Dear Debra Stone,
Penelope Rose recently began a post that ties into your question here. It is in the Bedroom with the title: "The impulse, never to be indulged, of complete surrender". Penelope includes an illuminating and facinating quote from the famous anthropolgist Margaret Mead where she describes the peculiar socialized sexual relationship between boys and girls in America that continues through out their lives (into adulthood) which pretty much confounds any chance of developing a mutual relationship of responsibility between the two for each other and themselves. I urge you to read the quote at least twice. I've read it four times and each time that I've read it I understood an additional cirlce of failed interpersonal relationship dynamics between the sexes. Anyway, the answer to your question is wrapped up within Margaret Mead's evaluation of male/female sexual dynamics.
My quick response to your question is that I believe that when men do that put down of women game they are relating to one another, sort of courting one another, maybe the word "showing off" to get recognition from the other male(s) to illustrate that they are the one who has the best greatest sense of self command and independence from needing to appeal to women. The behaviour has nothing to do with the particular woman; their behaviour is directed towards the nature of their relationship with women that causes them to feel self contempt. Subsumed in the behaviour is that their relationship with women is not fulfilling in some way. It is more complex then I am explaining and beyond my ability to fully understand.
I've seen young women when in a group do this towards individual men. It seems to be of the chimpaneze in us. It is odd how a group of males or a group of females behave differently together than they do when an individual and encounter a lone member of the other sex. One thing that seems to have been in common to all the situations in which this "put down" happens is that it always involves a collective humour where the group (male, female, or club of some sort) participate in something like we experience in stand up comedy skits focused on the "one who is out", not part of the group sharing the humour. Here is a real example.
On a very cold, windy, January day I was installing a telephone booth in a medium sized city. While I was inside the telephone booth making the electrical connections in the overhead light fixture I closed the folding doors to shut out the bitter cold. I found that with the doors closed and working for ten minutes on the fixture over my head with my arms raised messing with the wires that I was getting very warm, too warm. So I began trying to remove my heavy coat that was catching on my tool belt. Suddenly a voice boomed:
"Hey guys, look at that ....... it's Superman!"
I looked out through the glass panels and saw a group of about 12 sundry people stumbling dowards me along the sidewalk. It was a class of mentally disabled students with their mentor. The guy who called out the observation that I was "Superman" was the pointman in the group. They all began laughing uproariously, laughing until they had tears in their eyes, including the mentor. Sure enough, I must have appeared to be trying be changing my clothes in a telephone booth to them. I must have looked like a very laughable superman. I laughed too. What made it especially funny was that I was NOT superman, just acting like one, according to cultural norms. I was acting out a sterotype.
This is a little bit different than the "put down" thing you mention because it wasn't men against a woman situation, however the group operant was similar. Had one of these people, as an individual, walked past me working on the telephone booth the "event" wouldn't have had cause to happen. It would not have been funny. That there was a group sharing a common assiciation gave them the opportunity to devise a unity, a fraternity, a moment of group intimacy, at my expense and there certainly was something about me that fulfilled the rediculous stereotype of Superman changing his clothes in the telephone booth.