When I was in my twenties, I read this relationship book, “Men Are Like Waffles, Women Are Like Spaghetti” (see video below). I suspect it was the “Christian” version of “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus.” It seemed to explain why the guy I was dating at the time was so emotionally distant, and so punishing and dismissive in the way he treated me.
Of course, neither book ever mentions patriarchy or sexism. Instead they attribute differences between men and women to some innate difference brought about by biology, thus reifying gender stereotypes.
What I know now from hindsight, is that the tips in the book were meant to help manage the fallout of patriarchy, emotionally disconnected men who lack communication skills and vulnerability (jokingly described as compartmentalizing like a waffle). By enshrining these issues as due solely to biology and not cultural conditioning, it implicitly argues that “boys will be boys” and helps women to settle for and negotiate a kinder, gentler domination, without ever questioning or changing the sexist structure in which hetero relationships are formed.
You probably hear a lot of justifications and “relationship advice” that sounds like that:: “Men are visual beings! Women are natural caretakers! Men are more aggressive, Women are more Loving. That’s just how we are…” You hear it from the pulpit on Sunday mornings (complementarianism anyone?) and in your workplace when all the dudes talk ish about their wives together, and you see it in every Judd Apatow movie. Over and over and over again, we discount the macro-system in which we form intimate partnerships and distill our problems down to individual “differences” brought about by gender.
I’m going to go out on a limb here, but any relationship “advice” that fails to mention patriarchy or sexism, and attributes “relational issues” to differences in gender, should *always* be critiqued and called into question. Because all such advice can do is help individuals “manage patriarchy”, but it will never give us the tools necessary to dismantle it.
I’m going to close with a resonant quote from Communion by bell hooks:
“The insistence that there is a naturally biologically based world of sex differences is at the heart of patriarchal thinking. Liberal women and men cannot embrace this thinking and perpetuate it without maintaining an allegiance to patriarchy.
Anti-patriarchal thinking acknowledges the reality of biological differences between genders but recognizes that cultural conditioning has show itself to be stronger than anatomy– and that anatomy is not destiny.” (Communion by bell hooks, 83)
“Nothing indicts female allegiance to patriarchy more than the willingness to behave as though the problems created by cultural investment in sexist thinking about the nature of male and female roles can be solved by women’s working harder.”