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

Deborah Cameron
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 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: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 52,379 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description


a brilliant and timely book (Katharine Viner, The Guardian)

In this vigorously argued book, [Cameron] also combats the cliché by example, writing in an enjoyable mode of pugnacious sarcasm (Steven Poole, The Guardian)

Cameron, skilled at deflating the sweeping generalisations of others... (The Sunday Times)

Cameron's wry, measured dismemberment of these stereotypes makes for enjoyable reading (Ceri Radford, The Daily Telegraph)

this delightfully spiky book (Susannah Herbert, The Sunday Times)

this immensely readable book (Romy Clark, Red Pepper magazine)

Cameron blows through the fog of pop-psych gender 'research' like Afrin through swollen sinuses, shrinking the claims of sound-bite science on contact (Jan Freeman, Boston Globe)

This short and enjoyable read ... is very welcome (Sarah Ensor, Socialist Review)

Fascinating, insightful, comprehensive ... you'll just have to read it for yourself (Contemporary UK Feminism,

Cameron cites a lot of literature, makes her points lucidly, and distinguishes nicely between scientific consensus and cultural assumption. She's also bitingly funny (Read for Pleasure)

Cameron does a great job (Feminist Philosophers)

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.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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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
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
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
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
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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3.0 out of 5 stars Dispelling gender difference myths 18 July 2014
I thought I'd enjoy this more than I did. I studied English Language at university and I'm interested in gender differences so thought a book about language and gender would interest me.

It isn't a bad book and is probably worth reading if you previously thought there was a large difference between how men and women communicated, but for someone like me - who is used to more academic books - I wouldn't recommend it.

It wasn't a terrible book, but while the writer complains about how writers talking about differences in men and women's speech don't back their arguments up with facts, I felt that there weren't enough documented studies in this book. I know that finding studies that report 'no differences' aren't often reported, but I would have enjoyed deeper descriptions of the studies that were mentioned. Some of the studies I'd previously read myself, but most people won't have.

The book focused on speech, hardly touched on writing and didn't even mention internet communication as far as I remember. Despite my moans there were interesting parts; for example, I didn't know that in some other cultures women are the ones associated with swearing and directness and it is men lauded for their subtleties of speech.

This is likely a very good book for dispelling untruths about the differences between men and women's communication with some interesting points, but could do with a slightly more structured, academic approach.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Helpful
As an A-Level english language student it was over helpful - however the layout could be been a bit more clear
Published 2 months ago by Maureen Browne
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book
Every person should read this book! It is an informed response to "Men are from Mars...," - the book to which its title refers. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Mary Douglas
5.0 out of 5 stars The Myth of Mars and Venus
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... Read more
Published 18 months ago by Sophia
4.0 out of 5 stars At last! Someone with a bit of sense
After years of the media digging up every gender stereotype conceivable and labelling it "science" we finally have someone who actually has the sense to not only debunk the myth... Read more
Published on 12 Jan 2011 by J. Watts
1.0 out of 5 stars The Myth Of There Actually Being A Myth At All
One of the other reviewers here says something about how 'studies showing differences between the sexes are more likely to be published than studies showing similarities, as... Read more
Published on 9 Nov 2010 by Byron
4.0 out of 5 stars It depends what your looking for
This is a good very interesting book. i brought it as research for an A level project and found it really useful.
Published on 14 April 2010 by H. Rogers
2.0 out of 5 stars Could do better
On reading this book, it quickly becomes clear that the reason for alluding to "Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus" in the title is simply a ploy to increase sales by... Read more
Published on 19 Dec 2009 by Danny Colyer
5.0 out of 5 stars The voice of reason
I saw this in the bookshops and thought at first it was yet another Mars and Venus clone, then read an excerpt in the Guardian and went out and bought the book the same day, I was... Read more
Published on 3 Dec 2007 by Anne K
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