The Tribune - Spectrum

Sunday, September 30, 2001

Gender difference that still persists
Review by Roopinder Singh

Why Men Donít Listen and Women Canít Read Maps. How We Are Different and What to do about it
by Allan and Barbara Pease. Manjul Publishing House, Bhopal. Pages 300. Rs 195.

WE are different. We know that, but we just canít say it-anyone who does is not politically correct (PC). But, here we have a book the title of which is provocative enough to make readers come out of the grey PC veil and reach out to grab the book.

Man-woman differences have always called for comment, and one of my favourite ones is by Joan Rivers: "Itís obvious that women are smarter than men. Think about it-diamonds are a girlís best friend; manís best friend is a dog."

A fundamental assertion for this fast-paced book is that man and women developed different parts of the brain because of varied needs, thus when cavemen went hunting, their spatial awareness (so useful for parallel parking in todayís world) and map-reading skills (imperative to negotiate the urban jungle) were developed. Women guarded the kids, had to keep an eye on a wider picture, they have better peripheral vision and are routinely to be seen multi-tasking. A manís vision is more focused.


Why Men Donít Listen and Women Canít Read Maps. Review by Roopinder SinghThe authors, an Australian husband and wife team, do emphasise that biological facts should not be allowed to impinge on questions of social equality. However, many of the assertions are close to gender stereotypes:

Dripping taps drive women crazy, while men sleep.

A woman is four to six times more likely to touch another woman in a social conversation than a man would another man.

The first rule of talking to a man: Keep it simple! Give him only one thing at a time to think about.

Women do not have good spatial skills because they evolved chasing little else besides men.

To prove his love for her, he climbed the highest mountain, swam the deepest ocean and crossed the widest desert. But she left him-he was never home.

If you are dealing with an upset woman, donít offer solutions or invalidate her feelings-just show her you are listening.

Marriage has it good side. It teaches you loyalty, forbearance, tolerance, self-restraint and other valuable qualities you would not need if you stayed single.

Much of what one reads is ego-bruising, especially for the males. Tests show that women rate 3 per cent higher in general intelligence than men. Ouch!

No matter what is said, it is a bit too much to agree with the authorís statement that we are who we are because of our hormones. We all are the result of our chemistry."

At the same time, there is no doubt that despite the best intention of equal opportunity employers, boys stilt stubbornly go to jobs with a mechanical and spatial bias and girls seem compelled to seek jobs involving human interaction.

There is truth in what they say, though one need not get carried away by the assertions in the book, we are what we are to a large extent because of our mind asserting its will and our circumstances, and none of us would fit into typical stereotypes, we are all unique admixtures of various kinds.

The authors do give an interesting bibliography at the end, but it would have been really nice to have footnotes so that one could check up on various assertions, because the book cannot really be mistaken for a scholarly work. Still, it is pop psychology and has a wide audience, as it being a best-seller has proved.