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When I was growing up in the 1990s, couples counselor John Gray penned a book on gender relations with an instantly memorable title: Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus. The book argued that men and women have fundamentally different communication styles, which can be major sources of tension in heterosexual relationships. To call it a hit is a massive understatement: Gray’s book has sold 15 million copies worldwide, and was even adapted into a Broadway show (starring Gray) in the late 1990s.

Yet Men Are From Mars’s broad generalizations — “Men are motivated when they feel needed while women are motivated when they feel cherished” — haven’t held up. Feminist critics who challenged the book’s simplistic narrative at the time have largely been validated by subsequent scientific research, which finds that men and women don’t act nearly as differently as stereotypes suggest.

The lesson here is that gender-divide stories are intuitively appealing but awfully easy to overstate. Any new claims that men and women are behaving differently should be approached with caution — a maxim that’s as true in the political world as anywhere else.

In the past weeks and months, a […]

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