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Why Does So Much Hate Mail Come From Men?

I’m sure that most academics are used to the following: Occasionally I write a scientific paper, an OpEd, or a blog entry in which I wade into some controversy or another, and in the ensuing few days receive some fairly vitriolic messages in my personal inbox. I’m not objecting — after all, it seems that I’ve had my chance to inflict my analysis on others.

But here’s the interesting observation: In all the hundreds of such pieces of hate mail I’ve received, not more than a handful have come from women. (It may even be zero.) And the sample size here is large enough that this is a statistically significant difference.

Moreover, the male dominance of my hate mail holds pretty steadily across both masculine domains (issues like race and the NBA, the death penalty), and more stereotypically feminine topics (happiness, gender, and the family).

Yes, I’m re-discovering that men are more aggressive than women. Duh. But why? Here are a few possibilities:

1. Preferences: Men find writing hate mail to be more enjoyable (or perhaps therapeutic).

2. Hormones: Aggression and testosterone are no strangers. See #1.

3. Cost of time: Typically we think about the wage as a marker of the marginal cost of time, but men have higher wages, which makes this all the more puzzling. Perhaps writing hate mail is crowding out ten minutes of SportsCenter for men, versus something more important (like childcare) for women.

4. Perceived productivity: Men are more likely to believe their missives will be closely read, leading the reader to nod slowly as they realize the error of their ways. Women are a bit more realistic.

5. Overconfidence: When there are competing views, men are often certain that they are right and I am wrong. Again, I would like to say that women are more realistic, but perhaps it is safer to simply say that they are less likely to be overconfident.

6. Value of anonymity: People are very rarely rude to me in person, suggesting that the anonymity of the internet is an important factor. Perhaps this is valued differently by men and women.

Other ideas? I look forward to your responses (vitriolic and otherwise).