Mars, Venus, or Earth? What Planet are Men and Women REALLY From?

I love this article.  It is a terrific, thoughtful, scientific, and ultimately, (unintentionally) very Catholic view of the differences between the sexes.  When most people talk about gender  differences, they lapse into useless stereotypes.  For instance, “Women like to talk and men don’t”  Really? So if a man likes to talk to his friends does that make him less manly?   Or how about another example, “Men like to solve problems and women like to talk about problems.”   Really?  Women don’t want to solve their problems?  And if a woman is good a problem-solving, does that make her masculine?  Of course not.

Whether this article’s conclusions are absolutely spot-on or not (and I do think they are pretty good) it is at least asking the right questions.  If we’re going to talk about gender differences I think it is important to distinguish between dimensional differences (i.e., things that are often, but not necessarily, different between men and women) and taxonic differences (i.e., things that are almost always different between men and women).

Catholics argue that men’s and women’s differences are “complementary.”  That is, the differences between men and women are intended, not to separate or confuse them, but to help them serve each other and understand each other better.  When we view dimensional differences as taxonic, we exaggerate how difficult it is for men and women to be the partners to each other that God intended them to be.    Here’s an example that illustrates these two types of differences from the article.

Let’s say you have a new job at a mall. You have been put in charge of directing people to the restroom when they ask where it is. But you only get to know one piece of information about a person to tell them where to go when they need to go. You do not get to see or hear the person needing direction. You just know one small piece of information. It’s really a strange job, but in these times, you hang onto what you can.

Okay, on day one of your new job, you get to know how physically strong a person is before you decide which way to send him or her. In your awesomeness, you send most people to the right restroom. You miss some, but you are mostly on a roll. On the next day, you only get to know the scores of people on a little paper and pencil test of assertiveness. Therefore, you only really know how assertive each person thinks he or she is. It’s a much harder day and you do pretty poorly. In fact, you send people to the wrong restroom 45% of the time. Ouch. There are complaints. But you have renewed hope about the third day because, on the third day, you will get to know how much people say they love to have just sit and talk with their best friends before deciding which restroom to send them off to use. It will be a better day.
The strength difference really works more like a difference in type. An individual’s level of assertiveness is just not very informative about if they are a male or a female.

Check out the article and then, if you want to learn more about how men and women were intended to work together and how you can live that reality in your marriage, check out For Better…FOREVER! A Catholic Guide to Lifelong Marriage.

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About Dr. Greg

Dr. Gregory Popcak directs the Pastoral Solutions Institute, an organization dedicated to helping Catholics find faith-filled solutions to marriage, family, and personal problems. Together with his wife, Lisa, he hosts More2Life Radio. He is the author of over a dozen books integrating psychological insights with our Catholic faith. For more info about books, tele-counseling and other resources, visit

  • Kim Cameron-Smith

    Thanks for this link, Dr. Greg. I’m looking forward to his part 2 post where he’ll tackle “sex-stereotype activities.” I have been thinking about this exact topic. I was reading a book for Catholic mothers and I was bothered by the description of mothers in some places. The authors suggested that as part of our nurturing quality (which I agree is part of my innate femininity) we “naturally” like to cook for our families, keep the house clean and pretty, and handle disputes in our families. I have some friends with solid Catholic marriages in which the husband loves to cook and the wife not so much. When men cook are they being feminine? Is the mother wrong not to want to cook for her family — is she less nurturing? I think not. I also think the division in labor in our families is largely cultural. I think women do play a special role within the family and larger socieity in being peacemakers, but all Christians are called to exhibit that virtue and to build society up through love and mercy.