I just opened a box of old books and found “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus.” I had heard so much positive press about this book that I decided to pick it up a few years ago, but obviously never got around to reading it. So I dug into it a few nights ago.
Overall, the book was intriguing and informative. I do agree that men and women have different communication styles; but that is about all the good I can say. It is very clear to me that the author is a feminist and a misogynist without even checking his background. A few quotes from the book will demonstrate why this is obvious on the face of it.
On page 49 he states “Although she has not received what she deserved…she needs to recognize how she contributed to the problem.” He continues, “When a woman gives too much she should not blame her partner. Similarly a man who gives less should not blame his partner for being negative or unreceptive to him.” This advice is in response to women who “give too much” to their partners – unsolicited time, attention, favors, gifts, affection, etc. The quotes above make it very clear; women routinely give too much, and men routinely give less. This is verbatim from the book and not my interpretation (lest I be accused of miscommunicating based on anything less than a ‘literal’ translation from another man).
The worst thing about this passage, and a handful of others in the book, is the presumption that women deserve more and that men give less as a default assumption. This is patently wrong and extremely destructive to good relationships. Young men or those who have not yet developed critical thinking will accept this very carefully worded bias, and act accordingly. It is a safe assumption that some men who read this book are desperate for relationship guidance and may pick it up because it is written by a man. This is a huge mistake. The entire book is a house of cards that appears as good advice in sheep’s clothing. The only way for men to be successful, according to the subtext of the book, is for the man to recognize and accept his inferior status in the relationship. This thread runs throughout the entire book, and you can spot this if you know how to spot it. To wit:
The next quote really brought this home for me. On page 60, he states: “To fully express their feelings, women assume poetic license and use various superlatives, metaphors, and generalizations. Men mistakenly take these expressions literally” After giving some examples, he suggests, “You can see how ‘literal’ translation of a woman’s words could easily mislead a man who is used to using speech as a means of conveying only facts and information. We can also see how a man’s response might lead to an argument. Unclear and unloving communication is the biggest problem in relationships. The number one complaint women have in relationships is ‘I don’t feel heard’.”
This one passage is so rife with bad assumptions and disgusting generalizations that it boggles the mind – and from a PhD with an actual practice! Let’s start at the top with “Women assume poetic license…” I wonder how this would work if men in positions of power and authority were to “Assume poetic license.” Perhaps you are accused of a crime and the judge “assumes poetic license.” I wonder how this would play out. Aside from the horrendous misogynistic stereotype that all women are this way – I can say that this is not true by any stretch in my experience – it should be insulting to women to hear a many say that all women are essentially liars!
Wow, this is quite bad when one reflects on the subtext here: Not only are women inherently dishonest and prone to poetic flourish and embellishment to such a degree that any reasonable interpretation of their words by men is likely to be incorrect.
Next, he says “You can see how ‘literal’ translation of a woman’s words could easily mislead a man…” Note how the author does not say that the misleading language is to blame – it is the TRANSLATION that is misleading! In other words, women are not wrong for using poetic license and misleading language, it is the man’s fault for misinterpreting their metaphors. Wow!
The next of many insults in this passage is the assumption that men are “used to using speech as a means of conveying only facts and information.” First of all, men use speech as a way of conveying all sorts of things; feelings, sentiments, love, beauty, sexual lust, appreciation, and yes, facts. Look at the historical body of art created over the last millennium or so. The vast majority of the songs, lyrics, poems, oil painting, sculptures, and other works of fine art were created by men – The OVERWHELMING majority. And if one counts up the works that have come from women, you are likely to find that little of it expresses the same love and admiration for the opposite sex than the work created by men. Ok, so statues are not technically “speech” but I consider it a valid form of expression. This one statement is such an epic fail and a slap in the face to the millions of men who have poured their hearts out in myriad ways.
This section ends in suggesting that “Unclear and unloving communication is the biggest problem in relationships. The number one complaint women have in relationships is ‘I don’t feel heard’.” So now this unclear and unloving communication that is perpetrated by women (by the author’s own admission) is the biggest problem, but it is the man’s fault. To make matters worse, women are saying that they don’t “feel heard.” Let’s flip this around for a moment. Bear with me.
Imagine a man who comes home to his wife and says “Hi honey, I’m home.” He sits down for dinner and says “Wow I had a great day at work today. I am in a great mood – let’s go out for a drink after dinner, call up the babysitter and I will take a shower and get ready” Imagine the wife calls the sitter and goes up to the bedroom to find her man sitting on the bed visibly upset. “What’s wrong sweetie” she asks. “You are so clueless. Did you REALLY call the babysitter?” “Yes, that’s what you asked me to do!” Imagine the husband goes on to launch into a tirade about how he doesn’t feel heard. How could be possibly have had a good day at work. How could she not see that he was tired? She should have known that when he mentioned the word “shower” that this really meant that he felt dirty and worn out. What he really wants is a foot massage and a beer. Geez, she is really an idiot for not “getting it.” This sounds bizarre as I write it, yet this is exactly what the author posits as the acceptable communication mode of women and it is the sort of interaction that occurs between men and women every day.
The book has sold over 7 million copies (Wikipedia). This means that at least 7 million people and their partners – 7 million more at least – have been affected by this drivel. What is so harmful is that the author does not divulge his bias against men. This has helped him sell a lot of books, but how many men’s lives have been ruined in the process. I doubt that there is any way of holding this man accountable. In fact, one would be more likely to be denigrated for pointing out the obvious and egregious dishonesty found throughout the book than he will be for writing it!
So, the question is – do you think that women should be given complete license to be deceptive in a relationship.