The modern social science classic Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus will soon turn twenty. The book inspired a generation of self-help books written to overcome the alleged difference in emotional capabilities and necessities of men and women. But these differences have been proven false, says psychology professor Niobe Way: “Boys and men, it turns out, have the same emotional and social capacities and needs as girls and women. According to this research, the core of our humanity rests with our empathic, social, and cooperative nature.”
What’s the Big Idea?
Worse than spreading half-truths about communication problems that arise in romantic relationships, books like Men Are From Mars establish exclusive gender roles that make it less acceptable for men to have have “feminine” emotional lives. “My studies, along with dozens of others, reveal that boys do not start out being less empathic and emotional than girls. They become this way as a result of growing up in a culture where emotions are associated with being female and gay and thus devalued.” Gender stereotypes preclude an honest discussion about having healthy emotional lives.