The Myth of Mars and Venus

From http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2007/oct/01/gender.books
The idea that men and women differ fundamentally in the way they use language to communicate is a myth in the everyday sense: a widespread but false belief. But it is also a myth in the sense of being a story people tell in order to explain who they are, where they have come from, and why they live as they do. Whether or not they are "true" in any historical or scientific sense, such stories have consequences in the real world. They shape our beliefs, and so influence our actions. The myth of Mars and Venus is no exception to that rule.
......Do women really talk more than men?
...... The reviewers are inclined to believe that this is a case of gender and amount of talk being linked indirectly rather than directly: the more direct link is with status, in combination with the formality of the setting (status tends to be more relevant in formal situations). The basic trend, especially in formal and public contexts, is for higher-status speakers to talk more than lower-status ones. The gender pattern is explained by the observation that in most contexts where status is relevant, men are more likely than women to occupy high-status positions; if all other things are equal, gender itself is a hierarchical system in which men are regarded as having higher status.
"Regarded" is an important word here, because conversational dominance is not just about the way dominant speakers behave; it is also about the willingness of others to defer to them. Some experimental studies have found that you can reverse the "men talk more" pattern, or at least reduce the gap, by instructing subjects to discuss a topic that both sexes consider a distinctively female area of expertise. Status, then, is not a completely fixed attribute, but can vary relative to the setting, subject and purpose of conversation. 
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Comments

Chaim B. said…
>>>The idea that men and women differ fundamentally in the way they use language to communicate is a myth

Isn't this "myth" what underlies Deborah Tannen's work as well?
" Tannen claims that there are gender differences in ways of speaking, and we need to identify and understand them in order to avoid needlessly blaming "others or ourselves -- or the relationship -- for the otherwise mystifying and damaging effects of our contrasting conversational styles" (Tannen, p. 17). "
http://www9.georgetown.edu/faculty/bassr/githens/tannen.htm
Ariella said…
In Tannen's books she also points out the myth that women talk more than men. In fact, her name is associated with the study the author here cites. Tannen's approach is not the simplistic Mars/Venus split but a much more sophisticated linguistic observation. Different types of talking are also to be found among people from different backgrounds. For example, New Yorkers tend to talk a lot more quickly than people from other parts of the US. In some cultures, paying someone a compliment on something is tantamount to requesting it. So there are many differences that can be traced to various situations.

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