THE MASCULINITY CONSPIRACY

04: Relationships cont’d

with 2 comments

In all the examples of language and behavior Gray investigates, men and women are at least different or sometimes even opposite to one another. Men, for example, are motivated and empowered when they feel needed. Women are motivated and empowered when they feel cherished. Men need to receive trust, acceptance, appreciation, admiration, approval and encouragement. Women, on the other hand, need to receive caring, understanding, respect, devotion, validation and reassurance.

Following DeAngelo’s suggestion that women do not make sense, Gray suggests Venusians say one thing but mean something quite different, and he offers excerpts from what might be likened to the Venusian/Martian Phrase Dictionary. For example, when a man hears the words from a woman “we never go out,” he should really hear, “I feel like going out and doing something together. We always have such a fun time, and I love being with you. What do you think? Would you take me out to dinner? It has been a few days since we went out.” Without the Venusian/Martian Phrase Dictionary, Gray suggests men tend to instead hear, “You are not doing your job. What a disappointment you have turned out to be. We never do anything together anymore because you are lazy, unromantic and boring.” By rediscovering that men and women are a different species, and taking the effort to discover each other’s differences (and even languages), Gray argues that we can learn once more to get along and enjoy fruitful and long-lasting relationships.

In sum, there are very clear messages to be had about masculinity and relationships from DeAngelo and Gray:

  • men like certain things, whether it be buying Playboy, watching sports or reading the paper (DeAngelo), or hunting, fishing and racing cars (Gray);
  • men think and communicate differently to women;
  • for men to be successful with women—either in terms of coaxing them into sex (DeAngelo) or maintaining a long-lasting relationship (Gray)—men must figure out what women “really” think and either counter or accommodate these uniquely womanly thoughts depending on circumstance.

CONTINUES >>>

Written by Joseph Gelfer

December 14, 2010 at 3:22 pm

2 Responses

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  1. Perhaps the problem with frameworks such as Gray’s is that they insist on hanging their differences on the hook of gender. I think that discussions of alternative modes of communication and ways of being (essentially what Gray is doing) can be very useful. After all, it’s reasonable to assume there are at least ~some~ women and men in the world who think and communicate in the respective ways that Gray suggests, and for such people, his books can serve as a useful communication tool.

    The problem, as I see it, arises when a descriptive analysis takes on a prescriptive or normative aspect; when everyone is ~told~ that (not just some, but all) “women” / “men” behave in certain specific ways. This problem can manifest in two areas: firstly, individuals can feel personally pressured to fit into a given descriptive category based on their own gender; and secondly, people can be led to assume that those around them fit into one or the other category based on gender.

    The difficulty is that generalizations ~can~ often be useful. For example, I regularly make the generalization that food which smells unpleasant will also taste unpleasant and/or make me ill. I think this generalization on the whole has served me well (though I’m sure there have likely been times when it has also led me to avoid foods that were healthy and/or delicious). The limit of this analogy of course is that my food is not conscious and so it doesn’t suffer if I discriminate against it. Generalizations about people affect people. So there are real harms that can result, but I still think these harms need to be considered in light of the benefits that generalization can create (which are also benefits enjoyed by people).

    Mark

    October 19, 2011 at 7:03 pm

    • Yes, it’s the prescriptive aspect that is most problematic. As you go along this text you’ll see I state that I have no problem with normative masculinity, simply the suggestion that all men should adhere to it.

      Joseph

      October 19, 2011 at 7:09 pm


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