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on 16 March 2017
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on 24 December 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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on 15 December 2007
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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on 12 January 2011
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 but really be honest about why the myth of Mars and Venus has been given such attention in recent years.

For anyone who looks at the "stupid male" stereotypes on TV and blames it on feminism they should read this book because they will see that the Mars/Venus revival is actually responsible for such awful stereotypes and that feminists like Cameron challenge gender stereotypes regardless of the gender they are targeting.

I also loved Cameron's sense of humour - very sharp and to the point. My only disagreement is that whilst she argued extensively against the cultural relativism of Deborah Tannen's "You just don't understand", their arguments at times seemed very similar. Excellent book though.
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on 3 July 2008
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. It probably would have made headlines and been cited in pop psychology books as "proof" for the vast and innate differences between men and women. For instance, if men turned out to be better at computer gaming, it would probably be touted as evidence of their competitiveness and spatial intelligence (which those Stone Age men needed for hunting, of course). But no one would be silly enough to suggest that left-handed people are naturally more competitive or better hunters than right-handed people. Reading a study about handedness, you might say, "hmm, that's interesting," but you wouldn't attach any social significance to it. Not so with studies about men and women. It's incredibly easy for people to project their prejudices onto scientific studies and draw unjustified conclusions.

Cameron also brings up the fact that studies showing a marked difference between the sexes are more likely to be published than studies showing similarities. Studies which don't reveal a difference will be considered less interesting and less controversial, so even if they ARE published, they get less attention and rarely make headlines. Just another way the picture is distorted and differences become blown out of proportion.

Cameron explores the many ways in which the Myth of Mars and Venus can impact real life, and how this myth can be abused. I particularly like how she skewered John Gray's claim that men are unable to understand what is being asked of them when someone says, "Could you take out the trash?" As she points out, many of these books make men look like complete idiots (though feigning ignorance can work to their advantage if they don't WANT to take out the trash.) The myth of M&V also has more serious consequences, such as during rape trials, when a man claims he "misread the signals" or didn't understand that the woman was unwilling.

I wish there were more books like this. The one complaint I have is the cover. As other reviewers have pointed out, it's a complete mismatch--the cover makes it look like a fluffy chick-lit or self-help book. I'd be embarrassed to be seen with it in public. People might assume I was reading one of the original Mars & Venus books!
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on 3 December 2007
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 so curious to see what else Deborah Cameron had to say.

The book explains, in a clear, intelligent, fascinating and often funny way, how books such as Men Are From Mars started becoming popular, why they are popular and what serious problems can arise from the idea that men and women are unable to understand one another. Deborah Cameron takes real-life examples and really opens your eyes to the mindsets behind people's comments.

Take a look in the book and you'll be hooked. (Please write some more!)
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on 23 January 2013
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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on 11 September 2010
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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on 28 August 2014
I loved this book. I've always subscribed to the theory 'that women are from earth men are from earth, get over it' so maybe, like all those people who believed the myth that men and women have fundamental biological language differences loved the other studies, I'm believing in what I want to believe.
I found the arguments compelling and the contrary beliefs explained.
Whether the mars / Venus myth is true or not, I don't think it serves is a society trying to move forward in awareness.
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on 6 May 2013
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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