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posted: 4/25/2013 10:15 AM

Gender stereotypes are always changing

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"Now that's a typical male response!"

I was in the middle of watching the Olympics. My outburst was not in response to anything I had heard on TV, but to what I was "hearing" myself think.

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The sports reporter was in the midst of a long piece about the family trauma of a U.S. athlete. And rather than appreciating such a personal slant on things, I found myself protesting: Enough human interest already; let's get back to the action!

Well, so much for my being sensitive, empathic or a liberated male.

I don't know that we'll ever be able to sort out how much of being male and female is heredity, environment or choice. But I think it is fair to say that, for whatever reasons, men generally tend to be more oriented to the concrete, problem solving, action. Women, on the other hand, tend to be more intuitive, emotive and reflective.

There is, of course, a great deal of variety among men and women in such tendencies. Men can be reflective; women can act quite forcefully. Again, we're talking in broad generalizations.

Certainly there have been times when such gender differences were valuable. When "he" was away fighting saber toothed tigers, there wasn't much time to reflect on the experience. And "she" needed to be the emotional center of the family if children were to receive the love and nurture they needed.

Nowadays, though, such gender stereotypes are not necessarily all that helpful. As our technology and culture have made life both easier and more complex, it has become important for men and women to become more flexible in their assumptions, attitudes and approaches.

Men, then, need to become more oriented to intuition, emotion, reflection. Women need to become more comfortable with the concrete, with problem solving, with action. Such adaptation is important in our culture as a whole, and especially in our marriage and families.

Men are nurses. Women are carpenters. Husbands and wives need to be equal partners in marriage, going beyond traditional roles and doing what works best for them. Children need to receive love and nurture from Dad and see Mom as a problem solver.

So, in the midst of watching athletes tumble, leap or vault, race across a pool, or ride bikes faster than some of us drive, it is good to take time to see them as people. Their hopes and fears, successes and failures, joys and sorrows are ultimately what the Olympics are all about.

The games themselves -- the feats of skill, the records set, the medals accumulated -- are really all rather meaningless unless they are put in human perspective.

So when it comes to sports coverage, bring on the "human interest." For men or women, that's really a big part of what it's all about.

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