Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus

We learnt in lecture today that our sexed bodies are the basis for the cultural systems such as kinship and gender. I would like to share an interesting example in pop culture which plays up the differences in male-bodied individuals and female-bodied individuals.

Have you all heard of the book “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus”? If you have never heard of the book, I am sure that you have at least heard this phrase being said before. I am particularly interested in Chapter 5, which talks about the different ways sexed individuals communicate and how it leads to conflict between them. He proceeds to offer solutions to avoid these problems.

He asserts that women are subtle in their requests and need to feel loved by their partners. Additionally, they prefer to solve their problems through communicating. This is in contrast to men, who withdraw to avoid confrontation. Withdrawing also occurs when their masculinity is threatened or when they cannot solve a problem. Due to these differences in communication styles, he posits that it is inevitable that men and women will not be able to understand each other. However, he gives advice on how to overcome these differences. Here is an example of one of his tips on page 81: “If he doesn’t like this comment, then simply apologize for being critical.” He even provides a phrasebook which helps to “translate” Martian-speak to Venusian, and vice-versa.

He presents very essentialised views of men and women, and assumes that they are inherently different due to their biology. He even uses the metaphor of men and women coming from different planets. From this chapter, it can be seen that he does not consider other factors which affect the different ways men and women communicate, such as socialization to speak in a masculine or feminine manner.

I find that such works have a very significant and dangerous role in the way that sex and gender is seen in society. More than 7 million copies of this book have been sold worldwide, and it was ranked the highest selling non-fiction work in the 1990s. I am certain that there are many readers who have turned to this book as a form of self-help, and comforted themselves with the idea that their misunderstandings are a result of biology, and hence there is nothing that can be done about it since it is inherent.

Before I started learning about gender and sexuality in university, I had subscribed to the idea that sex and gender is basically synonymous, and anyone who did not conform to this expectation is weird. I now know that this way of thinking is flawed, and gender is something that is performed and not totally biologically determined. However, I believe that there are many out there who still continue to hold on to this erroneous notion, and this has affected their way of seeing the world.


References:
CNN (1999, March 3). Talk show host gives book a boost. CNN. Retrieved from http://articles.cnn.com/1999-12-31/entertainment/1990.sellers_1_book-sales-cumulative-sales-copies?_s=PM:books.
Gray, J. (1992). Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus. US: Harper Collins.