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Self-Serving Myths We Women Tell Ourselves

By Beth Green

In an ego-based world, we tend to see everything from the perspective of “me.” So it’s not surprising that men and women want to be believe that the opposite sex exists to meet their needs. Nothing shows this more tellingly than the gender myths that men and women perpetuate about each other. Here are just a few that women love to repeat about men.

1. Men are not as sensitive as women.
Can someone explain how this can be? Everyone has seen the sensitivity of crushed little boys when faced with rejection by other children, harsh words from parents or the humiliation of not being picked for the baseball team. And who can forget the timid face of the little boy who is seeking a girl’s attention?
When does this sensitivity magically evaporate? Is it at 12? Or 22? Or 85? Just because boys learn to hide their sensitivity doesn’t mean they don’t suffer from it. And just because a young man goes marching off to war doesn’t mean that he doesn’t piss in his pants or crawl back as a shell of his former self. Why do women promote this myth? Because it suits us to do so. If we are more sensitive than men, then we are justified in expecting that our relationship revolve around our feelings and not the guy’s. The deadliest words in a woman’s vocabulary are, “But I told you that if you did... then I would feel….,” which automatically means the man has to do what we want because otherwise it would upset us too much. Men, like women, are insecure, desperate for validation, afraid of being judged by peers and burdened by gender expectations, including the burden of believing they are not as sensitive as women.

2. Women are stronger than men.
Now this is funny. No sooner have we announced that we are more sensitive than men, then we confide to each other that we are stronger than men. We, after all, bear the pain of childbirth and put up with the stress of screaming children, menstruation, working in and out of the home and many other burdens a man could never tolerate. Of course, their inability to tolerate these burdens is certainly not caused by men’s sensitivity, because they have none; no, their inability to tolerate these burdens is because they are weak. Of course, we women bear enormous stress and pain, but so do men. Men traditionally have borne the pain of bullying, physical labor in construction, mining and other tough fields, brutalization by their fathers (often, but not always, worse than the abuse to daughters), not to speak of war. And speaking of war, there is no evidence that women are less traumatized by war than men. Nor are women less traumatized by emotionally-abusive parenting. And speaking of emotional abuse, men have traditionally had to tolerate abusive bosses, cut-throat competition in business and the derision of other men. And no less than men, women can often be devastated when a spouse leaves or when a child becomes drug addicted or shows signs of mental illness or dysfunction.
Why do we want to believe men are weaker? Because that is a handy explanation for their avoidance, depression, alcoholism, paralysis or acting out. If we dismiss them as weak, we never need to try to understand their sensitivities and support them. Which leads us to the next myth.

3. Women need more emotional support than men do.
Well this one is true, isn’t it? Women talk on the phone, meet in klatches, clearly seek emotional support more often than do men.
True, but does that mean that women need support more than men? Isn’t it more likely that women head for support, because it’s a socially acceptable myth that women are more sensitive and so, therefore, need more support? Isn’t it their fear of looking like women that causes men to head into the bar instead of to the support group? Don’t men lack the tools and structures that give them the permission and the means to get support, especially from one another?

4. Men are more capable of handling stress.
Another contradictory myth, isn’t it? We have just told ourselves that we are stronger than men, but when we don’t want to face something, we tell ourselves they are more capable of handling that particular stress. That’s because of our sensitivity and our hormones. Since men have no sensitivity or hormones, I guess we will have to assume that they were born with weaker hearts. Why else do they die younger than we do and run to the track, the bar or the brothel to seek escape from the stress that is exploding within them from their work, their belief that they should be stronger than they are, their role of protector and breadwinner, which fewer and fewer of them are capable of filling? Yup, men are clearly more capable of handling stress.

5. Men need sex; women need intimacy.
Both men and women love this shared myth, but it is another fallacy. Men need sex, and so do women, except when we have been abused or repressed out of our desire. Women gaggle at good-looking men, and young girls seek sex with adolescent boys when our hormones are raging. If women did not need sex, there wouldn’t be so many unwanted pregnancies, and who would all those heterosexual sex-crazed men be having sex with?

The myth that men do not need intimacy is repeated by women so we don’t have to examine why our men have withdrawn emotionally, why they might feel hurt or scared or why they might be angry at us because of our self-centered attitudes. Of course, men want intimacy as much as women, but because men are not supposed to be as sensitive as we are, they pretend to themselves and others that they only want sex, and they run away from the implication of weakness their need for intimacy reveals. Of course, there are equally damaging myths that men have about women, myths which are also self-serving and justify men’s being abusive, exploitative and dismissive of us. All of these myths separate us and block us from true intimacy. Wouldn’t it be more fun to give them up?

Beth Green is an intuitive counselor, consultant, author, composer and the founder of The Stream. She is a columnist for San Diego News Network, where this piece was first printed, and is finishing her new book, “Living with Reality,” which will be released early this year. She will be leading a men’s retreat called “Men Getting Real with Men about Sex,” which will be held Sunday, February 6. For more information, check out www.thestream.org