinton.

And when you're a weenie, like Weiner, you don't want to make a Warrior, as Hillary is called by her staff, mad.

When women rule the world, men will want to avoid riling them.

Maureen Dowd is the winner of the 1999 Pulitzer Prize for distinguished commentary and the author of Are Men Necessary? She has been a New York Times op-ed columnist since 1995. She will be debating with Hanna Rosin, the founder of Double X, a women's website connected to the online magazine Slate, and the author of The End of Men.