It is best to begin a critical analysis of this celestial travesty by combining its introduction and first chapter. While questionable editing has separated into two section what should have been a comprehensive introduction, it is here that John Gray lays down the foundation on which he constructs the remainder of his sexist and demeaning observations regarding relationships between men and women.
He begins by establishing for himself a position of authority in which he claims to have conducted “seven years of research” leading to the concepts explored in Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus. (3) What is missing, unfortunately, are any references to work that Gray may have published for the scholarly community. This would be tremendously helpful in both assessing his claims and possibly his standing within the profession as a whole (sans infomercial endorsements). What is provided, however, are numerous references to his seminars. These self-serving advertisements raise more questions than they answer, specifically in regard to the “more than 25,000” attendees who were questioned at these various seminars. (4)
I ask you, Have these surveys been published anywhere scholarly and critically analyzed? In what form was this survey (if any) distributed (formal or informal)? What questions were asked? Was it distributed before or after the seminar? Does it take into account class, ethnic, religious, or regional/national differences? Was age taken into account? Are answers separated on the basis of gender, marital status, or length of relationship? Exactly how many individuals were questioned? And, equally important, was there any long-term follow-up among any, or all, of the participants? This is crucial information. Certainly Gray should have provided more than his claim of thousands of seminar participants or success stories in order to buttress the broad, and often insulting, generalizations made in this book.
Also established in the book’s introduction is the inference that women must have outside validation in order to feel somehow content within their relationships. Gray claims that after reading this book men are relieved to find that nothing is wrong with them, while women are relieved that someone is validating them. (6) This is the beginning of what I refer to as the “Active-Passive” control mechanism that Gray will consistently use throughout this book. It first becomes obvious in Chapter One where Gray’s Mars/Venus metaphor instantaneously disintegrates from a hardly humorous comparison that highlights the author’s weak ideas regarding the nature of gender to a miserable and unfortunate reinforcement of destructive gender stereotypes.
According to Gray’s metaphor, “Martians (i.e., men) discovered the Venusians (i.e., women)” and, after falling in love, “quickly invented” space travel.” (9-enhancements mine.) Women (excuse me, Venusians), on the other hand, happily received the arrival of the Martians for “they had intuitively known that this day would come.” (9) The basis of this shallow metaphor is the belief that men are actively pursuing what they want by controlling their environments and relationships, while women sit passively waiting to be rescued by the proverbial knight in shining armor who, because of his intelligence and wisdom, will make their lives content and worry-free (and, I suppose, validate them).
Here lies Gray’s central thesis: men fulfill active roles and are seen as ambitious and powerful. Women, however, satisfy passive roles and, although the author may grudgingly admit that women are cognizant human beings, they must necessarily take a back seat to the dominant male in their lives in order to routinely accommodate his wants and desires. I ask you, is this the study of mountain gorillas or serious scholarship (in itself a questionable claim) regarding the relationships among rational beings?
14 February 1996