I got the book Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus out of the library purely so I could hate it. (I have a bad habit of seeking out things I know will make me angry. It's a sickness.)
And to make this review even more worthless, I didn't actually read it. It's over 300 pages, it's really boring, and between work, school, and better books, I don't have the time to slog through. I just skimmed for the gist and the most ridiculous quotes.
The gist of the book is that men and women are so very different. Women are emotional and talk too much; men are tough and reserved. Women are demanding and nag, and they don't respond to reason. Men want sex and women want men to earn sex. Basically, if I suddenly jumped in your face and yelled "QUICK! THINK OF SOME STEREOTYPES!", you'd write this book.
The whole concept of gender differences--particularly gender opposites--is so overblown in pop psych. I am officially sick of hearing statements in the form "Men go hoody hoo, but women go haddy ha!" Men are rational but women are irrational. Women are sensitive but men are insensitive. The idea that male and female personalities are opposites is dumb, condescending, and makes truly respectful relationships impossible.
So most of the meat of MafMWafV is extremely patronizing suggestions on how to live with someone who's irrational (don't try to reason with her!) or insensitive (don't expect affection from him!). The phrase "talk about your problems in plain English like two adults" does not appear in this book.
Some ridiculous phrases that do appear in this book, under the cut. Bear in mind that this book has sold 14 million copies and built a self-help empire, so this isn't some fringe fruitloop I'm picking on, this is stuff that millions of people have read and most of them probably believed.
[This story is several pages long so I'll summarize.]
Imagine a knight in shining armor traveling through the countryside. Suddenly he sees a princess being attacked by a dragon. He pulls out his sword to slay the dragon, but before he does, the princess hands him a noose, saying "use this instead, it'll work better." He kills the dragon with the noose and saves the princess, but afterwards he feels useless and depressed and leaves town.
He runs into another princess menaced by a dragon. Same story; he pulls out his sword, she gives him poison and says "use this instead," the poison works and the day is saved, but the knight feels all bad and ashamed and again returns to his wandering.
Finally he encounters yet another princess-dragon-standoff, but this princess doesn't give him any advice. He draws his sword, slays the dragon with the sword, feels great, and marries the princess. "But only after making sure his new partner knew nothing about nooses and poisons."
If the moral of this story is anything other than "damn, that knight was a dick," I don't want to hear it.
Just as a woman needs to feel a man's devotion, a man has a primary need to feel a woman's admiration. To admire a man is to regard him with wonder, delight, and pleased approval.
Yipee! A man! Woo hoo! Isn't that amazing! Hip hip hooray!
This is one of those things that's not wrong in itself (except for the implication that a woman wouldn't like to be admired), but seems to recommend a crazily doormatty and dishonest course of action. Of course I express positive feelings about my partners and of course I say good things when they're nice to me or successful in life, but... I don't do it to feed their emotional needs, I do it when it's true. Trying to express the emotion you think your partner wants, rather than the one you're actually feeling, isn't going to work out well for either of you.
Remember: when you offer unsolicited advice he may feel mistrusted, controlled, or rejected.
Okay, I can see how "advice" like "You should use your football nights to exercise instead!" could have that effect, but surely there are some situations in which he, not being an omnipotent power, would actually appreciate some help? I mean, there are things I know that my partners don't, and I'm not going to play dumb and let him drive 20 miles in the wrong direction because I was nurturing his delicate ego.
When a woman keeps score, no matter how big or small a gift of love is, it scores one point... A man, however, thinks he scores one point for one small gift and thirty points for a big gift.
Women: a game you can win! (Also, bullshit. I appreciate small gifts, but believe me, when I get a big one, I know the difference. It's not like "aww, you loaned me your jacket... that's nice" and "aww, three carats... that's nice.")
101 Ways to Score Points With a Woman
Whee, a big numbered list, I love those! About half of these are "perform your basic household obligations." Apparently a man who cooks or cleans occasionally is doing his partner a big damn favor. (It makes me realize how lucky I am in my relationships. Of course we don't live together so maybe that changes everything, but we cook together a lot and it always goes without saying that we'll take turns or work together on the chores.)
35. Wash before having sex or put on a cologne if she likes that.
Okay, washing before sex is not "scoring points." It is "being allowed to have sex."
37. Be patient when she is sharing. Don't look at your watch.
You know, when words are coming out of a woman's mouth, sometimes they're actually specific words that form sentences. "Talking" isn't some sort of uniform white noise women produce.
63. Offer to sharpen her knives in the kitchen.
Her knives? HER knives? If we're living together, they're our goddamn knives in our kitchen where we cook. (I've realized by now that he's mostly speaking to couples where the woman is a full-time housewife, and that entire way of living is so socially and financially unthinkable to me--and most other women in the real world--that it's hard for me to even envision how that would work.)
65. Offer to change lightbulbs as soon as they go out.
"Oh honey, you didn't sit in the dark pretending nothing had happened, you're the best!"
80. When listening to her, reassure her that you are listening by making little noises like ah ha, uh-huh, oh, mmhuh, and hmmmm.
How Women Can Score Big With Men
The majority of these are "he does something wrong and she shuts her yap." I understand that over-criticizing your partner is wrong, but I don't like the idea that silence is point-scoring for women.
19. She feels disapproving and instead of expressing it she goes in another room and privately centers herself and then comes back with a more centered and loving heart.
Sacrificing your own feelings for the sake of your partner's incredibly fragile ego is a recurring theme here, isn't it?
21. She really enjoys having sex with him.
Well, if he's any good at it. God, it's just... that's not something I do to "score points!" I enjoy it or I don't! I can't make it all about him!
Next time you are frustrated with the opposite sex, remember men are from Mars and women are from Venus. Even if you don't remember anything else from this book, remembering that we are supposed to be different will help you to be more loving.
No. Remembering that we are fundamentally alike, that I should treat my partners as I want to be treated, that I should speak to them honestly and respectfully, and that I should neither commit nor put up with crazy bullshit just because "my gender always does that," is what helps me love.
I don't love Alan because I understand that men are egocentric fucknuts; I love Alan because he's not an egocentric fucknut.