Men are from Mars and women are from Venus; we all know the old adage. Mars and Venus are of course planets in our solar system. They are also the eponymous Roman divinities: Mars, the god of war and Venus, that of love. To many equating the genders with these attributes make perfect sense. Whether because we have grown up with these ideas on because the psychologist or anthropologist in us views men as naturally more aggressive and women as more loving. We can’t count on our fingers (or even our toes) the number of movies where girls ‘moon’ – to continue the astrological theme – over men attainable or no. It is rarer to see this activity in men. But with feminism catching up with the patriarchy we’re starting to see a more fluid, and I would argue more realistic, portrayal of the genders. We are increasingly seeing strong, fighting women and loving romantic males.
I think reading Mars, the god of war, as meaning men are violent does us all an injustice. Number one, wars are often fought out of necessity and sometimes they are about damage limitation. Having said that I’m a pacifist. I don’t believe there is ever a reason to use violence. And in no uncertain terms it should always be a last – preferably never used – result. Number two, it’s a really unhelpful stereotype to make about men. It engenders fear in those around them. It tells young boys who they should be instead of letting them decide for themselves. Number three, I imagine that war is associated with men because it is proactive. Whereas women are associated with love because it is more passive, or even instinctual. Again, this is unfair. I don’t want boys to grow up assuming they can’t be loving or girls that they can’t act. That they don’t get to have their say.
Whether we subscribe to these gender definitions or no. There is something I have noticed. I’m fairly certain that men are engendered with a greater sense of their own immortality. How have I come to this hypothesis? From what I have witnessed, men like to tempt fate by crossing the road rather than waiting for the green light. Maybe men are in a greater hurry? Maybe men are around more at that time of the day – approx. 8:45- on my way to work? Maybe it happens to be the particular crossing I use which is near a school? Here most women tend to be accompanied by children on the school run. There are a myriad of reasons which could explain what I have seen.
Despite this I feel a kind of certainty that I am right. It would make sense in terms of the gender stereotype of the active male and passive female. Men take their lives in their hands and make an active decision not to wait for the lights. Women who grow up being told not to misbehaviour or act out. Who are expected to be quiet and do what they are told. They wait for the green light. They seek ‘permission’ and follow the rules.
Whatever way you look at this it’s unhelpful. Why do we insist on shoving humans into boxes. Labelling them. Making assumptions about who they will be from the moment of their birth. And only based on the genitalia between their legs. Why can’t we wait and see how a child grows up? Give them the agency to decide who they will be. What feels comfortable to them. Is it really so difficult?