Around Our Town...Family
The Battle of the Sexes Part 2
03/01/2006 - In last month's article, I introduced the subject of the differences between men and women and suggested that there are cultural and environmental factors that influence us related to gender roles and expectations as well as genetics (or, as some refer to it, "how we are hard-wired"). What are the differences that most people think of when they say it's a "guy thing" or a "girl thing"? Here are a few that are noted by several authors on the subject.
First, Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott in their book entitled Relationships give three things that men need to know about women and three things women need to know about men. Les' observations regarding women:
1) Women are not as independent as we are
2) Women focus on the here-and-now more
than we do and
3) Women are not as competitive as we are.
Leslie's observations about men:
1) Men are not as in touch with their emotions as we are,
2) Men are more independent than we are and
3) Men are more abstract than we are. They both point out at the outset of this chapter (chapter 3, p. 59-71) that there are exceptions to every rule.
In another assessment of differences, Shaunti Feldhahn, in her book For Women Only (subtitled "what you need to know about the inner lives of men"), lists seven "revelations" regarding men: men need respect, men are insecure, men are providers, men want more sex, men are visual, men are unromantic clods, and men care about appearance. She asserts that these revelations are backed up by evidence – a groundbreaking survey of hundreds of men. One of the survey questions asks men "Would you rather feel alone and unloved or inadequate and disrespected?" According to the author the survey showed that 74% of men surveyed said they would rather feel alone and unloved and 26% said they would rather feel inadequate and disrespected. There are other survey questions discussed in the book related to the need for men to be affirmed by their wives, the need to be desired sexually, the need for men to be providers for their families, their fears that their inadequacies will be discovered, their tendency to be "visual" (and the implications for a married couple), as well as other information designed to help women understand their men.
I appreciate the importance of surveys and research but when it comes to making definitive statements based on research pertaining to human beings, I have my doubts. Certainly you can look at trends and make some general statements when considering human research. However, I am inclined to agree with my statistics professor from my graduate program at Colorado State University. When I asked him to be on thesis committee, he replied that he was flattered that I asked him but that he did not believe in the validity of human research because people are too complex and you can't really control for all of the variables. This is one of the reasons that I am a bit hesitant to accept survey data as totally reliable "evidence". It doesn't account for the cultural influences, the training the individual received in his or her family of origin or the emotionally charged past experiences that might cause a man or woman to answer a survey question in a certain way. For example, a hypothetical male client might come in to my office and present as being very successful, self-assured, "emotionally detached". Let's just say he grew up with a father who was also "emotionally detached" and taught him never to be vulnerable with anyone. His dad also had a problem with infidelity and had a negative attitude toward women. As a little boy, he learned that "you are what you do, what you possess and what other people think of you". He learns that it's in his interest among his peers who have also been trained to think this way to manage his "outer world" and ignore what is on the inside. In my opinion it would be a mistake to tell him and his wife in a counseling session that his attitudes and behavior are based on his genetic programming as a male; and, subsequently to ask his wife to make up for the inadequacies and insecurities in her husband's life by adjusting to them.
I realize that I am "swimming upstream" when I make these statements and go against what has been so popularized through authors and celebrities like Dr. Laura (The Care and Feeding of Husbands) and most of the marriage seminars and materials that have been released in recent years. However, it is my desire to help bring the issues to light so that we can have productive dialogue about these important topics. I will continue this discussion in the next article.
Comments or suggestions for future
topics? Mailing address:
The Healing Place,
411 S. Walsh,
Casper, Wyoming 82601