The topic of gender has been floating around my conversations more over the past few days than usual--and it's usually pretty high up there anyway. The two main events contributing to this were the sexing of a fetus-in-law (and discussion of if a quilt-in-production would be a well-received gift) and an explanation to my brother of why Live it Up! by Mark E. Petersen is hilarious and mildly offensive, complete with an introduction to the idea of gender as a social construct.
I could rant and rave about the gender in the Mormon context, but so many people have already done so very articulately that I would most likely be regurgitating their ideas, even if that wasn't the intent. Instead, I want to explore the Mars and Venus...as in, the Roman gods.
Mars and Venus are only one of the six god-goddess pairs in Roman mythology. Why did they become our modern gender archetypes? For one thing, each have a planet in their name (and Venus is the only female name among the planets), so it's simply a matter of history, for better or worse. However, if the planet Venus had been called Minerva (equivalent to the Greek Athena), would that have changed much? Would we just have ignored the planets and come up with something else?
Anyway, the Roman pairing are as follows, with their Greek equivalents and a rough description of their jurisdictions, mingling the mythologies together.
Jupiter (Zeus: king of gods, sky, thunder) and Juno (Hera: women, marriage)
Neptune (Poseidon: water, sea, earthquakes) and Minerva (Athena: wisdom, civilization, warfare, crafts, justice, poetry, etc.)
Mars (Ares: war and agriculture) and Venus (Aphrodite: love, beauty, fertility, sexuality)
Apollo (light, sun, truth and prophecy, medicine, healing, arts, etc.) and Diana (Artemis: hunt, moon, wilderness, childbirth)
Vulcan (Hephaestus: fire, volcanoes) and Vesta (Hestia: hearth, home, family)
Mercury (Hermes: messenger of the gods, trade, guide to the underworld) and Ceres (Demeter: agriculture, fertility of the earth, seasons, and motherly relationships)
There are so many more complex male-female relationships and distinctions listed in these pairings than the simple and prolific Mars-Venus analogy. Archetypes and mythology are both intriguing in that they reveal aspects of the nature of the world, perpetuate ideas, and demand inspection of their subjects.
I just don't identify with Venus or many of the traits modernly associated with women. There are many things I do like that are "womanly": skirts, cooking, sewing; but just as many things that are "manly": computers, cars, backpacking. I hate being conscripted. I've said it many-a-time and will continue to do so until the day I die: men and women are more the same than they are different and I wish we (encompassing many levels) would stop focusing so strongly on the differences. But individuals love being different and cling to archetypes like Mars and Venus to emphasize their distinctiveness. Just WHY VENUS? I would take any of the others...Athena, Hestia, Demeter, Artemis (I'm obviously more familiar with Greek Mythology), even Hera. If only one of them had a planet named after them, I'd have a catchy retort when people say things like "men are from Mars, women are from Venus"--which I have heard/seen used in earnest, mind you, which was actually one prompting for this post--I'd be able to say, "Actually no, I'm from Minerva, thank you."