I CONFESS, I AM reading Dr. John Gray’s Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus: Together Forever. His insights are valuable, in a generalising “men are like this and women are like that” kind of way (though he does make disclaimers that not everything he says fits with everyone, just like different outfits may suit different people). I am drawn in (sadly?)—perhaps what he says may help me in my relationship and I cannot simply disregard it. Plus, my mom lent me her copy, and she’s one wise lady.
Sometimes I feel stuck between the poles of black-and-white thinking. For example, women behave in a certain way because of brain structure/hormones etc versus these explanations are themselves shaped by patriarchal norms of science, gender is all in the social conditioning, and actually men’s and women’s brains are more similar than different. It’s tough to know who to believe. I suppose the solution is not to become too absolute and to take the middle path i.e. gender is a little bit of each.
I like how he explains the current difficulty in maintaining modern relationships due to shifts in gender roles and lack of adequate teachers. Women now have two full-time careers (that of paid-work and carer), and our parents most likely did not have such a scenario and hence the same type of problems. Women were satisfied caring for the home and being provided for; men were satisfied being the main breadwinners and coming home to a nice, loving environment. Yet, since women have entered the workforce in large numbers, they are feeling increasingly overburdened by their multiple roles, and have different needs from their husbands—that of listening and emotional support, especially when facing household tasks after a long day at the male-dominated workplace.
His depiction of the workforce being an inherently masculine space where women struggle to maintain their femininity speaks to me, as every day I seem to find myself cursing this ‘man’s world’ of work. He seems to ascribe to the view that strategic thinking, problem-solving and competition are “masculine” traits, and having to spend all day doing this makes women feel out of sync with their femininity. It may be true that certain aspects of women’s personalities are alienated at work, but such reasoning certainly reeks of that old notion of women being too emotional and not capable of many tasks, and does not sound right to say so!
While I am a bit wary of the terminology he uses, I agree that much of how work and the structure of organisations does not sit well with me. I mean, come on, can’t we all have flexitime and be shiny happy people?! The efficiency argument is totally in my favour—that workers who are less stressed are more productive. It is promising that this option of flexitime seems to be gaining in credence and in popularity. Will women’s increased numbers in the formal workplace spell the death of work as we know it, and usher in a new era of workplace policies due to their critical mass? Can Dr. Gray’s recommendations for husbands to give more emotional support to their wives be translated on a larger, institutional level—so that organisations become structurally more women-friendly?