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The Myth of Mars and Venus: Do men and women really speak different languages? [Paperback]

Deborah Cameron
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
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Book Description

11 Sep 2008
Popular assumptions about gender and communication - famously summed up in the title of the massively influential 1992 bestseller Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus - can have unforeseen but far-reaching consequences in many spheres of life, from attitudes to the phenomenon of 'date-rape' to expectations of achievement at school, and potential discrimination in the work-place.

In this wide-ranging and thoroughly readable book, Deborah Cameron, Rupert Murdoch Professor of Language and Communication at Oxford University and author of a number of leading texts in the field of language and gender studies, draws on over 30 years of scientific research to explain what we really know and to demonstrate how this is often very different from the accounts we are familiar with from recent popular writing.

Ambitious in scope and exceptionally accessible, The Myth of Mars and Venus tells it like it is: widely accepted attitudes from the past and from other cultures are at heart related to assumptions about language and the place of men and women in society; and there is as much similarity and variation within each gender as between men and women, often associated with social roles and relationships. The author goes on to consider the influence of Darwinian theories of natural selection and the notion that girls and boys are socialized during childhood into different ways of using language, before addressing problems of 'miscommunication' surrounding, for example, sex and consent to sex, and women's relative lack of success in work and politics. Arguing that what linguistic differences there are between men and women are driven by the need to construct and project personal meaning and identity, Cameron concludes that we have an urgent need to think about gender in more complex ways than the prevailing myths and stereotypes allow.

A compelling and insightful read for anyone with an interest in communication, language, and the sexes.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford (11 Sep 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199550999
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199550999
  • Product Dimensions: 19.3 x 12.7 x 1.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 32,688 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

"Throughout the book, Cameron's examination of everything from childhood development to evolutionary psychology to Mars and Venus myths in the workplace is insightful, incisive, and enlightening. For those who have ever felt discomfort with stereotypes about gendered communication, this book is a breath of fresh air. The skeptic, the egalitarian, and the doubter of pseudo-science will relish this book, which is full of facts to tuck away for later use in dismantling the arguments of gender-determinists." --Aiko Ayers, The Hipster Book Club"In this wonderfully refreshing new book, Cameron precisely reviews myths and candidly points out, that they are myths. Her work here is a brilliantly detailed review of where and when different and incompatible stories are made to fit our culture." --Feminist Review

About the Author

Deborah Cameron is Rupert Murdoch Professor of Language and Communication at the University of Oxford. An internationally-known researcher in the field of language and gender studies, she is the author / editor of several academic books on the subject, as well as many articles.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What a relief! 24 Dec 2007
Format:Hardcover
Extremely accessible and enjoyable, this book is an important read for anyone frustrated with the pop-science arguments which have become so popular to justify notions of difference between the sexes. For me the basic point made is an epistemological one. The book explains how many pop-science arguments take myth, conjecture or unprovable assumptions as their starting point before making ingenious arguments which simply lead full circle to explain the assumptions/prejudice they started out with. But the text is brilliantly simple without any academic jargon (like 'epistemology') AT ALL and many humorous and warm points. This book is a fun, accessible and important read for anyone who feels bamboozled by sexist pop science, as well as anyone who is not quite sure what feminists are still going on about.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
Like the previous reviewer, I read extracts of this book in the Guardian. Normally with excerpted books, even if I enjoy the extract, I figure they've printed the most interesting bit and don't bother reading the whole book. In this case I felt almost desperate to get my hands on it- and wasn't disappointed. The book is both scholarly and very readable, sometimes humorous, but rightly angry and disturbing in parts. It is full of tips drawn from real research that you can use to counteract anyone spouting Mars & Venus type myths about men and women. If you grew up, as I did, in a non-sexist family, in a very anti-sexist country (New Zealand) and came of age at the peak of feminist consciousness, you may be as dismayed as I am about the return to intensive gender stereotyping in the world. This book helps counterbalance some of that. That said, there is a weird dissonance between the design of the book itself and the content- the cover makes it look like some piece of chick-lit, and the funky-friendly fonts inside really jar with what the words are actually saying. Deeply ironic given the subject matter. Bizarre decision by the publishers.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars We need more books like this one 3 July 2008
By Sekuiro
Format:Hardcover
These days, it seems, the bookstore shelves are crammed with pop-science books out to prove that the stereotypes of our culture are timeless biological truths--that men are hardwired to be logical, active "do-ers," while women are hardwired to serve men and change dirty diapers (when they're not chattering mindlessly about nothing, that is). Deborah Cameron is a welcome voice of reason. Her conclusion? Men and women really aren't as different as the "experts" want you to believe.

In a straightforward, humorous, and intelligent style, she dispels myth after myth. She references other cultures where men, rather than women, are considered the "empathy" sex or the "language" sex. Simply by looking outside of our own middle-class Western box, we can see how absurd it is to claim that men are hardwired to be bad listeners, or to hog the remote. Gender stereotypes vary greatly from culture to culture.

She describes how scientific evidence can be manufactured or twisted to suit the prejudices of our society. She explores why these myths so often "ring true" for so many people (humans are suggestible and prone to remember things that fit their stereotypes, while forgetting things that don't), and why we're so obsessed with gender and gender difference in the first place.

She gave one example which I found particularly illuminating. A few years ago, a study came out about left-handed and right-handed people. Left-handed people, the study concluded, performed better at computer gaming and other tasks that involved processing multiple stimuli. Most people, I imagine, have never heard of this study...but imagine if it had been about men and women instead of right and left-handed people.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The REAL science behind gender differences 11 Sep 2010
By Peta
Format:Hardcover
This is a fascinating and engagingly written riposte on the deluge of self-help books focussed on differences between the genders. Plenty of science and reputable evidence to back up the claims made, this book should be mandatory reading for anyone who's read Mars & Venus or any books of that ilk, if only to see the other side of the story.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book 6 May 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Every person should read this book! It is an informed response to "Men are from Mars...," - the book to which its title refers. John Gray's book is sexist nonsense designed to keep women in their place by arguing that we are socially different because of biological differences. Deborah Cameron provides strong evidence for the contrary and writes is a style that is clear and pleasing to read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Myth of Mars and Venus 23 Jan 2013
By Sophia
Format:Paperback
If you have always found those books which attempt to say men and women cannot communicate properly unless one of them makes changes in the way they use language then this is the book for you. The author writes with an accessible style and draws on a great deal of research which has been carried out into gender differences and similarities. One of the main points she makes is that research studies showing little difference in the way men and women use language do not make headline news - only the ones which appear to show differences.

She demolishes many of the myths about the differences but she also suggests that many of us - and the media - have an interest in maintaining those myths. We've all heard the one about women talking more than men but in fact most studies have shown that the opposite is true. Women gossip more than men? Not true - both men and women gossip but men think of it as an exchange of information.

The author points out changes in society have caused anxiety for some people and these are the ones who are likely to fix on gender differences as being fundamentally unchangeable in an attempt to turn back the clock. It's the syndrome of nailing everything down to stop it changing. The overall message from this book is that there are more differences between members of the same sex in the way they use language or the style of their communication than there is between the sexes. What the research undertaken in this area does tell us is far more interesting than the `familiar Mars and Venus platitudes'.

This very readable and thought provoking little book refers to many less well known research studies and provides notes to each chapter and index. There are plenty of references for listed if readers want further information.
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