Unsurprising News About the Usual Suspects

Via the always awesome Language Log, we find that Louann Brizendine, author of The Female Mind, has already reacted to today’s news that men and women actually talk the same amount.

Now, you may remember Brizendine as one of the chief proponents of the “women talk three times as much as men” myth. Later, she amended the argument to “women have three times as many ‘communication events’ in a day.” What is a communication event?

The real phraseology of that should have been that a woman has many more communication events a day — gestures, words, raising of your eyebrows.

Ah, yes. Well, a nod’s as good as a wink to a blind bat, but that wasn’t so much what she’d said in her book.

At any rate, with the news that men and women talk at the same rate during the day, you may think Brizendine would be contrite. Au contraire.

Dr. Louann Brizendine, author of “The Female Brain,” was thrilled to see the persistent stereotype go down.

“What it really means is not that she talks too much,” said Brizendine, who directs the Women’s Mood & Hormone Clinic at UC San Francisco. “It’s that he doesn’t listen enough!”

At which point my head exploded.

Seriously, what the fuck does that have to do with the price of tea in China? There’s no evidence advanced in the study about whether men listen or not. Brizendine simply asserts it, ex cathedra, as proof that the central thesis to her book is not complete hokum because see, men are terrible listeners!

As Bill Poser puts it:

Of course, the Mehl. at al. study doesn’t “really mean” this. That is, that men don’t listen enough is not a logical implication of the fact that men and women are about equally talkative. What she seems to mean is that in face of these empirical findings, the closest hypothesis she can think of to the old stereotype that is not ruled out by the data is that men don’t listen enough. She doesn’t cite any evidence for her new hypothesis. Indeed, it is an inferior hypothesis, from a scientific point of view (but therefore a superior one from the point of view of popular writers), in that the empirical claims that it makes are far from clear.

But in terms of keeping everyone in their place, it’s as good as anything they can come up with. So babble on all you want, ladies. He’s still not paying attention. And men? Hell, we all know those women don’t say anything important ever anyhow.

(And thanks, Ginger Yellow, for reminding me of the sheer awesomeness of Language Log, which had somehow missed my last round of additions to my RSS reader, an error which I have already corrected.)

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “Unsurprising News About the Usual Suspects

  1. I didn’t post on the previous thread because somehow, due to my superior feminine intuition, I was just sure something like this might pop up.

    Oh fer fuck’s sake.

    I know quiet men who are listening, and quiet men who are not. I know quiet women who are listening, and quiet women who are not. I know talkative men/women who are listening, and talkative men/women who are not.

    I am so sick of the “men are from Mars, women are from Venus” meme — we are so — Different! Different! Different!

    Bullshit. If you took me (a loud-mouthed female) and my partner (a shy, introspective female) and averaged our words and topics for the day, we would seriously skew all statistics. I think of her as my “handicapper” (as in a bowling team) — her sparse use of words more than balances my spew of them.

    Thanks for posting this, Jeff.
    PD

  2. When I was in college, I just happen to have studied sex differences in communication a little bit.

    There are many differences. They just aren’t as big as most people think.

    The ways in which boys and girls are raised cause the biggest dissimilarities.

    For example, girls are often conditioned to use a questioning intonation when they answer a question — even if they know the answer. They pick this up from their mothers and their peers. Some women do this in the extreme: Q.”What did you do today?” A.”I went to the mall? And I, like, bought a new dress?”

    Boys are taught to answer a question with conviction — even if they don’t know the answer. Q.”What is two plus two?” A.”FIVE!”

    Watch a few game shows and this difference should be obvious to you.

    It has NOTHING to do with physical differences between the male and female mind and everything to do with our patriarchal society.

    Parents can (and I believe should) teach their daughters to be less passive when they answer questions. My brother and his ex did this by asking their girls “Are you asking me or telling me?” when they used a questioning intonation. They simply wouldn’t allow them to give an answer that sounded like a question.

    As a result, they are regarded as being confident and assertive. That’s a good thing these days.

  3. Melissa McEwan

    There are many differences. They just aren’t as big as most people think.

    And they’re not even what people think. The biggest difference between men and women is not how much they communicate, but how they communicate.

    And this, too, comes down largely, if not totally, to socialization.

  4. Language Log has been writing about this for months and months. She is so full of shit, she has changed her story three times, and she makes up her footnotes.

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