Book Review: Men Are From Mars, Women Are from Venus

I imagine John Gray laughing at us all from the comforts of his old crinkled leather man chair; a chair that’s positioned presidentially in front of his fireplace. The fire is roaring and there’s a stuffed bald eagle hanging above. Just picture it, the devilish flames are flickering erratically in his beady eyes.

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He’s thinking about all us idiots who bought his book and made him millions. From his man cave he listens for the tinkering of pots and pans coming from the kitchen where his wife is preparing his dinner while trying to put the children to bed simultaneously like a darn good woman.

This book was published in 1992, yet reading Gray’s book full of relationship advice soon left me feeling like a damsel outstretched on Freud’s couch being offered a vibrator to cure me of my Hysteria and unfeminine emotions. It feels outdated even for 1992 even though it only became illegal in 1991 to rape your wife, so who knows.

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This book is still selling in 2018, which I think is hilarious. But to prevent you from wasting your time reading this book here’s a summary.

I went in with an open mind knowing that most adults from my childhood owned a copy. I quickly noticed a patronising tone as Gray became repetitive and used relationship examples where the woman was always needy.

I just thought holy crap, blow me down, and call me Nigel – is this book a joke? Alas, it is a rule book for women.

This man was obviously before his time. His advice is what we would now call the Shut The Fuck Up method. Women are to STFU if they know what’s good for them. When I realised this I started to feel quite offended.

The Mancave

The mancave is a place where men go to hide, because “he is generally wounded or stressed and is trying to solve his problem alone”. Women will know he is in there, as “he temporarily loses awareness of everything else […] he becomes increasingly distant, forgetful, unresponsive, and preoccupied in his relationship”.

Women are not allowed in the mancave, and Gray advises women not to “sit next to the door of the cave and wait for him to come out”, because “the more women try to get them to talk or come out, the longer it takes”.

One of the reasons he might have retreated here, as we find out 42 pages after this mancave mansplaination, is because, “at times [men] begin to forget themselves. They can feel that too much intimacy robs them of their power. They need to regulate how close they get.”

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Well isn’t that a revelation! I didn’t know that man + intimacy = power loss. What is this power he speaks of, anyway? Is it the kind of power that men want at work or physical power? Sounds a bit Herculean to me.

Once women have robbed men of their power, anyway, and men need to retreat to reinstate their power like Halo from Xbox does after a monster takes him out, Gray reminds women that,

to expect a man who is in his cave instantly to become open, responsive and loving is as unrealistic as expecting a woman who is upset immediately to calm down and make complete sense…it is a mistake to expect a woman’s feelings to always be rational and logical. 

While women are not making complete sense because they’re dimwits they can try and show their men that they’re not void of logic and rationale, as Gray believes women to be, by not only leaving him to his games and beer, but choosing to “read a book, listen to music, work in the garden, listen to self-improvement tapes, call a girlfriend, write in a journal, see a therapist…” instead.

I find there’s nothing quite like a self-improvement tape or a therapy session when I don’t have a man around to entertain me.

On Women Giving Men Advice

Man might also retreat into his cave because,

when a woman offers unsolicited advice or tries to ‘help’ a man, she has no idea of how critical and unloving she may sound to him, and he subsequently feels emasculated and stressed.

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Mr Gray, I see you’ve proved my STFU theory!

(As if by magic, Gray has answered my questions next in his book). Let me repeat the question, is it easier for women to STFU for a marriage to work?

men pride themselves on being experts, especially when it comes to fixing mechanical things, getting places, or solving problems. These are the times when he needs her loving acceptance the most and not her advice or criticism.

Tell me then, if women find themselves reading a map and they see that they should go left and not right but he clearly doesn’t know… what should we do?

practice restraining from giving any unsolicited advice or criticism. The men in your life will not only appreciate it but also will be more attentive and responsive to you. 

Ah, I see. So STFU is exactly what a woman should do?

 if he truly does need help, then it is a sign of wisdom to get it. In this case, he will get someone he respects and then talk about his problem. 

Yes, I thought that’s what you were saying. Men will not talk about their problem with women, because, according to no man in my life, women are just not quite respected enough to have the luxury of offering advice!

Unfortunately, according to Gray, women can blame their mum’s, grandmothers, and female ancestors for the loss of this advice giving privilege, because apparently all men have “felt criticised as a child or experienced his father being criticised by his mother,” which makes him adverse to your advice. This I particularly found to be a rather sweeping statement. But what do I know! I’m just a woman who is upset and am unlikely to be making much sense.

The Well

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In Chapter 7, Women Are Like Waves, we hear about women and their ‘well’. Men have their cave full of space where they have time to be alone with their thoughts, video games, and beer – no women allowed.

Women, on the other hand, have their deep, dark, and claustrophobic well. Which, low and behold, women need to be saved from like the peeny-weeny damsels they are. What is it that will save them, you ask? By man and his support of course.

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Men are allowed in our well. This is a bit hypocritical I think, because what if women want to be alone in their well? I like to be alone. I’m alone right now writing this in Whangamata and have been feeding some cows. I might not be in a well, but could being a married female all alone in a field suggest that I need to be saved?! Should I be on the lookout for hyper masculine heroes?

Men, remember that when your woman is in a well:

[t]o support a woman when she is in her well is a special gift that she will greatly appreciate. Gradually she will become free from the gripping influence of her past. She will still have her ups and downs, but they will not be so extreme that they overshadow her loving nature” (125).

Women sure do love a special gift like this one. Nothing casts a shadow over the gripping influence of her past like the support from a man. I’m not sure what he means by this influence, but I think he might be making some Freudian assumptions here – do all women have daddy issues? Who knows! We do love a flippant generalisation in this book.

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But thank goodness man knows he should support his woman while she’s in her dark well and save her from those unfeminine traits that are overshadowing the nurturing, loving, and caring woman she should be! “Susan, Susan, throw me your hair! I’ve come to rescue you from your own mind!”

I imagine that exclamation mark on the end there makes me seem a little upset. Sorry, Gray, your irrational and outdated even for the 90s assumptions about men and women are causing my emotions to overshadow my loving nature. I’ll reign it in and get back in the kitchen before you write me off as an outspoken, masculine lost cause of a wife!

Chloe x

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