On Spelling Out the Obvious

You might come across some things here at "Man+Woman" Magazine that seem a bit like spelling out the obvious. But there are some good reasons for that.

Labouring the obvious

One of the challenges of writing for a broad and unknown audience is that it is hard to know where to 'pitch' what you're going to say. That is, am I writing for beginners, the somewhat advanced, or the experts? It's an occupational hazard to provoke reactions like, "What does he take us for - two year olds?" I take a simple attitude to it. Anyone who already knows something can easily skim through to find the parts interesting to them. And for those who are beginners, they might finally find someone talking to them in a way they can understand.

I think this approach is especially pertinent when dealing with the emotional differences between men and women. Knowledge, and even awareness, can range from sophisticated to practically nil. And the 'nil' end of the scale can include people who are quite knowledgeable about many other things. But in this particular field there is a fairly widespread lack of understanding.

Providing a resource

One my aims is to be a resource for people who work with young people in various capacities, and are looking for helpful material. Now sometimes this doesn't involve anything novel or creative, but simply putting down in writing things that people probably could write themselves, if they had the time. But isn't it great when you come across something where someone else has done much of the work for you? I hope that, as time goes on, people in such roles will be able to find here resources that 'do some of the work for them'. This could be as simple as just having thought through and listed the key points in a particular topic.

The value of articulating it

Have you ever had that experience of reading something, or hearing someone speak, and you think, 'I already knew that. That's what I think too, but I've never articulated it before.' When it comes to relations between the sexes there are probably many things like that. You have a sense of what the other sex is like in some particular, but you've never put it into words. In fact, you might struggle to put it into words even if you did try. But the 'new' thing you've heard is not so much something you didn't know, but something that gains clarity by having been expressed in words.

There is a great value in articulating things because that gives us a 'handle' on them. If an understanding or intuition remains implicit in your mind, but you can't put it into words, you can't readily use that understanding. But once it has been put into words you can talk to other people about it. It can also help you link that understanding to other insights you have. Clarity of thought enables you to 'connect the dots' with other insights.

On not presuming too much

In the present case, which involves relations between men and women, I think we need to be careful not to presume too much on people's understanding. It is a field which is not yet well developed to the point of being a store of common knowledge that significantly informs people's understanding. This has additional importance for young people, because the people who know most about it, e.g. older married couples, have probably never articulated most of it. This means that, even if they have a deep understanding, they can't communicate it to the next generation. But wouldn't it be so much easier if a lot of such wisdom could be clarified and written down clearly so that not everything would have to be learned by trial and error?

Some might argue that it's too subtle, and you really have to experience it to understand it. Up to a point that's always the case. The wisdom that can come from personal experience cannot be captured on the page. But there is nevertheless a lot of understanding that can be clarified and communicated to those who have yet to have the full experiences themselves. However, at the present time I think there is still a lot to do before we have a sufficiently well articulated body of thought about relations between men and women.

It is because of this that I don't like to presume much at all about people's likely understanding of things like the emotional life of the opposite sex. I think it is worth spelling it out, in plodding detail if necessary.