Gender Issues Have Two Faces.
Men are from Mars, and women are from Venus. One way or another, we have accepted this adage as true. There have been many studies about gender differences, and this line seems to confirm and summarise their findings. It’s unclear whether society feeds studies, or studies feed society. Feminists, proponents of equal rights and equal opportunities, have existed since ancient times. But then, even in our postmodern world, it seems many still view them as radicals.
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The idea that men and women behave and perceive things differently is not a baseless claim. It actually has scientific basis. A study headed by Dr. Richard Haier, a psychologist at University of California in Irvine, connects gender differences to the “architecture” of men and women’s brains. It explains that men have more grey matter in their brains than women. On the other hand, women have more white matter in their brains than men. Does this have a significant effect on intelligence? Does it tell us which sex is more intelligent? No. The results only indicate that men and women use different paths to intelligence. In simple terms, men and women may do equally well on IQ tests, but they differ in the way they think. Their sensibilities and how they handle situations vary.
Author Cris Evatt developed an interesting summary of men and women’s different attributes. These are some of the points he raised:
Men take things literally. Women look for hidden meanings.
- A man is taken in by visuals. A woman is gifted with intuition. She can read people. She can analyse between the lines and give meanings to gestures and actions. She’s an expert with clues.
Men focus on solutions. Women like to discuss problems.
- A man may approach problem-solving like this:
“Here’s what we do. Take it out. Chop off. We don’t need it. Get rid of it.” He wants matters to be dealt with immediately. A woman tends to approach problems like someone who is flaking meat. She simply doesn’t want an overview. She wants an in-depth analysis. “Where did this problem begin? What are our options? What are the consequences of choosing option 1? Let’s have an option number 5.”
Men are less willing to seek help. Women seek help more readily.
- They say men don’t ask for directions. They’d rather get lost than admit to anyone that they’re lost. Women, on the other hand, naturally call their friends at the slightest news and are more likely to ask for advice in times of problems.
Men make decisions quicker. Women take more time to decide.
- Men want to approach situations logically. Women want to talk about how they feel about situations. They say a woman’s mind is as changeable as the weather. Her decisions are often dictated by her emotions.
Over the years, writings, scientific and literary, have often highlighted these ideas:
Women are personal.
- A woman values relationships and emotional ties. She has more close friends and is comfortable in groups. She doesn’t mind sharing her feelings. A man puts a premium on dominance and competition. He prefers watching basketball to attending tea parties.
Men want to think of solutions on their own. Women want to talk about how they feel about the solutions.
- A man likes to solve problems on his own. When something is bothering him, he tends to withdraw and prefers not to talk about it. Now, a woman, naturally intuitive, senses that something is wrong. She likes asking questions. She feels that she can’t solve a problem without talking about it.
In the 1972 book, The Future of Marriage, Jessie Bernard emphasised the stark differences between men and women in terms of how they view marriage. Bernard said that there are two sides to the relationship, his side and her side. The book highlighted the idea that men and women think and behave differently. Many of today’s writings still hold the same views. Society has managed to consistently paint men as sports coaches and women as kitchen divas. Every now and then, someone disagrees and gets branded as a radical.
This is despite the fact that there have been thousands of studies and writings that say otherwise. These studies indicate that men and women may behave differently, but it doesn’t mean they have different basic needs. For instance, they may react to situations differently, but both give value to commitment.
Among the most notable findings are those of Janet Shibley Hyde of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She based her conclusions on evidence from studies in the following areas:
Cognitive – e.g. mental skills like reading and comprehension
Communication Variables – e.g. speech and facial expressions
Social – e.g. behaviour in a group
Psychological – e.g. how one copes with life
Motor – e.g. flexibility
Others – e.g. jobs and computer habits
Dr. Hyde found that 78% of the differences between men and women are small and don’t have as much impact as opposed to what most of us are predisposed to believe. The three areas in which men and women differ are the following:
Attitude towards sex –
Men and women have different views about sexuality.
Level of aggression –
Men are more aggressive than women.
Motor skills –
Men are better at physical activities like jumping and running.
A recent study in Melbourne (Karantzas, Feeney, Goncalves, & McCabe, 2010) follows the same premise, that men and women are not so different after all.
This study was anchored on the idea that the only way a clear conclusion about gender differences could be achieved was by having real couples examined as a unit and not individuals from different relationships. The respondents were composed of couples who were attending relationship education programs.
Like Dr. Hyde’s findings, the results indicate no significant differences between men and women.
- Both men and women have low levels of insecurities when it comes to attachment.
- Both men and women value support, trust, and intimacy,
- Both men and women are moderately satisfied with their relationship.
- Married couples are more committed to the relationship.
- Both men and women get more committed to the relationship as time goes by.
Men and women may appear different, but they have basic needs. Both want to belong and form relationships. Both have the need to fall in love and be loved. We can’t get more basic than that.
What are some of the sad effects of living with the idea that men and women are created differently, therefore, view relationships differently?
- Irreconcilable differences remain irreconcilable differences.
Couples may easily give up on their relationship and blame it all on the idea that men and women don’t speak the same language.
- Personal growth may be limited.
Take for example a boy who, deep in his heart, wants to be a ballet dancer. But he is discouraged by his friends’ comments about ballet being only for girls. He bypasses his opportunity for personal development by choosing to play sports where his abilities are mediocre. His real talent is wasted.
Gender stereotypes can result to much unhappiness, arguments, failures, tensions,and many more. On the other hand, some proponents may argue that differences do exist but you can always work around them. For instance, use them to make the relationship more exciting. Opposite poles do attract.
But putting all those scientific studies aside; on a practical sense, John does need love as much as Jenny needs love. Andy may want to have “buddies” and Anne, “girlfriends.” But the basic idea here is: Both value friends and relationships.
So, are men really from Mars and women from Venus? Or are they both from planet Earth?