Blah, blah, whatever.

For a long time there has been a general assumption that women talk more than men and are better at talking than men are(…)

Scientist at Arizona University then decided to try to prove or disprove the claim by studying the daily utterances of nearly four hundred people. Matthias Mehl, the lead researcher, commented that the claims that women speak three times as much as men appeared to have achieved the status of a cultural myth, having been so widely reported in so many different media. Yet this study showed conclusively that there was no statistically significant difference between men and women in the amount they talked. Women used a little more than 16,000 words a day on average, and men a little less, but the difference was insignificant.

Mark Liberman also investigated Brizendine’s claim that girls speak more quickly than boys. He found that the only evidence she cited in support of the claim that girls speak at 250 words per minute as against 125 words per minute for boys was a paper that had no findings in it at all about speech rates broken down by gender. The only research that has been carried out into different speech rates among men and women has found small differences in the opposite direction, finding that men speak slightly faster than women. One paper that Liberman and his colleagues presented in 2006 found that: “Males tend to speak faster than females… The difference between them is, however, very small, only about 4 to 5 words or characters per minute (2%), though it is statistically significant. (…)

If it is wrong to believe that men and women communicate so differently, then why do so many people buy into this myth? Why do millions of people buy Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, and so (relatively) few a debunking book like Deborah Cameron’s excellent The Myth of Mars and Venus? I think that the resilience of the myth of men and women’s differing communication rests on the fact that it foregrounds something we all feel to be true: that we are often misunderstood. Many of us long for the perfect partner, who can understand everything without being told; many of us are disappointed by reality. Many of us find that we are blocked, whether in our working life or our home life, from achieving the transparent communication we desire. It is easy, therefore, to look at the communication problems described by writers such as John Gray or Deborah Tannen and to nod in agreement. If we are honest, however, we would acknowledge that the problems men and women face when they talk to one another do not always run along the lines of the grunting male and the chattering female. We are more individual, more variable, more subtle, than that narrative will ever allow.

Natasha Walter, Living Dolls. The return of sexism.

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