Rethinking the ‘Men are From Mars and Women are From Venus’ Dialectic

Did you grow up hearing this little saying as well? Essentially it seemed harmless enough and almost seemed to be quite true, that men and women just think differently and that is why we have so much trouble at times to understand each other. Of course we have grown to believe that men can be just as sensitive and just as good at child rearing, while we women also know exactly where to find the right parts for our vehicles and change a tire like it’s nobody’s business! And yet, there still existed a largely held notion that between the genders we still think inherently different from each other. Even though we have advanced significantly towards a view of gender equality and away from gender differences and a classification of “men’s work” and “women’s work,” this very ‘men are from Mars and women are from Venus’ dialectic is still holding both genders back. It perpetuates a perceived difference between the way that the genders think, which inadvertently maintains ground for differential treatment between the sexes.


New Scientific Research Disputes the Concept of an Inherently Male or Female Brain

Yet, regardless of widely perpetuated concepts of a difference in brain features based on gender, scientific studies have come closer to putting this little adage to rest once and for all. In a recent study, which was also published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal in November 2015, researchers discovered that the differences between male and female brains were in fact not so clearly defined, and that more often than not, both male and female brains displayed what they termed a mosaic of both male and female ‘brain features.’ In response to their findings through this study (which included over 5,500 participants) the researchers concluded that their

“study demonstrates that, although there are sex/gender differences in the brain, human brains do not belong to one of two distinct categories: male brain/female brain” (Daphna Joel, PNAS).

This group of researchers and scholars are not the only ones to pursue this area of interest, as Professor Rebecca Jordan-Young (Bernard College, NY), also voiced this same theory in her book Brain Storm: The flaws in the science of sex differences (Harvard University Press, 2010), stating that “brains don’t fit this pattern; there is far more variation in brains within sexes than between them.”

This means that all of the stereotypical behavior associated with each gender is just that, a stereotype; they are merely socially constructed an learned behaviors and ways of thinking. So the concept that men’s brains function on a more logical plane while women’s function more on an emotional plane are actually not scientifically supported. And these concepts of differences, from how men and women approach work, relationships, even to why and how women spend money in comparison to men; all of these are based on social conditioning and not on biology.

Where We’ve Been, Where We Are, and Where We Are Going

The feminist movements between the 1960’s and 1980’s were instrumental in working towards gender equality and laid the groundwork for bridging the gender disparity gap within the work force – although this still has a way to go. But perhaps this last hurdle really does have to do with the archaic notion that we think differently and are therefore, at the end of the day, more or less suited for particular roles. In the past (and although no one will admit to it, we can be sure this also occurs in the present) a board of directors were more inclined to promote a ‘cool and calculated’ male over an ‘emotional’ female for a leadership position. Perhaps with the emergence of more research like that of Daphna Joel and her associates, we will finally begin to move beyond seeing differences between the genders and participating in these stereotypical constructs and can in turn begin to rid ourselves of these harmful social constructs once and for all. Only once we begin to think differently about how the sexes think in general, can we hope to finally bridge that parity gap in the workforce.