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Are Gender Roles Holding You Back From Love?

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Here’s a radical thought: Suppose, just suppose, that most of the personality characteristics associated with men and women are culturally determined, not the result of biology.  Then further suppose that all those vast differences between the sexes and the resulting communication gap, are exaggerated. What if men and women are really far more alike than different?

While I am not suggesting the end of gender, there is strong evidence from research in sociology and neurobiology that culturally acceptable male and female behavior is much more about social norms than biology. Decades ago, in my own psychoanalytic training, I was taught that, because men’s sexual organs were outside their bodies and women’s were inside, men were innately more aggressive and women more passive. Even as a young, untutored therapist this sounded like B.S. What about breasts? They stick right out there on a woman’s chest! How did the theory of female passivity account for that, Dr. Freud?

In 2005, Janet Hyde, PhD, published a famous meta-analytic review of research on gender and sexuality called the Gender Similarities Hypothesis. Dr. Hyde, a psychologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, tested the Gender Differences Model, which maintains that women and men are profoundly different biologically and psychologically, by examining two decades’ worth of gender studies, 46 in all. Her findings? A person’s gender had little or no impact on most psychological traits, including aggression and passivity.

Dr. Hyde went on to point out that men and women have been taught they come from “different planets,” and therefore speak different languages. Unfortunately, she says, these ideas are so widely disseminated that they become self-fulfilling: Men learn that they’re poor communicators and inept with emotions, so they clam up and thus “prove” it.  Women are taught they aren’t destined for leadership, so they put the brakes on at a safe distance and settle for something more in keeping with their “natural” talents (like nurturing). When you consider the huge toll these beliefs have taken on the personal and professional lives of both women and men, you just might feel that it’s time for a change. I do.

AlphaWomanBookBack in the 1940s and 50s, the Alpha Male-Beta Female combination wasseen as the ideal couple. They complemented each other: he, the dominant breadwinner, she, the deferential stay-at-home wife and mother, embodied by June Cleaver and other idealized 1950s housewives. In an upwardly mobile postwar economy, these gender roles provided stability for the nuclear family. But those culturally defined norms for women became soconfining, so unfulfilling, that by the 1960s women were rebelling againstsuch a narrow definition of femininity, and the women’s movement gathered momentum.

Still, despite the vast changes since then, the Alpha male is still mythologized as the most virile and desirable male. Beta males—their thoughtful, collaborative, responsible brothers–are still getting a lackluster score on the manhood scale. Alpha women have been caricatured as pushy, bitchy, and unfeminine, while the old-fashioned submissive Beta woman conjures a powerful nostalgia. Even after their expiration date, these unfortunate stereotypes have had an amazing shelf life. As long as we still buy into them, we perpetuate distorted views of ourselves that lead to making unhealthy romantic choices.

I propose that we look at personality characteristics on an Alpha/Beta spectrum that applies to both genders. Some men are Alpha, but so are some women, and there are plenty of Betas in both genders. We should see ourselves as individuals, not stereotyped by culturally determined “male”and “female” characteristics.

If you’re dealing with difficult relationship issues in the 21st century (and who isn’t?), take the Alpha/Beta Personality Quiz to pinpoint your own personality and relationship strengths and weaknesses. This quiz could be incredibly helpful for people seeking a deeper understanding of themselves and their choices – for those looking for a partner who’s their best match!

Take the Alpha/Beta Personality Quiz and Determine Your Personal Level of Alpha/Beta!

 

Excerpted from “The Alpha Woman Meets Her Match: How Today’s Strong Women Can Find Love and Happiness Without Settling,” by Sonya Rhodes, PhD, with Susan Schneider. Copyright © 2014 by Sonya Rhodes, PhD, and Susan Schneider. Reprinted by arrangement with William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved. 

Dr. Sonya Rhodes is a psychotherapist and expert on marital and family relationships. She is the co-author of four books. Her next book, co-authored with Susan Schneider, “The Alpha Woman Meets Her Match: How Strong Women Can Find Love, Success and Happiness Without Settling” (William Morrow), will publish on April 15, 2014.

Susan Schneider is a writer living in New York City. The “Alpha Woman Meets Her Match” is her third book written with Dr. Sonya Rhodes. Susan published her first novel, “The Wedding Writer,” in 2011, and is working on her second novel.

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3 Comments »

  • Jdate Member says:

    To be honest, I am rather bored with this article about gender roles, because it sounds like a familiar tune. I am not a psychologist or anything like that. It is just that I was not born yesterday, and it is very obvious to me that there is much truth to what Dr. Rhodes and Ms. Schneider are presenting here. I was going to totally ignore this section but then I happened to come across Eva’s and Barry’s comments below (from April 6 and April 19, 2014). It then suddenly occurred to me by surprise how very important this article is nonetheless. Although the content of the article is so obvious to me, it is now clear that not so obvious to other readers. I am rather embarrassed by what Eva and Barry had to say, and feel depressed about the level of obtuse myopia that some of us seem to exhibit these days. Human beings are not mere clones of each other, nor are human life experiences. In today’s age, every kindergartener knows about the bell-shaped curve. Yes, biology does influence our tendencies to converge on certain gender roles; however, those of us who develop some level of sophistication in a lifetime may be able to recognize that some of us are more complex than a test-tube containing purified testosterone or estrogen. I am kind of horrified by the lack of confidence and imagination that some of us are seemingly so eager to flaunt on the internet. It sends a chill through my spine.

  • Barry says:

    I agree with what Eva said. This article is terrible!

  • Eva says:

    This is all nonsense, bordering on gibberish. Men and women are different, and no amount of feminist mambo jumbo trying to lead women (and men) astray is going to change reality. Strong sexual differences between the sexes do exist. We have to accept this reality, not fall prey to feminists disguised as scientists using faulty data trying to convince us of their defective worldview.

    We’re back to the old nature vs. nurture argument. If the contention made in this article is true, then how do the authors explain male children instinctively reach for the usual toys boys enjoy, such as cars, planes, and soldiers, while showing no interest in dolls? Moreover, why do female children gravitate toward the dolls instead of toward the toys boys like? Anyone observing kids can see the tell tale signs emerging in very young children, young enough that social influences could not have had time to seep into their lives. Observations of young children at play indeed prove biology controls gender traits, as opposed to the authors’ illogical argument that it’s all social conditioning.

    In addition, their statement masquerading as a question, “Are gender roles holding you back from love?” implies the writers believe gender differences are a bad thing. Why? Gender differences make life fun. They create strong sexual chemistry and attraction between the sexes. Remember the old adage, “opposites attract”? Opposites do attract, just like the opposite charged electrons and protons within atoms attract each other. It’s nature’s design. Why fight it by pretending sexual differences don’t exist? Why mess with nature so that certain discontented women can prove their fantasy?

    Think about it. Who wants to date someone who resembles their own sex too much? Why date a man who acts like my girlfriends? If I wanted to date a woman, I would date one. I’ve no use for cheap imitation – a man who acts feminine. He wouldn’t be masculine enough for my taste. I want a man that acts like a man and doesn’t apologize for it. I wonder, why being manly always a bad thing in the minds of feminists?

    Furthermore, why would a normal red-blooded male – as they say – want to date a woman who acts more like one of his buddies than like a woman? If he wanted a woman that resembled the behavior of men, he’d date a man and be done with it. In other words, why being feminine also a bad thing in the minds of feminists?

    I think the reason so many people are single nowadays and can’t find love is that pseudo-sociologists and quack psychologists who pretend to have “science” on their side are confusing gender roles to society’s detriment. In fact, these two areas of study (sociology and psychology) are not exact sciences, and are very subjective. This includes Dr. Hyde’s research. Her findings are more influence by her flawed personal beliefs than by real science.

    Besides, one slanted study that allegedly proves this worldview, doesn’t make it true. Conversely, there was a recent study that indicated women‘s attraction to their husbands plummeted when their husbands engaged in housework traditionally reserved for women, such as dusting and vacuuming. Yet, when their men did manly jobs around the house like mowing the lawn, their attraction to their husbands soared.

    Additionally, despite the authors’ declarations that they are not suggesting the end of gender, this is exactly what they are doing, subtly. By planting their pseudo findings, and testing the responses to their false argument, they are paving the way for just that. The authors of this piece are anti-gender radicals that hate men in general, as well as women who act like women. Putting it in simpler terms: Men are always bad and the women that indulge them are too.

    Therefore, I have to conclude this article is the height of bad advice. We don’t need articles that disgorge a worldview with hidden agendas. We need information that help the sexes attract each other, form bonds and stay together. This advice calls for women to act more like men, by competing with men in male arenas such as aggression and sex, thereby making women more masculine while weakening or reducing men’s power so that their attractiveness to women is lessened. In spite of feminists’ claims regarding women’s desires, women subconsciously are not attracted to feminized or weak men. They’re attracted to strong manly men. If you need further proof, look at the wild success of “50 Shades.” It’s a sore spot for most feminists.

    When the writers use “leading the witness” type rhetoric, “Are gender roles holding you back from love?,” the irony is that advice like theirs is usually what is holding most singles from love in this day and age, not to mention causing the breakups of countless relationships. Such advice isn’t helping; it’s downright destructive to the species. We should celebrate the sexual differences nature gifted us, using them to attract the opposite sex, and gain love and peace within our sexual relationships. We shouldn’t be perpetuating war with the opposite sex.

    I say, proceed with caution taking these suggestions. They might be harmful to your love life. Also, when in doubt, tilt toward the old-fashioned ways of doing things. They have worked for thousands of years and have proven track records. I’d take old-fashioned tips before I’d take guidance derived from hypothetical studies highly influenced by the researchers’ worldview rather than reality.

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