Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Men are from Mars... and Women are Too?

This week Men's Health Magazine published an article titled, "How to Talk Sports with Women Who are Not Interested" and it set off a firestorm. The cyber world went crazy with tweets and blogs about how sexist and short-sighted this article is in its  portrayal that most women care more about the personal story lines in sports more than they do about stats.

There was so much back lash that Men's Health Magazine deleted the article an apologized for writing an article that "suggested women are inferior to men in sports... or in any other way".

While I cannot defend everything in the article (it is no longer available for closer examination anyway), I am dumbfounded at the backlash towards a men's magazine for writing articles directed towards men. It is true that this magazine should not suggest that women are inferior and somehow unable to even understand what is happening on the field of sports and, like any article, it should also not assume all women see the game one way just like it should not assume that all men see the game one way.

But writing an article to address men who love sports and are dating or married to women who do not like sports is not an evil, misogynist, sexist attack. The article said things like, "women see the game differently than men".  When we watch sports my wife hates seeing the agony of defeat on the guys faces because she thinks of them as "somebody's little boy". I see them as the guys who are professionals and who have to deal with the fact they just lost to someone who outplayed them. We have different reactions because "we see the game differently".

The article also said "women need story lines" and "they don't care about stats". It should have said "some women" instead of generalizing but let's be honest, SOME women do care more about the story line than the stats and MANY guys do not care about the story line. Consider the fact that TV ratings for the Olympics show an unusually high amount of female viewers compared to other sporting events. At the same time the Olympic coverage is nearly unwatchable for MANY guys because it wastes so much time on the back story of every athlete. Men don't want the story line, we want the action and we want the results. (Actual stats show 56% of Olympic viewers are female compared to 56% of Super Bowl viewers being Male). 

While it is true that the lines for many traditional gender roles are blurred and equality is more valued than in the past, this does not mean gender differences cease to exist or that we should be afraid of talking about those differences. The point is that it should not be considered an awful thing for Men's Health Magazine to give suggestions for men wanting to talk sports with their female partners. Just as it is not an awful thing when magazines designed for women offer advice for dealing with men.

If we take this outrage to an extreme and get rid of any article talking about differences based on generalizations of the sexes then we must be outraged over ideas that suggest "Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus" and marketers should denounce statistics and advertise products equally instead of catering to typical gender preferences. Film makers should be outraged at the idea that men and women are different so action movies that attract male audiences should feature more talking and character development and love stories that attract larger female audiences should have less talking and more visual, gratuitous action.

The point is when we get so worked up over articles that acknowledge differences between sexes we are ignoring scientific realities of gender and we are confusing the fight for equality with the affirmation of distinctness. So let's all take a deep breath, let's continue to ensure that men and women are given equal opportunities, let's acknowledge that one gender is not superior over the other, and let's be okay with the fact that "equal" does not mean "the same".

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