The theory in this article uses evolutionary biology to explain the difference in male and female ‘cultures’. It tries not to be sexist by emphasising the strengths and weaknesses of both sexes.
Because women used to be the nest-defenders, all cooperating, they developed superior peripheral vision (to look for predators) and body-language reading (to look for non-verbal signs of distress in babies). Men were the hunters, a solitary activity that required superior angle judgment (hence men’s like of computer games, darts, football etc). This is also why men tend to excel at map reading, while women tend to rely on landmarks. Hunters have less need of language than nest protectors; on the contrary, too much noise can give you away. This is why men tend to be later talkers, to prefer a few long words to several, and why men hate to be spoken to when concentrating.
Men have less sensitive skin to avoid possible pain. Hunting is why men tend to be better at imitating animal noises. As women have a bigger corpus callosum they are far better at multitasking. This is why men don’t usually interrupt each other except aggressively. Women think aloud more than men, use more indirect requests (e.g. ‘wouldn’t it be nice to stop for coffee?’) and less ‘ums’ and ‘ahs’. Men will go silent when stressed while women will talk. Asking for help is seen as a weakness by men.
Women find deep voices attractive because they suggest high testosterone levels and vice versa for men and ‘schoolgirl’ voices. Men tend to fancy blondes because they tend to have higher oestrogen levels. Men are attracted to the hourglass figure as they are the most fertile, while women like men with broad shoulders best-ideal for carrying prey home.
As always, men desire a great job and sex life, but women’s desires have changed. They no longer want to be dependent on men but they still put motherhood first. Career women are under pressure to masculinise e.g. by discussing issues in their heads rather than out loud. In school over 80% of expulsions are of boys, partly because nearly all teachers are female and most male role models are violent media characters (sportsmen are an exception). More and more of them live alone with their mums. The main thesis under discussion is that men and women cannot be made the same no matter how much politicians try and treating them identically causes problems. Our differences are biological and permanent and we would be happier if we accepted and adapted.
Other specific examples that support this theory are: –
i) A Man’s Need to Offer Solutions Men have logical, problem-solving, minds. When a man enters a room in a conference centre or restaurant for the first time he looks around and sees things that need fixing, pictures that need straightening and better ways of laying out the room. His brain is a problem-solving machine that never takes a holiday. When a woman talks about her problems a man continually interrupts her and offers solutions. He can’t help himself because his brain is programmed to do this. He thinks she will feel much better when she has a solution. She only wants to talk and ignores his solutions. In turn this makes him feel incompetent and a failure or she is probably blaming him for her problems. Women don’t want solutions, they just want to talk about things and for someone to listen.
ii) Men Can Only Do One Thing at a Time but Women Can Multi-task All the available research agrees: men’s brains are specialised. Compartmentalised. A male brain is configured to concentrate on one specific, dedicated task at once. When a man stops his car to read a street directory, what’s the first thing he does with his radio? He turns it down! Most women can’t understand this. She can read while listening and talking so why can’t he? Why does he insist on turning down the TV when the telephone rings? ‘When he is reading the newspaper or watching TV why can’t he hear what I have just told him?’ is a lament that has been made by every woman in the world at some time. Simple – a man’s brain is configured for one thing at a time because of fewer connecting fibres between the left and right hemispheres, and a more compartmentalised brain. Take a brain scan of his head when he is reading and you’ll find he is virtually deaf.
A woman’s brain is configured for multi-tasking. She can do several unrelated things at the same time, and her brain is never disengaged, it is always active. She can talk on a telephone at the same time as cooking a new recipe and watching TV. Or she can drive a car, put on make up and listen to the radio while talking on a hands-free telephone. But if a man is cooking a recipe and you talk to him, he is likely to become angry because he can’t follow the written instructions and listen and the same time.
Because women use both sides of their brains, many find it more difficult to tell their left hands from their right. Around 50% of women cannot instantly recognise, which is which without looking for a ring or a freckle first. Men, on the other hand, operating in either the left or right brains, find it much easier to identify left from right. As a result, women all over the world, are criticised by men for telling them to turn right – when they really meant left.
iii) Boys Compete and Girls Cooperate Girls’ groups are co-operative and you cannot visually identify a leader. Girls use talk to show their level of bonding and each girl usually has a best friend with whom to share secrets. Girls will ostracise a girl who exerts authority above others. However, boys operate with a hierarchy with leaders who can be identified by their superior or assertive talk and body language, and each boy hustles for status in the group. Power and status are all-important in a boys’ group. This is usually achieved through a boy’s skills or knowledge, or by his ability to talk tough to others or fight off challengers.
So in conclusion is it just a quirk of biology that has made us different and the sooner we accept it and adapt the quicker peace will reign.
Source: Horton, R. (2014) Omega Support Services adapted from Why Men offer Solutions and Women Can’t Read Maps by Barbara and Allan Pease (1999)
PDF will soon be available
Before completing the exercises go through the article and check the meaning of any new vocabulary with a dictionary if necessary.
1. Apart from the obvious physical differences are men and women the same? If there are any differences what are they?
2. What are the major causes of ‘gender conflict’?
3. In addition to your answer to Question 1 above what other gender stereotypes are you familar with. To what extent are they true?
4. What possible explanations are there for thinking that ‘men are from Mars and Women are from Venus’?
1. What was a man’s role in the ancient family?
2. What was a woman’s role in the ancient family?
3. According to the author what ancient ability makes a man more competitive and keen on sport?
4. What are the differences between what a man sees and what a woman sees? What evolutionary process does the author suggest led to this being the case?
5. Why do men like to offer solutions?
6. How is it explained that women can multi-task and how did this come about through evolution?
7. How do boys develop relationships as children?
8. How do girls develop relationships as children?
1. What is the author’s basic theory on gender and how is it explained?
2. Does the theory equally represent both genders? Explain with examples.
3. Does ‘sameness’ mean the same as equality and how are these words relevant to the theory?
4. The author’s explanation is a ‘nice theory’ but does it really explain why there is often so much gender conflict? Use examples to make your case.
5. Many opponents dismiss this theory of gender. What do you think the objections are and how far would you agree with them?
6. Revisit your answer to Pre-Reading Question 1 has your answer changed and if so in what way(s)?
* You need to prepare these questions for conversation during your next online / face-to-face session with your tutor.