Men and Women Aren't as Predictable As We've Been Led to Believe

Men and Women Aren't as Predictable As We've Been Led to Believe
Photo by Dainis Graveris / Unsplash

I've got a premarital counseling couple in front of me. They're bickering because one of them is always bringing up their feelings about their problems, and the other one is always trying to solve the other one's problems.

In your mind, which one is a man and which one is a woman?

Well, whatever you guessed, you're right. Or wrong. It depends.

"Men and women are fundamentally and predictably different" is one of the most stubborn cultural myths. The whole “men are from Mars, women are from Venus” mentality has done far more harm than good.

The fact, however, is that there is more variance within one gender than there is across genders. Meaning, for instance, if you took the average height of all men and the average height of all women, the averages would be closer together than the variance of heights amongst all men and amongst all women.

This is true of nearly every category you can measure. “Women are more chatty. Men are more reserved.” No. There are plenty of chatty men and reserved women. Often, social pressures and prescribed gender roles force people to perform a script of their gender rather than live out their true personalities.

A persistent variant of this myth I hear is that women want to talk about their feelings about their problems while men actually want to solve problems.

However, what assures me that this is not a simple, predictable male-female dynamic is that it reliably shows up with the same-sex couples I counsel as well. I’ve heard two men have this same argument, and I've heard two women have this same argument. Moreover, I’ve also listened to a straight couple have the same argument but with the man wishing the woman wasn’t so problem-solving-oriented.

Most of our culture's stories and scripts around gender are bullshit. We should pay attention to—and usually trash—the gender assumptions we tell kids, couples, and our own partners.

Anthony Parrott

Anthony Parrott

Washington, DC