Sunday, 7 August 2016

The Man from Venus

This post follows on from my previous post about how society at large considers that there are only two gender categories.

Pop psychology agrees. For example, the famous book by John Gray, Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus. (There are others too, such as the two books The Male Brain, and The Female Brain by Louann Brizendine. My wife bought me a copy of the former. I think she was trying to tell me something).

In any case, I thought it was worth unpacking some of the detail around that.

The Roman god Mars was the god of war. The planet Mars has been known since antiquity (the Greeks called him Ares). It was named by the ancients because of its obvious red colour; clearly associated with blood and therefore violence. In association with Mars, we have words like martial, meaning "to do with fighting", such as in martial arts, martial law and court martial.

I had never appreciated that the planet Mars has a different colour, until I moved to the Southern Hemisphere. Using an app for my iPhone, I can easily find Mars in the night sky, and it's amazingly red (actually more like orange). In the Northern Hemisphere, I struggled to see anything of the night sky at all; down here you can see the Milky Way and other celestial objects very clearly.

The astronomical symbol for Mars is a stylised depiction of Mars' circular shield, with his spear behind it. This symbol is very familiar to us; not only is it used to depict Mars in astronomical shorthand (with which few of us have any real association), but it has also been borrowed to represent the male gender. Wikipedia says the symbol can also represent iron.

So there we have it. Mars: red and bloody; iron; warlike; spear and shield. That's obviously what men are supposed to be all about.

Everyone knows that Venus was the Roman goddess of love and beauty, whom the Greeks called Aphrodite. The planet Venus is one of the brightest objects in the sky, and has long been recognised as the Morning Star and the Evening Star.

The astronomical symbol for Venus is a stylised depiction of Venus' hand mirror. When you are the goddess of love and beauty, you have a reputation to live up to, so you have to make sure you are always looking good.

Wikipedia says this symbol is associated with copper, as well as being borrowed for use to depict the female gender.

Adjectives to do with Venus are less well-known, and come from the Roman genitive form veneris. The obsolete term for sexually transmitted disease is venereal disease, and my dictionary says that venereal refers only to sexual intercourse. In anatomy, the pubic mound is known as the mons veneris; the mound of Venus.

So there we have it again. Venus: beautiful; luminous; sex; hand mirror. That's obviously what women are supposed to be all about.

Society tells me I should identify with Mars, when instead I feel much more affinity with Venus. The title of this post suggests a cheap B-movie, with a hideous villain (believe me, I feel like one sometimes).

But the truth is this: men are not from Mars. Women are not from Venus. Humans are all from Earth, all of us. And that means we need to recognise that, instead of being two separate groups, we are all one group, with considerable overlap between male and female. We don't do ourselves any favours (or any justice) if we pretend otherwise.


  1. Dear Vivienne,

    Lovely post, thank you. Memories of the book by John Gray come up for me. My wife and I were dating at the time it came out. It touched me in that it kind of allowed me to be more sensitive and aware of the female emotions. It provided my wife (girlfriend at the time) a context to talk, which we both appreciated.

    But I don't mean to argue with your premise at all. I 100% agree that we are all human, from Earth. We do overlap a lot, don't we? It's neat to think how much we are all of a group.

    I just wanted to add my 2c. Hope you don't mind. I love your writing.


    1. Hi Emma. You are always so complimentary about my writing!

      I must say I have never read "Men are from Mars"; nor have I read "The Male Brain" which was a gift from my wife. I am sure she hasn't read it either!

      Do feel free to comment at length on anything here: the purpose of this blog is to foster dialogue!


    2. Vivienne, I've been writing about similar things -

      It's a long post but I delve into writing about men and women are more the same than they are different.

    3. Hi Thorin. Very nice to hear from you again. I hope you are well. I read your blog post all the way through, and actually I agree with a great deal of it. It would be nice to be able to completely integrate a version of myself, expressing both masculine and feminine traits comfortably. There is something about dressing, though, which seems to hit a spot that nothing else does!