Do Women Really Gossip Too Much?
The Gossip Bridle
Long, long ago in Europe, they had things called gossip bridles that were meant to nail down the tongues of gossiping women! Well, we’ve heard of the chastity belt which was bad enough, but a gossip bridle?
Whatever anyone says about the way women gossip and the way men only talk about constructive things seems to be untrue after all. But before I shatter this myth of gossiping women with research on the subject, let me add that as a woman with women friends, I have found that we talk not about what other women are doing or not doing, but about what we are doing with our lives: our relationships, our achievements, our interests, and that can be pretty deep.
In fact, studies say that women are emotionally much healthier than men because they can and do open up about their relationships.
It seems to me that the more a woman has to do in her life, the more likely she is to refrain from gossiping about her neighbours. And today more women are doing wonderful things with their lives that they can talk about.
On the other hand, I find that it’s the men who’re always talking about what their absent male friends and colleagues are up to; when they last got drunk or which car they’re going to buy next.
Recently when the sociologist, Cheris Kramarae studied people’s beliefs about women’s talk, she discovered that both sexes believe that women talk far more than men – and about unimportant issues.
Researchers Find Men Talk Twice As Much As Women
But in the past decade researchers armed with concealed tape recorders have found otherwise. Not only do men talk twice as much as women, they also interrupt more and take the reins where the topic of the conversation is concerned.
Dale Spender, in her book ‘Man Made Language’, says that the popular misunderstanding of the real situation is due to the fact that the ideally feminine woman is expected to listen while men do the talking. So a woman doesn’t have to say much to be considered “self-centred”, rude, overbearing or a poor listener. “Part of the art of being feminine is to help men talk – to listen, fill in awkward pauses, to introduce fresh topics. Because that feels like work, women often feel they have talked a great deal.”
In another study, a public relations consultant, Pamela Fishman, found that women in mixed company asked 70 percent of the questions. What’s more, they often used phrases such as, “Guess what?” or “Do you know what?” which are really requests for permission to speak.
Elizabeth Aries, an English language researcher found that among themselves, men get involved in much verbal battling and no statement goes unchallenged.
In fact, even though I am not a researcher, I have noticed how men almost always challenge a statement made by a woman. Seems like a whole lot of insecurity to me. Aries found that women by contrast, spoke less about themselves and more about human relationships and encouraged the quiet ones to contribute.
Silence is Golden
Says Melanie M. who recently joined an advertising agency: “I was too shy to speak up at meetings. I was afraid to say or ask the wrong thing. But I learnt a lot that way. I could tell who was in, who was out, the weak links, the empty vessels, the ones who were truly effective. And when I did finally decide to open my mouth, I was told that I was very intuitive. I think I was just a great listener.”
It’s nothing new that those who listen more often than speak, be they men or women, are listened to in return. Listening is an art, an art women excel at and one they can use to their great advantage.