Saturday, April 20 2024

It has become customary to deny any difference – biological or
anthropological – between men and women. And this paradoxically occurs in a
culture where “open-minded” people say that being different implies
“wealth,” “an opportunity to compare and contrast,” “an opportunity for
exchange and growth.”

So why deny the differences between men and women?

What we are afraid of is the possibility that recognizing a “natural
difference” implies affirming that one of the two is worth more or less
than the other and would have to adhere to rigid societal roles, often
standardized and stereotyped. There is a tendency to say that men and women
are “equal” because they deserve the same respect.

On this subject, anyone with common sense should agree that both deserve
equal respect. However, it is reductive to eliminate the difference, out of
fear of not knowing how to value it.

Diversity does not imply discrimination

Professor Marta Brancatisano, who teaches anthropology for the Faculty of
Communication at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, emphasizes in
her courses and in her books that the difference between men and women does
not imply a difference in terms of “dignity.” Both being human beings, men
and women have the same, inviolable dignity; the same “human” intelligence,
the same vocation to love, to the gift of self.

Diversity, explains the teacher in her book Man and Woman. Considerations of Dual Anthropology (Edusc, 2015,
18 euro), exists in a different “existential posture,” given by the fact –
that is self-evident – that “man brings life outside himself,” “woman
welcomes it inside.

They are “structurally” different. This implies a different approach to
reality, a different view of the world, oneself, and the other (although
nature is, then, undoubtedly conditioned by the environment, by the context
in which one lives).

Admitting differences does not mean assigning roles in a “rigid” way: the
man is an engineer, the woman cooking in the kitchen (there are excellent
male chefs and women with engineering degrees). We are not talking about
having more or less qualities, but only about expressing them, manifesting
them, living them in a “masculine” or “feminine” way.

Why recognize that men and women have two different ways of giving

Some people might think that, even if there are differences, it doesn’t
matter what they are. Well, John Gray, author of the classic Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus gives us an answer.

For the American essayist, this is a fundamental juncture so that the two
can harmonize and get to know each other better, instead of waging war due
to misunderstandings.

Recognizing the differences between men and women (especially in the way
they communicate!) does not mean labelling, discriminating, taking
something away from the emancipation of one sex or the other, but fostering
greater understanding and cohesion between the two sexes.

Recognizing diversity helps the relationship

Gray goes so far as to say: “Not only do the two sexes communicate
differently, but they think, feel, perceive, react, love, feel needs, and
judge in different ways. It seems they almost come from different planets
because they speak different languages and their needs are different. The
increased understanding of these differences will help you to resolve many
of the frustrations that arise from living with someone of the opposite sex
and trying to understand him or her. It is not difficult to dispel or avoid
misunderstandings and correct wrong expectations. Remembering that your
partner is as different from you as an alien would be, you can relax and
ally yourself with the differences, instead of opposing them or trying to
undo them.”

Pretending to be “equal,” that is, pretending that the other behaves like
us, is a cause of great suffering. The author offers, therefore, some
advice to approach the world of the opposite sex.

Some differences

In various chapters, the author outlines the main differences he finds. For
example, he says, men and women get angry for different reasons, have
different priorities, talk and stop talking for different reasons. While
men may “offer solutions and invalidate feelings,” women “offer unsolicited
advice.” While Martians (men) tend to brood on their own about what worries
them, Venusians (women) feel the innate need to talk about their problems.
The woman is inclined to “talk at once” about what is troubling her, about
problems. The man needs to cool off, reason a little on his own.

The idea one has, reading Gray’s text, is that what is needed is a sort of
dictionary, which translates simultaneously the different behaviors, the
different needs, the different ways of approaching life and, in particular,
the relationship of men and women.

He speaks specifically about a couple’s relationship, but there are many
contexts in which men and women might find themselves in dialogue and

Everyone, in our opinion, should “arm themselves” with a good dictionary,
which translates from Martian to Venusian. Perhaps we will never become
“native speakers” (we remain Martian or Venusian), but we will at least
have the words and grammatical knowledge sufficient to get in touch with
the other.

The first step to start “studying” the other’s language? Talk to each other
without fear. We are similar but also wonderfully different!


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