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From My Corpus Callosum

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April 3, 2000: Happy Spring and hope you enjoyed the latest round of April Fools jokes. Various people have popped the question, "Have you read Children Are From Heaven? The answer is, "Yes, I have" and all I can say is, "Save your money." Please, we do not need another sexist child development "expert" who dumps most of the childcare on his wife. I don't believe for a NY minute that "Dr" Gray ever "did his share".

As usual, this page contains the most interesting commentary on Out of the Cave: Exploring Gray's Anatomy. Thank you for your accolades, your support, and your challenges. Due to your queries, I have updated the FAQ. Please take a moment to check it out.

And now, let's enjoy the newest batch of stimulating letters:

I am starting to build archives of past From My Corpus Callosum entries. For starters, check out:


More Oprah-tunities

From: lobstermate@yahoo.com
Date: Sat, 20 Nov 1999 13:46:55 -0600

Thank you, thank you, thank you. I am so glad to have found your website. Thank you for articulating what I have thought and felt. I have often felt only in my understanding of the way we are all influenced and hurt by patriarchy. Is there any way you can get your information to Oprah in hopes of her understanding the harm she is causing? I will be visiting again.

Lisa Sblendorio


Thanks for the accolades, Lisa. I did write Oprah a letter, but never got an answer. Susan Hamson also wrote to Oprah and never got a reply. Lisa, have you noticed that the mass media only responds to criticism when the critics are part of a group? For example, when Time did its June 29, 1998 hatchet job, "Is Feminism Dead?", 1300 of the 1700 responses that the magazine received within the first two weeks of publication were critical. That sort of response would be a wake-up call to any publication. However, the editors at Time would have never taken the criticism so seriously if the 200,000 member National Organization for Women hadn't insisted on a conference with the editors and writers. Because NOW has some clout and 25-35% of American women will privately admit to pollsters that they are feminists, Time complied with NOW's demand, as shown by the following links:

NOW Takes on Time Magazine
NOW Issues Friendly Advice for Time Magazine

Lisa, I'm using the NOW example to show that one of these fine days, talented young feminist organizers will need to start two new types of activist groups: an egalitarian relationships movement and a feminist education and anti-defamation league. I guarandamntee, as they say in Cajun country, that if Oprah had received 1300 negative letters about John Gray along with demands for accountability from a 200,000 member egalitarian relationships movement, she would have accomodated us. Oprah's idolatry of John Gray is part of a social problem, which means that individualistic solutions are not reliable. We must fight *collectively*.

Lisa, if you have organizational talents, pleaseconsider using them to build this desperately needed grass roots movement. If not, then I hope you'll look for someone with those gifts and encourage her to develop them. In Katha Pollitt's commentary on the Time hatchet job, she makes some very perceptive comments about the state of feminism today:

"The truth is, there's lots of feminism out there, and millions of self-identified feminists. What's missing is a grassroots, militant political movement. But one could say the same for racial minorities or organized labor or environmentalists or "the left." Not to be too mystical-Marxist here, but the conditions that make mass activism possible may just not exist right now."

Dead Again?
from "The Nation",
July 13, 1998

While I'm neither mystical nor Marxist, I agree with Pollitt that the "climate" for activism these days is hostile. As I said towards the end of Those Martian Women!, we're in the winter of activism. However, social "climates" are not cosmic forces--they are created entirely by human beings. The great triumphs of the 60's and 70's would have NEVER happened without so much terrific work in the 20's, 30's, 40's, and 50's. So what's the lesson here? If we want future John Grays to stop getting free rides, we're got to roll up our sleeves and built a new type of feminist organization. I hope my website will be a stepping stone on the way.



John Gray and Harville Hendricks: Two Peas in a Pod?

From: amarande@dashmail.net
Subject: A short kudo...
Date: Tue, 24 Aug 1999 15:41:16 -0700

I just wanted to say that I found your essays incredibly insightful and articulate. I'm looking forward to the next installment.

I'd heard about "Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus" for years, but I'd never read it. The basic premise, as I understood it from second-hand reports (which was simply: Men and women have different communication styles), sounded reasonable enough to me. Heck, I knew that even people of the same gender often have different communication styles when their background is different. It only made sense that men and women, who have such different experiences growing up in this culture, should have different communication styles. And there do seem to be some statistically significant neurological differences between men and women (although since the brain has a prodigious capacity to re-wire itself in response to the demands made on it, especially in early life, one could question how "inborn" such differences really are).

However, I recently stumbled upon your site as well as "The Rebuttal from Uranus" and became concerned. I'm going through the book now with pen and highlighter in hand to see what I think. :-) Although I don't agree with *all* of the "Rebuttal's" interpretations, I have to say that so far, the book *is* the most impressive assemblage of gender stereotypes I've seen from an "expert" in quite a while. The "Rebuttal" is relentless in pointing out the individual linguistic subterfuges; your site effectively draws the broad outline of the underlying sexist ideology, and questions the need to fall into these patterns when other, more egalitarian ones are available.

I wish I knew some way to make patriarchy as popular a topic as John Gray's books...

By the way: I noticed that on the back of the dust-jacket of my copy of MMWV, there is an endorsement from Harville Hendrix. I was astonished, because I'd read his book "Getting the Love You Want" and found it very valuable. It too tackled the subject of how to negotiate different communication styles/perspectives; but gender never entered into the discussion, and there was great emphasis on *both* partners learning to expand their behavioral repertoire. I can't figure out how someone who could write such an insightful book could not see through the problems in John Gray's work. Have you heard anything of the story on that one?

Thanks, and keep it up!

Sarah Roark


Susan and I thank you for your support, which motivates me to keep up this website in spite of a busy work schedule. Because of Susan's breakneck pace at the office these days, she is taking a hiatus from working on her website. However, she'll be back in the saddle this summer. Sarah, you made many interesting points in your letter, but I want to focus on your questions about Harville Hendricks, another relationship "guru".

I'm not surprised that Howard Hendricks recommended John Gray's books. The founder of Imago Relationship Therapy essentially takes a liberal feminist approach to couples' problems. However, as I made very clear in Those Martian Women!, liberal feminism doesn't really challenge patriarchy. Hendricks may be viewed as a "progressive" since he's married to Helen Hunt, a generous mainstream feminist philanthropist who was on the board of the Ms. Foundation for Women a few years ago. However, I remember seeing a glossy Ms. Foundation pamphlet in the 90's which showed that The Playboy Foundation had made a generous donation to the group. The Ms. Foundation has done some great things; namely, Take Our Daughters to Work Day. But as radical feminists so rightly point out, it cannot really change the system because it never really challenges patriarchy.

I've read several of Hendricks' books and have talked to some Imago Relationship Therapy counselors. Sorry, but they just don't get it. I haven't done much research on Hendricks' organization, but I believe it's run mainly by men. As far as I know, there are no feminist family therapists who lead his groups.

In Keeping the Love Your Find, which is the sequel to Getting the Love Your Want, Hendricks makes several sexist comments. For example:

"Addressing the complicity of the passive/aggressive woman who provokes the batterer's wrath, the suffering wife who neither leaves her partner nor defends her children--however unsympathetic it seems--has gone a long way towards reevaluating the unproductive "poor victim"/"awful tormentor" scenario. (p. 126)

"For a true understanding of dysfunctional behavior, we have to look more deeply into what is happening when a man beats his wife--or when she conspires to provoke him." (p. 126)

"Single men will have to give up the perogatives of their societally conferred power base. And women must be willing to risk insisting on sharing the responsibilities. They need to teach their partners to help with the caretaking, and then be able to step back and let their partners do their share."

"The Equal Rights Amendment did not pass in part because many women were scared to take on the freedom it implied. Marabel Morgan's book "The Total Woman" sold like hotcakes during the most vociferous period of the women's movement, because it reassurred women who didn't know how they would survive and be loved if they weren't meeting their mate at the door wearing a negligee and carrying a cold, dry martini." (p. 195)

Notice that Hendricks subtly puts most of the responsibility for equality on the woman. If I had the time and space, I could rip apart the sexism on just about every page of "Keeping the Love You Find". Indeed, I was quite irritated with Hendricks' statements about the ERA, for the truth is that women did 95% of all pro-ERA activism. Such disparate feminist activists as Heidi Hartmann, Barbara Ehrenreich, Mary Frances Berry, Jane Mansbridge, bell hooks, Dee Graham, Andrea Dworkin, and Catherine MacKinnon have made solid cases that strong women opposed the ERA because they feared it would be used against them in this patriarchal society. Also, if Hendricks had really read The Total Woman, he would have seen that Morgan tried very hard to have a more egalitarian marriage but gave up because her husband would not cooperate. Morgan said poignantly, "It's never going to change."

Hendricks needs to get an education on patriarchy. Several years ago, a friend who went to one of his seminars told me about his disastrous performance with a couple he picked out of the audience. Hendricks did his usual "active listening" and "anger containment" exercises, in which the woman says, "When you did . . ., I felt . . ." and the man accurately paraphrases her statements so that she will feel "heard and understood". Well, during the exercise, the man would not accurately paraphrase her. Hendricks mechanically went through the exercise several times, which made the women in the audience give the "men are assholes" look and caused the men to look for the nearest exit ramp. Hendricks looked clueless and NEVER confronted the man. But then, "traditional" therapists are taught to treat men with kid gloves. If only Hendricks had gotten good training in feminist family therapy, which dares to tell the truth about patriarchy in relationships.

We need a website which will critique Hendricks and Imago Relationship Therapy. Sorry, but I'm not the person to do it. Out of the Cave is taking lots of my time. Like so many other "standard" therapists, Hendricks will talk about "nature vs. nurture", "gender roles", "stereotypes", "masculinity, femininity, and androgyny" and "communication problems" without ever seeing patriarchy for what it is. He'll dwell on the family of origin without ever discussing how our male supremacist culture afffects it. And with touching naievete, he will proclaim that happy marriages will produce a happy society. In my forthcoming essays, I'm going to show that unless we develop an organized egalitarian relationships movement, undergirded by feminist beliefs, happy peer marriages will not change our culture. Indeed, to a certain extent, the next generation will have to reinvent the wheel.

I could go on for hours about Hendricks. True, he's not as patriarchal as Gray, but still, he's a big part of the problem.



Mars and Venus
and One's and Zero's

Date: Fri, 01 Oct 1999 05:47:47 -0700
From: jnewday@home.com
Subject: Just a bit of praise and commentary....

Thanks so much for your lucid rebuttal to John Gray's drivel. I must admit I have never actually read any of his "books" (more like extended propaganda pieces for let's-keep-things-the-way-they-were and pretend we're happy group) but have bumped into enough bits and pieces to ascertain the major drift of them.

Why must we divide the world in two down such restrictive lines? I think this is utter nonsense and hopefully we will move towards a society that accepts more variety and uniqueness without feeling threatened that all its social structures (along with peace and harmony----to whatever degree we manage to maintain it these days) are going to go down the tubes if we consider anything but a philosophy of two opposite poles as reflective of the biological systems of male and female.

We seem to be more and more accepting folks from different cultures, races, beliefs, religions, etc but somehow we still desperately cling to the idea that men and women must be such foreign creatures as to originate from separate planets (vis a vis Mr Gray's Mars & Venus palaver)!

I see this as an extension of our need to divide things into two separate parts---starting with the whole doggone good and evil philosophy. And right on down to the 'ol 1's and 0's in today's electronic culture. Wholeness evades us unless it is composed of twosomes. I find this highly annoying and a misconception that leads people in their own lives to pursue a sense of happiness and satisfaction by focusing largely on things and people OUTSIDE themselves.

Anyway, thanks so much for your essays, it is most excellent to hear a reasonable and intelligent voice concerning these matters.

Myself, I am educated in science and leaving a career in healthcare to pursue one in computing now in my late 40's.

Forgive my misspellings or misuses of whatever tortured expressions I might have stumbled into.............Just wanted to respond quickly,

Thanks again, Jan Edwards


Your letter was wonderfully perceptive. You are not the only person who knows that a huge part of the problem is our either/or view of life. As you said so well, it even gets into our electronics! I'm sure you'll resonate strongly with some tenets of postmodern feminism, which I discuss in Those Martian Women! Also, check out the "Feminism's French Connection" paragraph in the Feminist Links--Food For Thought section.

At any rate, best wishes in all your endeavors, including your career change.



Apologies For My Ethnocentrism

From: canani@excite.com
Date: Sun, 21 Nov 1999 18:26:32 PST

I like your website, although I haven't read everything yet. I'm happy to see that this kind of true feminism still exists. It's so true about men putting down other men who are not "macho" enough in their view. I also see women who become successful by working against other women in favour of a patriarchal system. Your website is great with one small exception:I was a bit saddened to see that you refer to female genital mutilation as a "Moslem" practice. This is simply not true- although it occurs in some moslem countries, usually in Africa, it also occurs in non-moslem African countries as well and is absent from the majority of moslem countries. Please do not perpetuate the myth of female gential mutilation being part of this religion. Other than that, keep up the good work.

Canan Sinan


Canan, I enjoyed your letter and apologize for my ethnocentrism. Yes, it's true that several Muslim countries, such as Turkey, do not practice FGM. On the other hand, some doctors in the West have no problem mutilating a young girl's genitals. I belong to an international women's rights group called Equality Now and remember a letter from a middle-aged Protestant American woman who said she got circumcized as a teenager because she was considered promiscuous. Several years ago, I worked with an Iranian woman who said she had never heard of FGM until she came to the United States in the early 80's. She was shocked to find so many Americans assuming she had been infibulated as a child. So the situation does have its complexities.

In my Feminist Links addendum, you'll see a section called Religion and Feminism. If you scroll down, you'll see a paragraph called, "Complexities of Islam", where I say, "Westerners have a lot to learn about the depth, breadth, and diversity of this faith community, especially as it concerns women. Fortunately, the web provides some good helping hands." I'm committed to learning more about Islam and gender, especially since John Gray's books are such a big hit in Iran.



Please Read My Essays Before You Critique Them

From: kevinsd@earthlink.net
Subject: Hi
Date: Mon, 1 Nov 1999 04:16:22 -0800

Thought I'd drop a note to say I read and enjoyed your website. I was a big fan of the general idea that there's some "Mars/Venus" split (though not as big a fan as many women I know) until, sometime in 1998, I read the guy's book. It's bad, taking it on is like shooting fish in a barrel. I still laugh when I remember how I thought I knew what the book was about and would defend it in arguments sight unseen (and wish I had the names and addresses of the people I spoke to so I could send them "Ummm, never mind" notes.

Since you're working on a more organized rebuttal, though, I wish to pose a few questions. Why do you think the thesis is so popular among women? It's not fair, in my opinion, to suggest that men are somehow responsible for the promulgation of this, they aren't the ones who are buying the book, I agree with the general observation that the Mars/Venus book was written with a female audience in mind because that's true of the whole genre, men, generally, don't spend their time with books written on this subject.

Here's my hunch, there is some truth to the cliche that women, in general, are more interested in relationships and communication, or in reading books about this, and many perceive some difference in men and women which hasn't been defined all that well or are receptive to explenations that there is some sort of "artificial wall" because the individuals who like these books, in particular, have some personal experience of "a wall" (which might not be related to gender but it if was that would be a convenient explenation).

One has to have problems communicating, in other words, before one is interested in this kind of book, this perception might create audience, might explain why Oprah is interested in this subject and academics generally are not. Just a thought.

Lastly, if you get around to it could you write an essay which considers the question of how many women believe in the stereotypes you find frustrating and how this is an influence in the society? As a man I'll suggest that the pressures to conform to particular stereotypes or set of behaviors don't just go one way, if there's nothing "innate" about Mars and Venus then the whole thing is still a vicious circle, a woman who sees herself as having "Venus-like" qualities (which aren't all negative) will bring "Martian-like" expectations to her relationships.

This, in my opinion, is the major cop out in some critiques of these ideas, the lack of acknowledgement of the extent to which social reenforcement goes both ways, that muddies the analysis but in my opinion it's an important insight, curious what you might have to say.

Cheers,
Kevin


I have a question for you. Did you REALLY read my essays? If you had, you would have never asked why the Mars&Venus books are popular among women, for I answered that question in Crown Him Patriarch, especially in the later part of the How Patriarchy Affects Relationships and How People Sustain Patriarchy sections. I even included a short explanation of Societal Stockholm Syndrome, which offers a very convincing explanation of why members of subordinate groups often "put up with it". If you had understood the concepts presented in Masculinity/Femininity: Society's Difference Dividend and Crown Him Patriarch, you would never have insinuated that I think "men are responsible for the promulgation of this". The truth is that while many females do like the Mars&Venus books, almost all criticism of John Gray has been done by women. Just look at the Other Feminist Critiques of Mars&Venus section in my Feminist Links page. Eight were done by women; only one was done by a man. As I pointed out in Crown Him Patriarch, "Almost all the work on gender justice has been done by women." It's about time for men to catch up. That statement isn't male bashing; it's simply a fact.

I am not going to write an essay "which considers the question of how many women believe in the stereotypes . . ." because I covered the issue in Crown Him Patriarch. Also, a wide variety of feminist scholars have brilliantly and courageously addressed the issue. For starters, you should read:

  1. Barbara Ehrenreich, The Hearts of Men: American Dreams and the Flight From Commitment
  2. Allan G. Johnson, The Gender Knot: Unraveling Our Patriarchal Legacy
  3. Mary Frances Berry, Why ERA Failed
  4. Jane Mansbridge, Why We Lost the ERA
  5. Mary Stewart vanLeeuwen, Gender and Grace and After Eden: Facing the Challenge of Gender Reconciliation
  6. bell hooks, Outlaw Culture: Resisting Representations
  7. Gerda Lerner, The Creation of Patriarchy and The Creation of Feminist Consciousness: From the Middle Ages to the Eighteen Seventies
  8. Lydia Sargent, Women and Revolution: The Unhappy Marriage of Marxism and Feminism
  9. Dee Graham, Loving to Survive: Sexual Terror, Men's Violence, and Women's Lives
  10. Catherine MacKinnon, Feminism Unmodified
  11. Andrea Dworkin, Right Wing Women
It was very unfair and offensive of you to accuse women of "coping out" on this issue. Indeed, your insinuation that women have a problem with communication is completely wrong. Most relationship experts will admit that problems in cross-gender communication generally occur because men refuse to listen to women. Even a sexist charlatan like John Gray will not disagree with that one. The most astute experts will admit this problem occurs because very few men are taking any responsibility for patriarchy (see the works of Allan Johnson, Pepper Schwartz, Francine Deutsch, John Stoltenberg, Michael Kimmel, Steven Schacht, and to a lesser extent, John Gottman).

Kevin, you have a strong tendency to act like an authority on subjects you know nothing about, a trait that our andocratic society encourages men to develop. You defended the Mars&Venus books without reading them, you insinuated that I never discussed why women like John Gray's works, you implied that women have never studied why many females tolerate and sometimes embrace patriarchy and you hinted that academics are generally not interested in communication. Kevin, what planet do you live on? Since we're in a postmodernist society, the effects of language and discourse are paramount subjects in the academy. Even scientists and mathematicians can't escape discussions about communication nowadays. Kevin, your tendency to speak before your do your homework could get you into big trouble someday.





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