Suzanne Fields

Nothing animates the conversation of women like talk about how they're stereotyped by men. The stereotypes are rarely consistent. Some men still rage at the look of an emancipated career woman with long hair twisted severely in a bun. But he's eager to forgive when she lets it down over a glass of wine and fluffs it suggestively.

Some American men are so disillusioned with changes wrought by radical feminism that they seek an Asian or Eastern European bride through a marriage broker or dating sites on the Internet, egged on by wild fantasies that they'll meet a submissive housewife by day who becomes a wild and crazy sexpot by night. This is not the mail-order bride of the Old West populated by manly men and womanly women. On the frontier, men and women were expected to work hard and were equal opportunity offenders of good hygiene.

But as the city and suburbs replaced the frontier, so did expectations, and women began to work against stereotypes of their own making. You can find them abundantly in the Mommy Wars, where working mothers attack stay-at-home mothers and vice versa. Freud famously asked, "What do women want?" Today women pose that very question to themselves.

Gone is the feminist bravado of sharpshooter Annie Oakley: "Anything you can do, I can do better." Or at least as good. Women are beginning to realize that sexual differences, though not immutable, determine what men and women do best.

Feminist studies still blame the environment (read men) for creating the culture that makes it difficult for them to enter the workplace, but the latest research on male-female differences suggests that the brains of men and women are wired so differently that dramatic sexual distinctions begin in the womb. An appreciation for the maternal instinct is enjoying a revival.

This does not mean that male chauvinists can revert to piggy behavior, suggesting that women return only to a place in the home. But it does allow women to validate their strengths for doing what comes naturally in motherhood.

The scientific phenomenon changing male-female perceptions is a book called "The Female Brain," by Louann Brizendine, a neurologist, all about new brain imaging technology. It ought to help (but probably won't) both men and women find a commonsense understanding of the roots of sexual differences and how to deal with them.

Suzanne Fields

Suzanne Fields is currently working on a book that will revisit John Milton's 'Paradise Lost.'

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