This is a philosophical question: I leave reproduction issues, those technical details, aside. The latter are in the process of being scientifically solved. We can imagine a society without men, so to ponder why we would need them is of the essence.
More urgently, the obverse problem has appeared: in many societies, boys are prefered to girls, and a vast gender gap of the most ominous type has surged.
However, in the self-doubting West, conflicts, for some reasons, is not as popular as it used to be, and men are supposed to be war-like and disruptive. Why not getting rid of them? (Whether this elimination has been proposed or not, is irrelevant. In the light of the campaign waged against many a virile personality trait, it is pretty obvious that the ideal of the Greek superhero of old, the hyper virile hoplite, is supposed to be extinguished.)
I asked one of my friends, a mountain guide. She generally climbs, when not guiding, with two other very strong climbers, who happen to be women. As I contemplated them, I wondered, indeed, what we needed men for. Could not that trio prove that women could do all what men could?
The question is not new. In the 1950s, when the Himalaya was immensely dangerous, French women constituted an entirely feminine expedition to climb some unconquered summit. However, mother nature decided otherwise, and smashed the arrogant creatures’ base camp below thousands of tons of snow.
My friend the guide told me the most ferocious boss she ever had was female. Moreover, although she agreed that men were pretty useless, at first sight, and thus that women could do without men, there was nevertheless something good about having males around. Women were pushed to go further when men were around.
The reciprocal reasoning has long been made by the chivalry, and the nascent romantic tradition. The Sixteenth Century French poet Ronsard pointed out, by claiming that love for the other gender was most transcendental:
Et moi sans faire long séjour
Je m’en vais de nuit et de jour
Au lieu d’où plus on ne retourne”.
Si est-ce que je ne voudrois
Avoir été ni roc ni bois,
Antre, ni onde, pour défendre
Mon corps contre l’âge emplumé,
Car ainsi dur je n’eusse aimé
Toi qui m’as fait vieillir, Cassandre.
ODES, IV, 10
Without sojourning long,
I am going, night and day,
To this place one does not come back from,
Yet, I would not have wanted
To be neither rock nor wood,
Cave, or Wave, to defend
My Body against feathered age,
As thus hard I would not have loved
You who made me age, Cassandra.
In other words: love is what makes life worthy. We pay for love, with life. That sounds a bit crazy, thus having crazy relations with the other half of humanity may help. Courtly love, which was invented in “love courts” set by women around the Twelfth Century had made the most ethereal form of love the most valuable value to guide humanity with.
My friend the mountain guide made the same point pragmatically: inter-gender relationships are more stimulating than having them not.
What the two genders do, is that they force us out of our mental box, or more exactly, our logic.
Can we rephrase this more… logically? Yes! The (slightly) different neurohormonalities, and maybe even neurologies, of men and women give us different logics. Call them L1 and L2. So by having women we get L1 (say) and by having men we get L2. So, with two genders, we get two logics. At first sight, that’s already twice richer than just one logic.
Moreover, by making L1 and L2 interact, we get more than just one or the other. Actually we get more than the union of L1 with L2. What we get, at the very least is the smallest logic containing both L1 and L2. We get META(L1, L2), comprising the meta discourse of L1 on L2 and of L2 on L1.
This is the big argument for neurohormonal diversity. And it can be generalized: the main mental reason for having physical exercise, adventures, or simply dreams, or poetry is that they create different neurohormonal states, and thus different logics.
This general reasoning of neurohormonal diversity generating logical diversity extends also to hermaphrodites and so-called “transgender” creatures.
Some may object that I talked about “logic”, and not of what men and women differ the most about, emotion. But my notion of “logic” covers “emotion”. “Emotion” is what gives meaning to logic, by assigning “truth values”, which are defined by practice, to generalized semiotics (in particular generalized semantics).
But this is a subject for another time. Passions, the supreme emotions, propel reason beyond the reasonable, and in this progress, our ever more transcendental nature. We need men and women, because we need ever more, and never less. And maybe violence of men is part of these riches, and the softness of women what is needed to make the Dark Side sustainable.
If advanced animals can be characterized by their Machiavellian intelligence, nature’s wisdom can be even more so. To have two genders with different ways of looking at, processing the world, and even being with the world, gives us stereoscopic vision for the mind’s eye. The mind of our culture, our all encompassing world culture, which can even drive biological evolution itself (another subject for the future).
Vive les différences!