Similar and… wonderfully different: do men and women “speak” two different languages?

Similar and… wonderfully different: do men and women “speak” two different languages?

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 themselves?

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 collaboration.

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!