This is such an important book--definitely the kind of book Faith Dance should have. It's not just that the myth that men are from mars and women are from venus is so entrenched as a popular fact and excuse for men and women gendered roles and expectations in society today, but there are some books are purporting from a scientific point of view.
The myth is that men and women essentially differ when they use language to communicate.
Here is usually what you are up against this myth:
1. Language and communication matter more to women than to men; women talk more than men.
2. Women are more verbally skilled than men.
3. Men's goals in using language tend to be more instrumental--about getting things done--whereas women's tend to be interpersonal or relational--about making connections to other people. Men talk more about things and facts, whereas women talk about people, relationships, and feelings.
4. Men's way of using language is competitive, reflecting their general interest in acquiring and maintaining status; women's use of language is cooperative, reflecting their preference for equality and harmony. Because of this, men's style of communicating also tends to be more direct and less polite than women's.
5. These differences routinely lead to 'miscommunication' between the sexes, with each sex misinterpreting the other's intentions. This causes problems in contexts where men and women regularly interact, and especially in hetereosexual relationships.
Now, I am going to love any scientific specialist, such as a linguist like Cameron, who is going to call the Mars and Venus thing, a myth. Cameron thinks it is too easy to absorb stereotypyed patterns that are reinforced by "soundbite science." She gives on example:
"In 2006, for instance, a popular science book called The Female Brain claimed that women on average utter 20,000 words a day, while men on average utter only 7,000...this was perfect material for soundbite science: it confirmed the popular belief that women are the more talkative sex, while suggesting that the magnitude of the difference was even greater than anyone had previously imagined." The 'fact' that women talk nearly three times as much as men was reoprted in newspapers around the world."
Then she continues. She refers to one professor of phonetics who was skeptical of the claims from this book. He began to seriously look into the footnotes of the book and found not, scientific data to support the claim, but references to a popular self-help book. Apparently with no hard data, these numbers were picked out of thin air as it were. When the professor confronted the author, she conceded. I know I didn't hear any news about the retraction--but I did hear the initial 'fact.'
Cameron's goal: she's not attempting to deny differences between men and women but to separate the sweeping generalizations impacting gender relations at every angle from what is hard data.