I’m generally good when it comes to proper attribution for the source of books that catch my eye. But I’m having difficulty recalling where I came across Frank Joseph Goes’ artsy book richly illustrating The Eye in History, published in 2013. An ophthalmologist from Belgium, Dr. Goes has assembled an international coterie of authors on a wide variety of topics. Fifty in all, to be exact, and some of the more esoteric chapters span only a few pages but are provocative in their own right. One of the more intriguing among these is chapter 18, authored by the eye surgeon Dr. Magda Rau who divides her time between Germany and the Czech Republic, titled: “Do Women See Differently From Men?
Dr. Rau began contemplating this in earnest when she noticed that the acceptance rate of her female patients of multifocal IOL outcomes was much better when she maximized their spectacle independent near visual acuity, as compared to males who placed more comparative emphasis on their unaided intermediate and far visual acuities. Dr. Rau elaborated her theory in a Eurotimes interview in 2009, based on behavioral science and stemming from hunter/gatherer societal patterns, as to why men were programmed to place a premium on distance vision and women on near vision.
In a 2009 column for Refractive Surgery Outlook, Dr. Rau went a bit further:
“I believe our results make sense from an anthropological perspective. We may question if women are more patient and willing to adapt to a new optical system like the multifocal lens. Are women better able to adapt to changing conditions? Are women more concerned with vanity, trying at all costs to avoid reading glasses which may make them appear older? Or is it really still prehistoric behavior that affects differences in satisfaction?”
In considering gender specific visual habits, Dr. Rau casts a wide net. It is safe to say that you’ve never read a statement like this in an ophthalmic book: “My chapter focuses on measurable, genetically determined differences, and in this context I want to mention another gender peculiarity. The author of the popular series ‘Sex in the City’ responds to the question of how to attract men by saying: ‘This is not necessary, my dear, he has already spotted you several seconds ago’.”
Clearly not everyone will buy into these sweeping generalizations about gender acceptance of induced lens glare and halos. Although Dr. Rau emphasizes differences in visual styles, channeling an ophthalmic version of “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus“, others have disputed this notion. Dr. Eric Donnenfeld, for example, finds little reason to dwell on gender differences as long as refractive targets are being hit. But, as we say, that’s what makes the world go ’round …