The Mars-Venus Myth

The Mars-Venus Myth made famous by John Gray in 1992 by the book Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus remains insufferably regnant. Here is a link to a table from the article The Gender Similarities Hypothesis originally published in 2005 in the journal American Psychologist—which is the official publication of the American Psychological Association. The author of the article Janet H Hyde acts as an effective countermeasure foundation for this issue.

To understand the table:

d = score equivalent of standardized gender difference
-d = women are stronger in this area
+d = men are stronger in this area

Observe that the major communication differences between the genders are in the Spelling and Smiling categories with women in the lead by -0.45 and -0.40 respectively. Men take the lead in Conversational Interruption (+0.15 – +0.33) and Assertive Speech (+0.11).

According to the Mars-Venus myth, communication is a significant difference but this is easily dispelled in the most compelling column of all—Effect Size. The most dramatic ‘difference’ is not only Moderate but lies in Spelling and Smiling and so irrelevant that one cannot reasonably cluster men and women on different planets. The Effect Size column differentiation consists mainly of ‘close to zero’ and ‘small.’

Most publications that headline dramatic gender divergence rely on single studies with low sample rates that are understandably misleading. This particular study is an amalgam of numerous studies which take into account a variety of social scenarios. The author is a psychologist who specializes in the statistical technique of ‘meta-analysis’ whose purpose is to substantially increase statistical power by calculating a standard between a group of studies (instead of a small sample size) and analyzing the results.

Unsurprisingly, this research does not amass as much media attention as the Mars-Venus Myth. The media tailors to a market that would rather believe most misunderstandings between the sexes are a result of gender differences instead of poor communication, social dynamics, power struggles, and other factors.

In actuality, the differences between the genders as this study proves are so minute to be essentially redundant for when you examine the scores of the average woman and compare it to the average man, the gap is smaller and less diverse than a comparison within the genders.

Thankfully, Oxford language professor Deborah Cameron has published a book titled The Myth of Mars and Venus to verbally vaccinate against such widespread misconception and ignorance.

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6 responses to “The Mars-Venus Myth

  1. This is really interesting. I see you’re just starting this blog. I’d like to see more of your writing, so I hope you keep going with this.

  2. Nessa,

    I did not want to respond to your comment until I had read enough of your blog entries to provide me with a better sense of the way your mind works. In other words, your response was never ignored.

    The aggressiveness and persistence of this society to determine an individual’s identity based on gender is a curious and misguided phenomenon. A simple tag search will bombard you with countless entries on how to better understand your mate for instance, using arguments that draw excessively from gender stereotypes like women are only interested in discussing their feelings and men only sex. My blog entry indirectly combats these stereotypes by focusing on their faulty initial premises because that is essentially the problem. One bad premise leads to another and another until the entire cultural and social approach to gender becomes a ridiculous tangled mess.

    From this perspective, your blog offers an interesting view at the way those around you respond to your female status and/or unconventional views, especially in a country that favours traditional gender roles and whose men tend to conduct themselves with a noticeable level of machismo.

    Thank you for the feedback. If anything resonates, try not to shy away from comments. I enjoy discussion.

  3. Alright. I finally broke my procrastination and short attention span…. and commented again!

    So, I haven’t read the article you mention, but the table and your post give me an idea of what it is about. And I think it does not conflict at all with the views I previously had on the subject. I’ve never thought women and men have COGNITIVE differences.

    However, I do believe that humans have different behavioral tendencies associated to their gender. Some differences that have been shaped through evolution and come from early sexed life forms.

    But since we have the same cognitive capabilities, those tendencies don’t have to translate to actual behaviour if a human doesn’t want to.

    Aggg it sucks that I can’t follow my train of thought now because I need to get off right now. I’ll try to come up with more the next time I sign on.

    See ya!

  4. Alright. I finally broke my procrastination and short attention span…. and commented again!

    I see. Very nice. Say, perhaps I should be shipping you bottles of alcohol or boxes of chocolate to increase your attention span and have you posting with an unstoppable madness.

    But since we have the same cognitive capabilities, those tendencies don’t have to translate to actual behaviour if a human doesn’t want to.

    True, but I think there is more to it than that. How much of what the average person does (male or female) is a result of desire/choice and how much of it is a consequence of habit/mimicry and rules of acceptable behaviour in their respective society? What we consider to be predominantly masculine or feminine has a lot to do with culture and even within cultural restraints, you can still observe changing attitudes over time.

    Now take into account the increase in globalization from inventions such as radio, television, film, and most recent The Internet. Humans are beginning to see that attitudes historically considered male or female are not necessarily so. It is not who we are as humans that changes but our perceptions.

    As a med student, you would have been considered very ‘manly’ for your career choice 80 years ago. Today, they may think it quite ‘feminine’ that you want to help people. They may claim that women care about helping others and men only care that things work. This is ludicrous of course. The desire to help others is universal. Even the most intently research oriented scientists at the very core want to make the next greatest discovery to help humanity advance.

    I suspect that in the coming decades the distinction between what we see as innately masculine or feminine will blur even more.

    As an aside, whilst channel surfing the other day, I stumbled upon a clothing design television series in which the participants were assigned to create a look that was ‘masculine’ and ‘professional’ for their respective models to showcase on the runway. The designs were sleek and sophisticated. One of the models wore a pink dress shirt. In the 90s, any male sporting a pink shirt would have been beaten up at school. They would have been seen as overtly feminine.

    There are some parts of the world that still maintain this point of view. But what is interesting, is that it is now becoming mainstream in influential parts of the world to believe a male in a pink shirt is asserting their masculinity instead of detracting from it. They are seen as more confident in their sexuality than a ‘macho’ male who would refuse to wear it because they think it is ‘girly.’ I have even seen heterosexual women singling out heterosexual men wearing pink shirts to compliment them on how ‘progressive’ they are.

  5. I have over 20 firefox tabs opened at the same time with several long things to read and to reply to. I do have time, but not the focus. The internet is a dangerous place for someone who will stop at each thing she finds interesting and follows that and in the end has no idea what she was doing in the beginning. My mind becomes a tree with endless branches and I hop and hop, and most of the times fall from the tree without accomplishing much. Sometimes when I have enough energy and stay awake long enough I’m able to have a pretty good time going from here and there, and other times I just float around so fast that I have no idea what I’m doing and end up shutting down my computer and going to sleep. Maybe tomorrow I will get all that done. And then I forget, or find something else interesting.

    Anyway, maybe you’re right, and all the gender differences are social. I still have some things to put together in this respect, I think I will end up making a post in my blog – if I can focus enough to gather all my ideas without going to watch a movie instead. Because I don’t think I still have the words to put this out right now, I know I have something!

    Still, if gender differences are indeed exclussively socially determined, do you have any theories on why this happened in the first place? Society now it’s an entity on its own, but it had to raise from something. Or do you think it randomly ended being this way.

  6. I have over 20 firefox tabs opened at the same time with several long things to read and to reply to. I do have time, but not the focus. The internet is a dangerous place for someone who will stop at each thing she finds interesting and follows that and in the end has no idea what she was doing in the beginning.

    I too tend to have numerous Firefox tabs open at the same time. I will stop at things I consider interesting but for the purpose of maintaining focus, limit the tabs to branches that are related to my main goal. Anything else I come across that is unrelated is simply added to a specific folder in my Bookmarks to be accessed either later or on another day when I have no set goal.

    Still, if gender differences are indeed exclusively socially determined, do you have any theories on why this happened in the first place? Society now it’s an entity on its own, but it had to raise from something. Or do you think it randomly ended being this way.

    Biological Determinism (the belief that all behaviour, belief and desire is determined but our genes) in the case of gender, claims differences between males and females even today are in our genes.

    I disagree with this. It does not mean I believe there were never any genetic gender behavioural differences, but that evolution (specifically the increasing complexity of the human brain) has diluted them to the point of rendering them insignificant. Even further, their minuteness is such that the following cancel them out:

    Cultural Determinism: The belief that culture determines who we are at emotional and behavioural levels.
    Environmental Determinism: The belief that the physical environment determines our social conditions.
    Economic Determinism: The belief that economic structures determine the progression of humanity. In this context, economic status affects cultural values.
    Technological Determinism: The belief that technology determines cultural values and social structures.
    Media Determinism: A subset of Technological Determinism and the belief that changes in media determine culture.

    The above is what makes gender so transient. As time passes, they influence each other. Before the age of media globalization, gender changes occurred over a longer period of time. Yet, with the almost instantaneous nature of the Internet, we see change happening faster. Global warming may even be playing a role already to some extent.

    Or do you think it randomly ended being this way.

    I think almost everything in life is random.

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