Gender equality is more than a goal in itself. It is a precondition for meeting the challenge of reducing poverty, promoting sustainable development and building good governance, Kofi Annan.
There is a current cultural trend of “political correctness” which claims that significant gender differences do not exist. Therefore, it is believed that by pretending there are no important gender differences, or even plainly denying them, we will achieve more equality, prevent discrimination, and even gender violence.
Let me tell you, this is not true. It is even dangerous and sometimes inclusivity goes way too far. Allowing transgender athletes, born as biological men to fight women in combat sports is very dangerous. Do not get me wrong, it is very important to avoid sexist language and behaviour and, more specifically:
Do not tell sexist jokes. Why do women make better soldiers? Because they can bleed for a week and not die. Why did the women cross the road? I don’t know, but what is she doing out of the kitchen?
Avoid sexist sayings and proverbs. Boys will be boys. One tongue is enough for a woman. Women have long hair and short sense.
If you use sexist jokes, proverbs or remarks, pin up sexually explicit photos in your workplace or have them as your desktop and phone background, you are not only being distasteful, but you are making your female friends, employees or colleagues feel uncomfortable. You are creating a hostile environment for women, you are complicating your communication and hindering your personal, social and professional relationships with them. Consequently, be aware of the importance of language and try to avoid gender pitfalls.
Mass media and publicity have generally helped to perpetuate gender inequality. Men were usually depicted as more active, competent, and valued than women in a number of activities. On the contrary, women were shown in passive or supporting roles.
Use “inclusive” or “nonsexist” language, that is, gender neutral language. Avoid exclusive forms, such as: “If a student studies hard, he will succeed,” “The average student is worried about his grades,” etc., and choose inclusive alternatives: “If a student studies hard, he or she will succeed,” “If a student studies hard, s/he will succeed,” “The average student is worried about grades,” NCTE, Guidelines for Gender-Fair Use of Language.
Avoid terms that are inherently sexist, such as “mankind,” “policeman,” “waiter,” “fireman,” etc. You could use alternative terms like humankind (“mankind”), police officer (“policeman”), the average person (“the common man”), prehistoric people (“cavemen”), etc. (Avoiding Sexist Language by Jennifer Klein, Hamilton Colleage).
Use courtesy titles that promote gender equity. Miss and Mrs can be replaced by Ms. which is a form of addressing women regardless of marital status. “To whom it corresponds” or Mr./Ms. can be used when the gender of the addressee is unknown.
Many argue that the use of gender-neutral language is nonsense, which leads us to using awkward constructions, vague language, and ugly neologisms. As one comment in the What’s wrong with the world? blog affirmed: It was hard not to wince today during the Gospel reading appointed for Mass: “One does not live by bread alone…” (Matt. 4:4) which is our Lord’s paraphrase of Deuteronomy. 8:3. Thus, the magnificent declamation: “Man does not live by bread alone…” […] is shattered. The translation makes Christ sound like the Prince of Wales who often refers to himself as “one” presumably to distinguish himself from his mother’s royal “we,” Against Gender-Neutral Language.
I do strongly think that there is a middle ground of neutral writing and speaking which avoids sexual bias, awkward constructions, ugly neologisms, etc., and which also communicates without using sexist language.
However, “it is ironic that this long-overdue gender neutrality comes just as scientists are recognizing more and more the actual physiological and psychological differences between men and women,” Vive la Diférence? by Michael Henry. As Allan Pease puts it: “We are different because our brain is wired differently. This causes us to perceive the world in different ways and have different values and priorities. Not better or worse ― different.”
The fight against gender inequality and discrimination should not be confused with recognizing, valuing, and celebrating our differences. These allow us to grow and learn from one another.
For example, men are more violent than women. “In 2011, the United States Department of Justice compiled homicide statistics in the United States between 1980 and 2008. Males committed the vast majority of homicides in the United States at that time, representing 90% of the total number of offenders,” Wikipedia, Sex differences in crime.
Worldwide, men are more likely to be literate, about two-thirds of illiterate adults are women. However, “women have overtaken men at every level of education in developed countries around the world,” (BBC News, Girls top of the class worldwide). For instance, in the UK: “The disparity between boys and girls has become a regular feature of GCSE and A-level results. While 72.3% of girls got A*-C grades, only 63.7% of boys did,” The guardian. The USA Today 10/19/2005 affirmed: “Last year for the first time, women earned more than half the degrees granted statewide in every category, be it associate, bachelor, master, doctoral or professional. […] There are more men than women ages 18-24 in the USA — 15 million vs. 14.2 million […] But nationally, the male/female ratio on campus today is 43/57,” USAToday.com, College gender gap widens: 57% are women.
In general terms, boys pay less attention in class, they are more disruptive (they lose more classroom learning time because they are sent out of the classroom or sent home), they also read less and later (and so they value reading less), and talk later than girls.
Sex is a big difference between men and women: “How do you know if a man is ready for sex? He’s breathing […] A woman wants lots of sex with the man she loves. A man wants lots of sex,” Why Men Don’t Listen and Women Can’t Read Maps: How We’re Different and What to do about it, Allan Pease, Barbara Pease. As Billy Crystal put it, “Women need a reason and a place to have sex. Men just need a place.”
The average man tends to be much more sexually driven than the average woman is. This can be observed in prostitution. The oldest profession is mostly exercised by women. Male prostitution is less frequent, and male prostitution services predominantly male clients.
In a classical but very revealing study conducted by Russel D. Clark and Elaine Hatfiel in 1978 and 1982, male and female confederates of average attractiveness approached potential partners with one of these requests: “Would you go out with me tonight?,” “Will you come over to my apartment?” or “Would you go to bed with me?” “The great majority of men were willing to have a sexual liaison with the women who approached them. Women were not. Not even a single woman agreed to a sexual liaison. The men that said “No” even offered some apologies, i.e., “I’m married” or “I’m going with someone,” Gender Differences in Receptivity to Sexual Offers, Rusell D. Clark y Elaine Hatfield, 1989.
In general, men are better at gross motor skills while women are better at fine motor skills. Men are found to have greater spatial skills and better mathematical reasoning ability (this last one is a very controversial topic in which there is no real consensus), while women show greater verbal skills. All these differences are logical from an evolutionary point of view, men used to perform more physically demanding tasks, such as hunting, defending territory, and obtaining food while women were engaged in housekeeping and child care, Kimura D., Human sex differences in cognition, fact, not predicament.
Men take more risks. On average, men have more sexual partners and are less than enthusiastic about condom use. Obviously, this is not a good idea. However, this attitude may come in handy within professional contexts and sports. Being capable of making decisions and assuming calculated risks despite the limited facts and great uncertainty is also fundamental in entrepreneurs, executives, and policy makers to move forward.
Women are better at active listening, non-verbal communication, and empathy, making them more effective at interpersonal communication. When a women is talking to her boyfriend or husband about a problem, she usually describes it in great detail. She longs for empathetic listening. On the contrary, men get confused and annoyed with so many words, they try to reduce the peripheral (or noise), focus on the problem, and provide a solution. And by doing so, they are missing the point completely, she only wanted his attention and empathy!, so she could feel just how much he cares for her.
When a man can listen to a woman’s feelings without getting angry and frustrated, he gives her a wonderful gift. He makes it safe for her to express herself. The more she is able to express herself, the more she feels heard and understood, and the more she is able to give a man the loving trust, acceptance, appreciation, admiration, approval, and encouragement that he needs, John Gray.
Men can learn from women to develop a better style of communication, so they can build more meaningful relationships together. They need to listen patiently and actively, use non-verbal communication (eye contact amongst others), and show more understanding and empathy.
Many are wondering whether it is possible or not in this crazy and hedonistic world to maintain a stable relationship when there are so many differences between men and women and obstacles along the way. Perhaps, the best answer is found in the classic book “Men are from Mars and women are from Venus” by John Gray: “when men and women are able to respect and accept their differences, then love has a chance to blossom.”
To maintain a healthy and stable relationship, men should learn to respect and listen more, talk less, and show more empathy and understanding. On the other hand, women should understand men’s need for retreat, for being appreciated and valued, and also have more sex with their partners (we are talking about sex in marriage or in very stable relationships, not casual sex) in order to let intimacy and complicity grow between them.