The science of gender

We’ve all been there.

You’re talking to a guy or girl that you have recently been hanging out with more and you are finally convinced that there is potential for something deeper to develop. Then—as if out of nowhere—with one comment, you suddenly feel like you are trying to communicate with another species.

So, we go to the advice columnists, self-help books and talk shows (or chick flicks) to try to figure out what went wrong and how we can truly understand the way the other gender’s mind works. We even have board games that plate men and women against each other to determine which gender is supreme.

But are we really as different as we think?

According to research and studies done by several professors, the answer is a resounding no.

“I don’t believe there is some true essence of masculinity and femininity,” psychology professor Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen said. “We’re socialized to act like we come from different species.”

Van Leeuwen has written numerous books on the differences, or lack of differences, between genders, with her latest composition, “A Sword Between the Sexes? C.S. Lewis and the Gender Debates,” printed earlier this year.

She said that it is wrong to assume that all men will act the same and that all women will act the same because every individual is different. Gender should not be looked at as a noun, she argued, but as a verb.

“Gender is something we do, not just something we have,” Van Leeuwen said. “Hormones don’t rage they insinuate…. Otherwise we’re not human beings-we’re just machines.”

Communications professor Talli Sperry, who has been mentoring teenagers and young adults for ten years, agreed that there really are no proven differences between men and women in this sense.

“I have not found that there are any typical male or female responses,” Sperry said in an e-mail. “Our society assumes a stereotypical answer for both male and female-the result of which often reduce the humanity of both genders and leads people to wrongly assume that males are not as sensitive or tender of heart as are females.”

Sperry said the only generalization she actually saw consistently in her work was the idea that for a man to truly open up, he needs to have spent time with that person. Even if a man has a strong relationship with someone, he usually needs to spend a few hours with him or her before he will pour out his heart.

On the other hand, women are often very willing to open up to someone within an hour-sometimes even less-if they have already established a relationship with the person they are talking with.

Still, the idea of men and women being completely different in the way they think and communicate is nothing more than a societal idea turned into an accepted truth.

“People say, ‘It’s going to be so hard to learn each other’s languages,'” Van Leeuwen said. “Balderdash! Where does this nonsense come from? … Men are from earth and women are from earth.”

Van Leeuwen said she is tired of hearing the different arguments for what classifies a “man” or a “woman” and instead believes that students should focus more on what it means to be a Christian.

“The fruits of the spirit and the armor of God are not in pink and blue,” Van Leeuwen said. “Gender is a gift we’ve been given. Nothing is set in stone.”

So, the next time you get frustrated when trying to communicate with the opposite gender, remember that any type of relationship takes time and understanding.

“We shouldn’t be trapped in male and female essences,” Van Leeuwen said. “You can’t use them as excuses to not step up and take responsibility.”

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