THE MYTH OF (men are from) MARS AND (women are from) VENUS


Coach John considers the facts about how women and men talk. Are we really so different?

Click HERE to download the Weekly English Practice as a PDF.

Useful Vocabulary

  1. thriving: (adj) prosperous and growing
  2. retreat: (n) a place for quiet thinking or privacy
  3. overlap: (v) to have something in common or come together partly with (another)
  4. downplay: (v) to treat or speak of (something) so as to reduce emphasis on its importance, value, strength, etc
  5. misleading: (adj) intended to deceive:
  6. finding: (n) something that is found or ascertained
  7. patterns: (n) a recognisable combination of actions, qualities, etc., characteristic of a particular person or population
  8. debunk: (n) to show (something) to be false or exaggerated; expose
  9. enlightened: (adj) factually well-informed, tolerant of alternative opinions, and guided by rational thought

THE MYTH OF (men are from) MARS AND (women are from) VENUS

Since the 1990s, there has been a renewed interest in understanding whether men and women speak the same language and if they can truly communicate. This has led to the popularity of self-help and psychology books, such as John Gray’s “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus“. 

These books depict men and women as alien beings and their conversations as a series of misunderstandings. The success of these books has resulted in a thriving industry offering advice, seminars, retreats, helplines, and dating services. Popular science books also explore the biological differences between men and women, suggesting that their communication styles are influenced by their brain wiring.

However, Oxford professor Deborah Cameron asks if there is evidence to support the idea that men and women communicate differently.

She asked two important questions: Do women and men really speak so differently? In 1988, Hyde and Linn’s meta-analysis found that gender differences in verbal ability were negligible, representing a small fraction of a standard deviation. 

According to linguist Jack Chambers, the difference in verbal abilities between male and female speakers in a population is only about 0.25%. This means there is a 99.75% overlap in abilities. So, it is highly likely that any verbal abilities seen in a woman can also be found in a man. Generalisations such as “men interrupt more” or “women talk more” downplay the similarities between genders and ignore the variation within each group. Focusing solely on differences between men and women is misleading and common but should be avoided.

Do women really talk more than men? Observing both sexes in a single interaction and measuring their contributions allows for a reliable way to generalise about which sex talks more. This method eliminates extraneous variables and enables a comparison of male and female behaviour under the same contextual conditions. Multiple studies using this approach have found that men tend to talk more than women. A review of 56 research studies supports this common finding.

What are Deborah Cameron’s conclusions?

The belief that women talk more than men is a social prejudice, similar to how evolutionary psychology takes today’s prejudices and applies them to prehistory. Critics of the evolutionary approach argue that feminists and politically correct individuals refuse to consider biological causes for sex differences. But their stories have a basic flaw: they are based not on facts, but on myths.  Adapted from The Myth of Mars & Venus   

  1. Give a summary of the text to your coach and/or classmates.
  2. Had you heard about the “Men are From Mars, Women Are From Venus’ theory” before reading the article?
  3. According to the article; do women and men really speak so differently??
  4. Do the studies and statistics back up the claims that women speak up more than men?
  5. Read the text on page 2. What are the conclusions? Are you surprised by them?
  6. Why do you think some people (mostly men!) still support the “Mars/Venus” false science myth?