When we were bringing up our boys in the eighties it was in vogue to suggest that boys and girls are trained to be the sex they represent by people’s expectations and gender manipulations. Almost anyone my age believed it. I carefully watched my own children’s behaviours and realised that I and my generation had believed a lie. I was both ashamed and angry at the same time. How could I have been taken in so easily?
Our generation was also taken in by the lie, following on from above lie, that men and women are the same except for the different body parts. The reverse is actually the case. Women are almost a new species. Unfortunately many men of my own generation believed this lie and treated their wives accordingly and then couldn’t understand when she walked out the door never to return in sheer disgust. This excerpt from the following brilliant article on Sex Differences by Steven E. Rhoads scientifically shows what commonsense has known for centuries.
Although my topic is marriage, I want to look first at infancy and childhood. At those stages of life we can observe male and female differences before socialisation may have created them, and thus we get some sense of what differences are innate. This deep-rooted difference will in turn reveal issues in marriage.
In his book ‘The Essential Difference’, Simon Baron-Cohen notes that one-day-old baby girls look longer at a picture of a human face, whereas boys look longer at an oval shape with weird alien-like features. Day-old female infants cry longer than male infants when they hear the sound of other crying infants (Rhoads, 197). Cohen marshals many other kinds of evidence suggesting that females are more attuned to other people. To take another example, at just 12 months baby girls “respond more empathetically to the distress of other people, showing greater concern for others through more sad looks, sympathetic vocalisations, and comforting behaviour” (Baron-Cohen, 31). Grown women also comfort strangers more and are more likely than men to report that they share the emotional distress of friends.
Girls like co-operation more than boys do and like competition less. They care more about playmates’ feelings, and they can read others’ emotions better than boys. Girls like one-on-one relationships, and they say sweet, affirming things to friends and put their arms around them. They bond through confiding talk. Girls play house, and their pretend play involves “more co-operative role playing’ (Baron-Cohen, 46).
Boys are more self-centred – for example, they have a harder time learning to share, and they act up more and are less likely to be team players in schools. Boys develop strong passions for particular things, the passions seem to arise out of nowhere, and they change through time. A boy might be unable to get enough of cars, trucks or tractors, then of dinosaurs, then music, then computers (Baron-Cohen, chs. 2,4,6).
Boys travel in packs, and have a clearer idea of who is dominant in their group. In summer camp, boys who would be leaders will often jump on and insult other boys right away to assert dominance. Girls at summer camp will build friendships for a week before subtly asserting dominance by verbal put downs. Though social dominance is a goal for girls, it’s not allowed to get in the way of intimacy with friends. Boys’ dominance hierarchies tend to last all summer whereas girls are more fluid, with girls often breaking up into groups of two or three who talk among themselves in an intimate way (Baron-Cohen, 38-42).
When boys and girls reach puberty, they begin to interact more, and the sex differences in mixed groups become less apparent. Boys, for example, learn that girls don’t like to trade insults in the way that boys do, so in mixed company sex differences can be hidden. Whenever the researchers separate the sexes, the differences become starker. For example, male prisons tend to develop “hierarchies of power and coercion,” while in female prisons the women often form make-believe families in which prisoners are designated father, mother, aunt, daughter, son and the like (Rasche, 46; Mishra; Dabbs and Dabbs, 79).
Surveys also show the female desire for connection and intimacy. When you ask unmarried, childless women what is most important to their happiness, they are five times more likely to cite personal relationships with their mothers or friends than they are to cite their careers (Per Research Center Survey. Bowman, 24).
The bottom line is that men and women are incredibly and wonderfully different.
Your children will receive something unique from their mother that they won’t receive from you. The reverse is also the case.
Children need to grow up in the loving tension that a male and female create in a loving marriage. Your children can then find their own identity in the midst of it. Men and women are different.
Don’t fight the difference, enjoy it and affirm it.