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  • Balancing Work and Womanhood

    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?

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    7 Responses

    1. You are in the starting blocks now – don’t stop here.
      Some of what he suggest you may use as reference regarding your relationships, but it goes WAAAAY deeper than just man/woman.
      Go look for your femininity, your role as a woman, mother , daughter, wife. Not a goddess, or a tree-hugger or a worker bee —
      You will see that Grey got a rare insight into men and women, but in later books, he fell off the wagon with his mantras and stuff.
      That is why his suggestions on how a woman must act, doesn’t sit well. The way he suggests it, demeans a woman.
      But if you understand what your main purpose are, your role in life, then you understand and appreciate the beauty in relationships.

    2. Thanks for your comment and encouragement!

    3. “For example, women behave in a certain way because of brain structure/hormones etc.”

      Um, where’s the proof for that? I can’t believe I’m reading this on a feminist site.

      I can’t believe you’ve wasted space on such a silly, trashy book.

    4. Why don’t so many of these people who call themselves feminist read postcolonial feminism or black feminism? I’m so tired of superficial posts.

    5. Bq,
      I apologise for not having responded sooner. Thanks for taking the time to comment. However, it might have been better if you had taken a bit more time to re-read my writing and reflect on the meaning.

      I said,

      “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.”

      The two contrasted positions were an example/illustration of ‘poles of black-and-white thinking’ that surround gender. I did not offer proof or disproof, nor did I subscribe to either of the views, instead offering the view that perhaps both sides may have *a little bit of* truth in them. Essentially you are attacking me simply for offering different explanations of gender.

      If you are such an avid reader of postcolonial or black feminist texts, kindly share those points you believe would contribute to the discussion in a constructive manner rather than writing superficial comments.

    6. Bq: your comment is superficial. Why don’t you say something useful?

    7. Becky,

      I just came across your post and have only recently discovered this marvelous blog. I am going to have to burst Dr(?) Gray’s bubble. I was suckered myself in 2003. The dude got his doctorate through correspondence course!

      More important, read the “Rebuttal from Uranus”
      http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/women_rebuttal_from_uranus/chaplink.htm

      He is not exactly a doctor. 🙂 His credentials according to wikipedia are as follows.
      “After high school he attended University of St. Thomas (a liberal arts college) and the University of Texas, but did not receive degrees from these institutions. He lived as a Hindu monk for nine years in Switzerland and studied with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. He received diplomas called BA and MA in “Creative Intelligence” from the Maharishi European Research Universityin Iowa.[1]

      John Gray received his PhD from unaccredited Columbia Pacific University after completing a correspondence course in 1982.[1][2]”

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