Michael Crichton Said Men and Women Are the Same
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Michael Crichton wrote about relationships too
Author Michael Crichton died of cancer at 66 in November 2008. Many people know Crichton's science-fiction novels and movies, particularly The Andromeda Strain, Westworld, Congo, Sphere, Jurassic Park, The Lost World, Prey, Next, and many others. He also created the TV show ER, for which he wrote a few episodes. In addition, Crichton penned a book about his personal experiences and travels entitled Travels, published in 1988. The book is engrossing and all fans of Michael Crichton should read it.
Perhaps the most memorable chapter in Travels is entitled "They," in which Crichton writes about a realization he made regarding women back in the early 1980s. At this time Crichton was single again and experiencing frustration and disappointment regarding his romantic relationships with women. A friend of Crichton's named David told him that feminism and the sexual revolution had the effect of reversing conventional sex roles. David called this "feminine macho."
David said that women wanted one-night stands as much as men did - and when they did, they let the man know it very quickly, perhaps making him feel "used" in the process. Furthermore, women weren't the romantics - men were. Women were much colder and practical. Women cared about money, while men didn't. Women discussed intimate details about their sex lives with other women, but men didn't do the same with other men. And women were preoccupied with their careers; men weren't.
Crichton wasn't sure he agreed with David. At any rate, he didn't think it was healthy to blame women for his difficulties regarding romance or anything else. However, he remained convinced that men and women were different and perhaps this was the major reason "the sexes" had such trouble understanding each other.
The following is an excerpt from Crichton's Travels:
Back in the early 1970s, a girlfriend became exasperated with me and said, "Listen, just assume men and women are the same."
"How do you mean?" I said. (This is Michael Crichton talking.)
"Anything you think as a man, I think as a woman. Anything you feel, I feel."
"No, no," I said.
"Yes, yes," she said.
"Well, for example," I said, "men can just look at a woman and get turned on. The visual stimulus is enough for a man. But women aren't like that."
"No. Women need more than the visual stimulus."
"I've certainly looked at a nice pair of buns in tight jeans and thought, ‘I wouldn't mind trying that.' "
I thought, This is a very masculine woman. "Maybe for you," I said, "but for women in general, it doesn't work that way."
"All my girlfriends are the same," she said. "We're all bun-watchers."
She must have a lot of perverted friends, I thought. I gave another argument. "Women aren't turned on by pornography and men are."
We went on like this for a while. She insisted that men and women were the same in their underlying behavior, and that I had a lot of wrong ideas about differences. Back in the 1970s this was pretty extreme stuff.
In subsequent years I forgot that conversation, but now, more than ten years later, it came back to me. It seemed useful to consider the whole business.
I still thought there were differences between men and women. It was true I didn't conceive those differences in the simplistic way I had so many years earlier. But I still thought there were differences. I wanted to know what those differences were.
Then, slowly, I began to ask a different question. Not what the differences were. Instead: What is the best way to think about men and women?
And I came to a surprising conclusion.
My old girlfriend was right.
The best way to think about men and women is to assume there are no differences between them.
I had already concluded the best way to think about disease was to imagine that you caused it. Maybe that was literally true, and maybe it wasn't. The point was that the best way to deal with your illness was to act as if you had control over it, and could change its course. That enabled you to stay in charge with your own life.
Similarly, I now thought the best way to think about the sexes was to imagine there was no difference between them. Maybe that was true and maybe it wasn't. But it was the best strategy.
Because, as I saw it, the biggest problem between the sexes was the tendency to objectify the opposite sex and ultimately to become powerless before them. Both men and women did this about the opposite sex. They were this way or that way. They had this tendency.
There was nothing we could do about the way they behaved.
When I looked back, I realized that in many instances I had failed to take action with a woman because I assumed there was nothing I could do about her conduct.
For example, whenever I lived with a woman, I knew she talked in intimate detail about our relationship with her girlfriends. I always hated that. I hated running into one of her girlfriends and thinking, This woman knows all about me. It felt like a terrible invasion of my privacy, of our privacy. But what could I do? Women talked with one another. Women had those special relationships.
But if I had been in a close working relationship with a man, I would have complained immediately if I found out he was talking about me with another man.
So why couldn't I say to a woman, "It makes me feel terrible that you talk to your girlfriend about us. I feel really betrayed, and I feel dismissed, too. Why do you take the most intimate parts of our relationship to a stranger? It makes me feel awful. You ask me to open up to you, but I know you're going to get on the phone tomorrow and tell all to some friend. Can't you see how that makes me feel?"
The answer, of course, was that I could say it. I just never had, because I had thought that women are inherently different from men. And in formulating that difference, I had also objectified women. They were different. They didn't have the same feelings I did. They were they.
* * *
Not exactly a story about people fighting bioengineered dinosaurs, is it? That Michael Crichton was one very deep fellow!
Crichton explored this idea about men and women being the same in his novel, Disclosure, published in 1993 and based on a true story. The novel is about Meredith Johnson, a female executive at a Seattle electronics company and Tom Sanders, a production manager at the company (also a married man with two children), whom Johnson seduces in order to cover some mistakes she’s made. However, Sanders refuses to go “all the way” with Johnson, infuriating her. To get even, Johnson claims that Sanders sexually harassed her, and then he claims the opposite, but he must prove his case in a short period of time, which won’t be easy, because Johnson appears willing to do just about anything to keep her job and therefore maintain her stature and power in the company. This woman is decidedly egotistical, aggressive, conniving and dominant, usually the sort of characteristics found in men – or so most people seem to think. As women climb the corporate ladder and attain positions of power, perhaps they’ll prove they’re not so different after all.
In 1994, the book was made into a movie starring Demi Moore as Meredith Johnson and Michael Douglas as Tom Sanders.
So, do you think men and women are the same?
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© 2008 Kelley