She: Sometimes I worry that because I write so much about the female point-of-view and you write a bit about the male point-of-view that we run the risk of stereotyping the two genders.
Z: You only worry about that because you’re a girl.
She: Men and women are different and so, obviously, we communicate differently. But I worry that in our case the gender stereotypes might hold a little bit too true.
Z: Can I help it if I’m super manly?
She: The stereotype is that men speak loudly, while women whisper; men talk over each other, while women conspire behind each other’s backs; men hold back their feelings, while women lay them out to anyone they think will listen.
Z: And sometimes to people they think are listening but who are simply trying to read their magazine in peace.
She: Anyway, some people think that these kinds of communication differences between men and women merely mirror our cultural presuppositions about gender.
Z: Which gender uses too many big words?
She: But really, it’s all about biology.
Z: That is so sexist.
She: According to Duels and Duets, by John L. Locke, who is a linguistics professor at the City University of New York, women are wired to look for common ground in conversation. We like to help each other tell stories.
Z: How nice and duety of you.
She: And the dueling part is the men. Men’s disposition to duel seeps into their everyday speech and interactions.
Z: Wow. Locke nailed it. I don’t think a day goes by when I don’t say, “You cad! I demand satisfaction. Blunderbusses at twenty paces!”
She: Guys insult each other as a form of greeting: “What happened to your hair? Nice beer belly.” Stuff like that is actually verbal duel play.
Z: Oh. Yeah. That makes more sense.
She: Women would never do that to someone’s face. They might talk later and bag on another woman’s outfit or boob job, but never right to her face.
Z: If one of my buddies got a boob job, I would talk right to his face.
She: But Locke’s point is not that we talk differently, it’s why we talk differently. According to him this is a “sexed expression of ancient biological dispositions.”
Z: That sounds nasty and dull all at the same time.
She: Historically, men had to hunt and compete for food, shelter and status, while women had to cooperate with each other to gather the supplies they needed and take care of the children. This is how the different communication styles evolved. It has nothing to do with modern culture.
Z: Unlike a blunderbuss.
She: He says that female groups do what it takes to preserve group harmony.
Z: Tell that to Gossip Girl.
She: In the case of males, they do what is necessary to be seen as what he calls “the most wonderful anything.”
Z: I’m just trying to keep it real.
She: Men will say whatever it takes to seem like they are the strongest, the smartest, the bravest, the most resourceful ... and it doesn’t matter whether they do it by building themselves up or tearing other people down.
Z: I assume Locke didn’t come up with that on his own, because he’s an idiot.
She: Regardless of what the men have to do to transform themselves into “the most wonderful anything,” they’ll do it. Even if they have to listen to women analyze it for hours and hours and hours. If they want to remain “the most wonderful anything” they’ll listen. It’s evolution.
Z: I think you might be twisting Locke’s words to your own nefarious ends, here.
She: The more that men evolve, the more they’ll listen.
Z: Yes, dear.