Men Are Not Women With Chest Hair, Part 2

Men Are Not Women With Chest Hair, Part 2

Men are not women with chest hairIn Part 1, I talked about physiological differences in the way males and females are hard wired.

Note: Much of the information in these posts comes from workshops by Eileen Dreyer from a RWA conference, and Tracy Montoya’s presentation at a Southern Lights Conference.

This time, I’ll discuss some of the social differences between men and women. Again, these differences are based on physiological differences in the brain, but there are always going to be individual differences. There’s a basic framework, but there are also individual modifications to the finished product. Think of all those apartment complexes, or housing developments with virtually identical houses. Eventually, the owners put their own touches into their homes giving them some individuality. However, some of the broad, sweeping generalizations we make about men and women does have a basis in the differences in the way their brains work.

In Social Situations:

Men are goal oriented.
Women are community builders.

Men are the lone hunters.
Women are communal.

Men are problem solvers.
Women are problem sharers.

A woman will come home from a day at work and complain about something that happened. To a women, sharing troubles is a friendship ritual. To a man, talking about a problem is asking for advice. Thus, the man will offer suggestions as to how to fix it. The woman really doesn’t want his help, she just wants to vent. Men consider talking about a problem a step down in the hierarchy.

Men are likely to explore an idea through argument. Women will shut down, because they want to keep connections open.

Montoya mentioned a study where two men were brought into a room with two chairs facing the front, and told to wait until they were called for an interview. The men sat and talked. When the subjects were two women, the first thing they did was move the chairs so they faced each other.

This ingrained wiring leads to frequent “discussions” where the woman accuses the man of not listening to her when she’s talking to him because he’s not looking at her.

Men define themselves by achievements.
Woman define themselves by relationships.

In the workplace, our hard-wired brains still see the differences between male and female behaviors. Perhaps the reason men don’t see women as “equals” in the workplace is because they simply can’t. They’re perceived as too emotional to be authority figures. Their wiring does make them emotional. But that doesn’t mean they can’t make the necessary decisions. But a woman is more likely to say, “We’re going to talk about “the” rules,” which is ingrained in the nurturing wiring, whereas a man would say, “We’re going to talk about “my” rules,” which fits his hierarchical wiring. Women soften statements, men give orders.

Men and women have different approaches to problem solving.

Men are linear thinkers.
Women think in clusters.

Men compartmentalize.
Women churn things over until the problem is solved

Men are emotionally divorced from problem solving.
Women are emotionally involved in the process.

Men are solitary.
Women are communal.

Men give space.
Women wants a hug.

Men want answers.
Women want support.

For men, help means failure.
Women want to help.

I hope these posts have provided a little insight you can apply when writing characters outside the familiarity of your own gender. If they shed a little light on your own personal relationships, consider that a bonus.

All right, TKZers. The floor is open for discussion.


Heather's ChaseI’m pleased to announce that my Mystery Romance, Heather’s Chase, is now available at most e-book channels. and in print from Amazon. Note: in honor of my daughter, I’m sharing royalties with the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

(If you’d like to see some of the pictures I took on my trip, many of which appear as settings in the book, click on the book cover and scroll down to “Special Features.”)


Terry Odell is an award-winning author of Mystery and Romantic Suspense, although she prefers to think of them all as “Mysteries with Relationships.” Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

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22 thoughts on “Men Are Not Women With Chest Hair, Part 2

  1. It intrigues me, too, Terry. And it’s funny how these attributes start almost from the get-go. I saw them played out in middle and high school when I taught abstinence. Now if you want a fun job, teach abstinence. Then you can get introduced to a kid’s dad in Walmart as the sex lady. lol

    • When I taught science in junior high, one of the units was sex education. We never had abstinence teachers. I did have one parent request her daughter skip that unit, so she did other work in the school library, but nobody else objected.

      I agree those attributes start early. My kids went to co-op preschools which meant moms took turns helping in the classroom. This gave us the chance to observe the kids on our workdays. The gender differences were already there.

  2. “Men are problem solvers. Women are problem sharers.” Yup! We women want to talk it out (which is our method of solving problems). Men go get a hammer, nails, and glue.

    I’m still chuckling over Mark Gungor’s video in Part 1. Thanks, Terry.

  3. Hi Terry, great informative article. I was expecting a critique article this morning, but this was a pleasant surprise. I guess I’ve been expecting too much from my partner, and this has answered a lot of questions.
    Thank you.

  4. My current WIP (and hopefully next release…*gulp* this year) stars a Vietnam war vet in his seventies. Three tours. Tough Marine lieutenant. Married to his high school sweetheart.

    Some of what you touched on in this post, I’m happy to say, is evident in how Tom and Barb communicate. Even though they’ve been married a long time, the differences in their wiring cause, shall we say, barriers between them.

    I especially like Men are emotionally divorced from problem solving.
    Women are emotionally involved in the process.

    That is so true between them…and between me and the man. When I vent to him about some family issue, usually involving our grown children, my emotions are totally invested in finding a solution. He hardly breaks a sweat as he says, Don’t worry, they’ll work it out. 🙂

    You nailed it, Terry!

  5. This is great fodder for story-telling, isn’t it? I can imagine a male and female working in the same field and taking different approaches to problem-solving. A perfect setup for conflict.

    Thanks for the article, Terry!

    • I confess I’ve used it (more than once) in my books, Kay. Especially when I’m writing romantic suspense, where there has to be conflict between the hero and heroine.

  6. Thanks for useful observations on gender, characters and writing.
    Had to comment on: “Perhaps the reason men don’t see women as “equals” in the workplace is because they simply can’t.”
    Huh?
    This states as a given that men ‘don’t see women as equals‘ in the workplace. This is a broadly inaccurate statement in my opinion/experience.
    Twenty-five years as an emergency physician (many female partners in my group) and I interacted with large numbers of healthcare professionals/coworkers daily – never aware of anyone who presumed my female colleagues as less than equal.
    I feel certain any such bias would be based in stupidity and impaired recognition of reality – not physiology.

    • Thanks for your comment, Tom. As I said in my post, these are all broad generalizations, and I think a lot would have to do with the profession. Anyone who makes it through medical school has proven certain qualifications, but looking back at how hard it was for a woman to be considered even capable of becoming a medical professional, and when they were first admitted to medical schools, I think there’s definitely some hard-wiring at play. As Part 1 said, “Humans started out a long, long time ago. Changes in the brain are nowhere near catching up. So, we’re basically hard-wired to survive, but not in this century.”

      • Historically, women have always been part of healthcare from the medieval herbalists to midwives. Some men didn’t care for that so they declared healing women witches and killed them, banned them from delivering babies, and prevented them from formal learning.

  7. You’ve touched on one of my pet peeves, and maybe one of the big reasons I have trouble with some romance stories. Often the men characters sound too much like women, especially the cops, the seals, or other hero professions. Those men are different even from other men because of their life experiences.

    A good example came from my late husband, a Marine. When I asked him if he liked the ivory drapes or the off white, he said, “Honey. There are three primary colors and peach is a fruit.” I got the message and asked his mother.

    Great posts, Terry!

    • Thanks, Cecilia. Romance novel heroes are less true to life and more what the woman wishes the men would be like. A true alpha male wouldn’t behave the way so many of them do in books. I do remember one of my male characters walking into a room and describing the carpeting as “one of those non-colors.”

    • That is so true Cecilia! Being both a Marine and colorblind (I know, it was hard to cheat on that test but when you’re a teenaged warrior you make ways) I regularly correct my wife to say “Those are either light grey or dark grey.”

  8. It’s fascinating when the differences are written out, Terry. Although, I have never been defined by my relationship. The others I agree with 100%. 🙂

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