From gossiping to arguing to nagging, both men and women commonly believe that women talk more than men. But is this really the case?
What We’re Used to
Western women were prohibited from public speech from the middle ages until they became more literate from the 19th century. Alongside the subservient traditional female stereotype, we’ve learned to expect women to talk less. And this means that whenever a woman speaks more than is expected of her, we notice it more and overestimate her presence.
Positions of Power
Positions of power are a great example of why this is still the case. Although men and women are “equal” under Western law, just 19.6% of US Congress in 2017 were women. More than this, only 7% of CEO spots in the US between 2015 and 2016 where held by women. This figure was just 1% in Germany. These numbers in mind, it’s no wonder that we hear male voices more in these fields.
Higher representation of men in a position of power coupled with women’s more subservient history has created something linguistic theorist Jennifer Coates calls “androcentric rule”. It essentially means outspoken men are deemed as normal whereas outspoken women are seen as abnormal.
When Women Talk More
But women do sometimes talk more. Social linguist Deborah Cameron found that women do tend to speak more on subjects where female expertise is presumed eg. relationships or babies. Other topics however such as politics, science and business are dominated by men. But this may not just be because men talk over women. Cameron found that women also tend to defer to men on these topics, showing that it’s not just men who perpetuate old gender stereotypes; women do too.
To conclude, women don’t necessarily talk more than men. Free speech and higher literacy rates among women has simply meant that they’re talking more than before- and due to traditional gender roles, we’re not used to it. This means that whenever we hear a woman talking about topics including politics, science and business, we shouldn’t assume she is talking over her male counterparts. She is simply equaling the playing field.