(Pew) Twenty-five years after the release of the bestseller “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus,” the debate over how and why men and women are different and what that means for their roles in society is far from settled. A new Pew Research Center survey finds that majorities of Americans say men and women are basically different in the way they express their feelings, their physical abilities, their personal interests and their approach to parenting. But there is no public consensus on the origins of these differences. While women who perceive differences generally attribute them to societal expectations, men tend to point to biological differences.
The public also sees vastly different pressure points for men and women as they navigate their roles in society. Large majorities say men face a lot of pressure to support their family financially (76%) and to be successful in their job or career (68%); much smaller shares say women face similar pressure in these areas. At the same time, seven-in-ten or more say women face a lot of pressure to be an involved parent (77%) and be physically attractive (71%). Far fewer say men face these types of pressures, and this is particularly the case when it comes to feeling pressure to be physically attractive: Only 27% say men face a lot of pressure in this regard.
When asked in an open-ended question what traits society values most in men and women, the differences were also striking. The top responses about women related to physical attractiveness (35%) or nurturing and empathy (30%). For men, one-third pointed to honesty and morality, while about one-in-five mentioned professional or financial success (23%), ambition or leadership (19%), strength or toughness (19%) and a good work ethic (18%). Far fewer cite these as examples of what society values most in women.
The survey also finds a sense among the public that society places a higher premium on masculinity than it does on femininity. About half (53%) say most people in our society these days look up to men who are manly or masculine; far fewer (32%) say society looks up to feminine women. Yet, women are more likely to say it’s important to them to be seen by others as womanly or feminine than men are to say they want others to see them as manly or masculine.
Using the terms ‘manly or masculine’ and ‘womanly or feminine’There are key demographic and political fault lines that cut across some of these views. Just as Republicans and Democrats are divided in their views on gender equality, they have divergent opinions about why men and women are different on various dimensions. Attitudes on gender issues also often differ by education, race and generation. Click here to read more from Pew.