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John Gray

Male-Female Communication: Debunking the Mars-Venus Myth

Male-Female Communication: Debunking the Mars-Venus Myth by Dr. Yvonne K. Fulbright

Go to a popular news site like The Huffington Post and plug the term “mars
venus” into the search field. At least a dozen blogs come up, making reference
to men and women speaking “different languages.” The dogma of John Gray’s “Men
Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus” is everywhere, and it appears positioned to
get even bigger with Summit Entertainment reportedly acquiring the film and TV
rights to Gray’s franchise.

Why should we care? According to scientific research and Deborah Cameron’s “The
Myth of Mars and Venus,” Gray has “he” versus “she” communication all wrong.

Turn to any Mars/Venus-based resource, and you’ll hear that men and women are
fundamentally different in the way they use language to communicate. The
supposed differences between the sexes, they say, are due to nature, not
nurture; humans are hard-wired so that females excel in verbal tasks —
explaining why she wants to talk his ears off about feelings, needs and “where
we’re at,” and why he is so turned off by such attempts.

Yet, as Cameron’s book points out, the data on gender communication differences
indicates otherwise:

Myth: Females talk more than males.

Fact: A review of 56 research studies by Deborah James and Janice Drakich found
34 that reported that men talk more than women, with females talking more than
males in only two studies. A more recent University of Arizona study in the
journal Science reported that both genders speak almost the exact same number of
words daily (16,000).

Myth: Females are more verbally skilled than males.

Fact: While a 2005 meta-analysis of studies on gender differences in
verbal/communicative behavior by Janet Shibley Hyde found a moderate effect size
favoring women, it also revealed that there was a close to zero effect for
reading comprehension, vocabulary and verbal reasoning.

Myth: Females seek to connect with others, while males use language with the
intention of accomplishing things.

Fact: Studies by researchers Kathy O’Leary and Pamela Fishman indicate that the
genders may differ in patterns because they’re engaged in different activities
or are playing different conversational roles. These differences don’t
necessarily appear when males and females are doing the same things or playing
same roles.

Myth: Females use language cooperatively, because they prefer harmony and

Fact: Hyde’s meta-analysis indicated that there was a moderate effect size for
women when it came to smiling during conversations. There was also a small
effect size for them when it came to speech production, talkativeness,
affiliative speech and self-disclosure. Still, who’s to say that this isn’t due
to nurture and not nature, especially when there’s no data to support the

Myth: Males are more direct and not as polite in communicating.

Fact: Hyde’s meta-analysis showed that there was only a small effect size
favoring males when it came to conversational interruption and assertive speech.
There’s actually more variation in communication within each gender than there
is when you compare any differences between men and women.

As the research shows, the language skills of men and women are nearly
identical. Yet the myths they debunk are still used to support the premise that
the genders are regularly misunderstanding each other due to mere genetics. With
the media fully on-board the Mars/Venus bandwagon, “failure to communicate”
across genders has been used to explain everything from why men don’t take out
the garbage upon request to why a rapist didn’t understand his victim’s attempts
to resist. Ultimately, both genders suffer.

Men are sized up as inarticulate, aggressive Neanderthals, incapable of feeling
emotions and being sensitive. Women are criticized for being overly cooperative
and caring doormats. Such discrimination shapes beliefs and influences actions,
both personally and professionally.

When it comes to mating, he is supposed to be allowed to “go into his cave” when
times get tough or when there’s something that needs to be done or discussed.
Maintaining the relationship becomes her responsibility, requiring that she
accommodate his communication style.

When it comes to the job market, females are supposedly better at jobs involving
communication and empathy, while men are supposed to be better suited for
analyzing complex systems. She is favored when it comes to jobs involving
teaching, nursing and counseling. He is considered better suited to occupy
positions of power and authority, as in engineering, banking and politics.

Anybody who is truly enlightened and who knows anything about males, females and
relationships knows that that is all wrong. Still, the Mars/Venus phenomenon
continues to make millions. When will we let science command the “he versus she”
communication conversation

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March 2015
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Teacher, author, counselor. I live and love in Maui, Hawaii with my beloved husband and life partner, Dr. Sasha (Alex) Lessin. We run the Temple of Tantra, School of Tantra, Synergy Community Farms, Stargate to the Cosmos, Aquarian Radio.

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