John Gray is, if nothing else, consistent. In possibly his most offensive chapter to date, we are again inundated with endless comparisons of male-proactive and female-passive behavior patterns. With the paradigm firmly established in previous chapters (ad nauseum, I know), we now learn now men and women are motivated. And, yes, I am afraid, although far from surprised, that Gray’s broad brush has once again painted men and women into their gender-/behavior-specific corners.
How we are motivated to support one another is, according to Gray, determined by gender. Men are motivated to support their partners “when they feel needed.” (43) Women, on the other hand, are more supportive, “when they feel cherished.” (43) Such descriptions imply, of course, that in order to be needed you must actively provide something that another needs (yes, men being pro-active again) and feeling cherished doesn’t actually take too much effort to enjoy or to do. What this all boils down to is a concept that I discussed in my analysis of Chapter Two: CONTROL.
She: “Why didn’t you support me?”
He: “I didn’t know you needed me to.”
Well, the solution for women is to (1) have a problem that they need to discuss with their partner, (2) alert the man that they have to turn-on in order to be aware of the problem, (3) tell the problem to the man, and (4) either wait for an “uh-huh” or “ah-ha” to be sure that she is being heard, or (5) wait for the man to offer a solution or cave. As I see it, this woman actually has two problems. Her first was the problem that she presented to him in the first place; her second problem is the responsibility she bears by alerting him to the problem so that she can get the support she deserves. If she doesn’t alert him to a problem, then he bears no responsibility in offering his support.
If you thought the Martian-Venusian metaphor was overused before, Chapter Four will easily cause you to question how Gray perceives the intellectual level of his targeted audience (if not the editors or the book or those who shower the book with curious praise). The numerous time that I have read this book have convinced me that its target audience is women. Combined with the author’s obvious sexist bent, this should be enough to repel even those with the dimmest of light bulbs over their heads to throw MMWV into the nearest sewer and run as far from it as they possibly can! Read the author’s fantastic voyage back in time to Mars and Venus and then defend him.
“After the first Martian fell in love,” writes “Dr.” Gray, “he began manufacturing telescopes for all his brother Martians . . . In an unspoken language the Venusians communicated loud and clear: ‘We need you. Your power and strength can bring us great fulfillment, filling a deep void within our being.” (44) The Venusians, it seems, were dreaming that their knights in shining armor would appear to rescue and provide for their hapless and defenseless selves. Indeed, Gray writes that a Venusians “dreamed that a fleet of spaceships from the heavens would land and a race of strong and caring Martians would emerge. These being would not need nurturing but instead wanted to provide for and take care of the Venusians.” (44) Do the Apologists really want to defend this sexist tripe now?
When you cut through and discard the Martian/Venusian fiction in Chapter Four, what you have left are the stale, hard crumbs of sexism and patriarchy. Flicking the crumbs off the plate we find a distinct difference in what Gray believes are factors that motivate men and women to support one another. As usual, the author paints women with his passive/needy brush, but also makes it their responsibility to set the limits (i.e., boundaries of acceptable behavior) through which men can supposedly feel free to wholly support and love their partners. Consider the following lists for comparison.
- “When a man is in love he is motivated to be the best he can be in order to serve others.” (45)
- “Given the opportunity to prove his potential, he expresses his best self.” (45)
- “To become motivated again he needs to fee appreciated, trusted and accepted. Not to be needed is a slow death for a man.” (46)
- “Instead of blaming his female partner, a man can be compassionate and offer his support even if she doesn’t ask for it.” (49)
- “As a man experiences limits, he is motivated to give more.” (52)
- “Women are happy when they believe their needs will be met [by their man].” (47)
- “She needs to feel that she is not alone.” (47)
- “She needs to feel loved and cherished.” (47)
- “Her tendency to be compulsive relaxes as she remembers she is worthy of love.” (48)
- “Instead of blaming a man for giving less, a woman can accept her partner’s imperfections, especially when he disappoints her, trust that he wants to give more when he doesn’t offer his support, and encourage him to give more by appreciating what he does give and continuing to ask for his support.” (49)
- “When a woman sets limits, she gradually learns to relax and receive more.” (52)
Let us consider, first, the list for men–numbers two and three are especially intriguing. “Given the opportunity to prove his potential, he expresses his best self.” (45) Turn this around and consider that he will not express his best self unless the woman provides the opportunity. One some level he will decide what defines an opportunity and unless his partner delivers first, he shoulders no responsibility to offer his “best self.” (45)
Likewise, consider number three: “To become motivated again he needs to feel appreciated, trusted and accepted.” (46) Again, the man ultimately decides if he has been “appreciated, trusted and accepted.” In the final analysis it is the man who holds all the power. Remember the ballad of Tom and Mary from Chapter Two? Mary told Tom where the party was and he sulked all night because she missed “a very special opportunity to love and support him” as they may have aimlessly driven around town for three hours? (20) This is the same tired song: Gray assumes that all men will pout if unsolicited advice, irrespective of its constructive nature, is offered to them by a woman. According to Gray, upon being criticized men shut down. If you don’t want your man to shut down, then you can’t offer any unsolicited advice. Who owns who here? Who is in the sole position of control? This moronic generalization is an insult to all men. It is not wonder to me that the vast majority of mail to The Rebuttal has been by intelligent men who are mystified by Gray’s nauseating generalizations.
Now, consider number five in the list for women. A woman has to “forgive her partner’s imperfections,” and appreciate him and trust that he “wants to give more when he doesn’t offer his support.” (49) This is classic double-speak. Gray has tried to dust off and dress up a class control phrase: “You’ll get what I give you!” After all, if a man doesn’t feel that he has been supported, appreciated, or has not received encouragement–and only he can decide for himself how he defines these things–then he is under no obligation to offer his partner any support.
Hmm, who seems to be doing all the work here? Let’s see, women are certainly portrayed as being awfully needy, but they can’t blame their partner for giving less than they probably should. No. They must be forgiving, encouraging, understanding, appreciating, trusting, accepting, and, above all, they must set limits on the behavior that they are willing to tolerate from their mate. Now why should women set limits? Let us return to the list: men who experience limits are “motivated to give more.” (52) Ahh, so if the man is not giving, then it is the responsibility to the woman to set limits that will motivate him to give. What happened to Gray’s inventive, “strong,” “powerful,” and “wondrous” Martians? (43)
No, wait, men are required to do something. He can “be compassionate and offer his support even if she doesn’t ask for it.” (49) Well, how convenient for him. Does she actually have to be in the same room when this happens?
Although it seems very clear to me that women bear the direct responsibility of passively accepting their partner’s behaviors with an almost fairy tale grace while, at the same time, setting limits for behavior (all of which will supposedly work toward making her man support her), Gray actually subtitles a section of the chapter “When the Venusian is Ready the Martian Will Appear.” (54) (I supposed those professed degrees in Eastern Philosophy came in handy for this.) What is Gray implying here through his twisted version of religious philosophy? That men somehow know what women want before women actually know for themselves? When you need, I’ll let you know.
This is a warped and disturbing variant of deity worship that is an affront to both men and women. As someone pointed out to me after reading Chapter Four, the entire scenario Gray presents sounds, for lack of a better term, almost “God-like.” Consider: “I know what you need when you need it. If you’re not getting it, it is because you do not really need it. You are not ready to receive.” [My quotes, not Gray’s.] An all powerful deity could lay claim to such power–whether or not you presently believe in one–mere mortals cannot. This is Gray’s philosophy of validation simply reworded. “You keep trying your best to please me, but don’t criticize me (you don’t criticize God; God is all knowing). When you are ready to receive, have faith, and are truly devoted, then I will reward you.” [My quotes, not Gray’s.] Consider Gray’s sexist parallel deduction:
- “When the Venusian is ready the Martian will appear.” (55)
- “When the student is ready the teacher appears.” (55)
- “When the Venusians were ready to receive, the Martians were ready to give.” (55)
Student = Venusian (i.e., Woman)
Teacher = Martian (i.e., Man)
Seriously ask yourself, after reading the “information” put forth by the good “doctor,” why this sexist muck has been on the New York Times Best Sellers List since 1992. What does it say about us as a society? Haw far have we come in recognizing that men and women are equally important, equally rational and equally deserving human beings? As I see it, not terribly far. As a contributor to The Rebuttal observed in a letter to me recently, “The ‘Dr.’s’ sexism . . . is hardly incidental to the book: it’s the very reason he’s raking in millions.”
25 May 1996