Around Our Town...Family
Battle of the Sexes
02/01/2006 - This is a subject that often causes me to "get on my soap box". Having been counseling couples for a long time, I try to stay on top of reading material that is helpful in giving me insight and new perspectives on healthy relationships. In the past, I have looked at the "dumb blonde jokes" and "stupid men jokes" as quite humorous and a great way to laugh at ourselves. For quite some time, however, I have been sensitized to the damage that can result from humor that has a cutting edge. Especially in the way that these and other jokes related to gender, can cause the gap to widen between men and women. Consequently, I have personally tried to minimize humor that is destructive to people, and in particular, to the relationships between men and women. One of the problems in addressing any issue related to human behavior is the question: "How much of this issue is related to genetics and how much is a result of cultural learning. One of the resources that first made me think about this question was a book entitled His Needs, Her Needs: Building An Affair-proof Marriage by Willard F. Harley, Jr. Harley has identified the top five needs of men and the top five needs of women as follows:
Men need: 1. Sexual fulfillment,
2. Recreational companionship,
3. An attractive spouse,
4. Domestic support, and
Women need: 1. Affection,
3. Honesty and openness,
4. Financial support, and
5. Family commitment.
Harley suggests that marriages fail due to not meeting these basic needs for each other. Dr. Harley has determined these needs by interviewing men and women regarding what they perceive are their greatest needs in marriage and summarizing his data. He then proposes that in his "let's make a deal"-type of intervention is the secret to successful marriage and avoiding divorce. My question is: Do men and women really know what is healthy in relationships or are their expressed needs simply a reflection of the cultural norms and specific environmental factors they were raised in? One of my female clients who read the book commented on the contrast between the needs of women and men was "It's just what I have always thought – men are selfish pigs". While her history of abuse certainly influenced her assessment, I could understand how she came up with it.
Before looking at the specifics of these issues, there are some historical trends that might be helpful. First, Dr. Gary Oliver talks about the "masculinity myth" in his article entitled "Are You Man Enough?" (Christian Counseling Today, Winter, 1995, p.15-19). Dr. Oliver talked about how many issues men face in counseling come from cultural expectations and myths that have "imprisoned them". These myths include the rules that are passed on to men: be assertive, courageous, competitive, goal-oriented, able to handle stress without caving in, and able to bear pain without emotion. A man is supposed to do, solve, oppose, or accomplish something. Work long and hard. Ignore your emotions. Seek achievement and status. Be self-reliant. Don't let anyone push you around. Don't have close male friends. Maintain an emotionally distant and non-relational attitude toward sexuality. Avoid anything that might be mistaken for femininity. Dr. Oliver maintains that perhaps many men have learned these rules too well.
Related to women and cultural influences on their thinking, Gary Collins in this same issue of Christian Counseling Today reviews Christina Hoff Sommers' book, Who Stole Feminism? How Women Have Betrayed Women, which talks about two distinct types of feminism that have emerged in American culture. The first "wave" of feminists were courageous women who fought long and hard to gain the rights that men had taken for granted for many years. These women wanted social justice, the right to vote, equal opportunities for education, and the freedom to build careers and get equal pay for equal work. Most were not anti-male and indeed were joined by men who agree with their causes. A second and more militant type of feminism has emerged in more recent years. These women, referred to as the New Feminists, are vocal, articulate, angry and self-preoccupied. They are radical activist crusaders who seek to unite women in hostility toward men – assuming that men victimize women and hold fast to their patriarchal privileges and powers. The result is that these feminists have alienated most people of both genders!
With this article as a backdrop, I hope to follow up with at least a couple of articles that may further clarify or confuse the reader regarding this complex issue but at least you will be challenged to look at the "battle of the sexes" in a new light.
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topics? Mailing address:
The Healing Place,
411 S. Walsh,
Casper, Wyoming 82601