Through Jezebel, I recently read a study published in The Journal of Neuroscience that explains why young girls speak more than boys. According to the study, girls have more of a certain type of language protein that allows their language skills to develop at a younger age. It’s true that girls tend to have more advanced language skills, but by adulthood it evens out. What are the repercussions of this phenomenon? A stereotype, of course!
So if in reality, boys eventually catch up with language acquisition and sentence complexity, where does this stereotype of grown women who talk “too much,” come from? I think this goes along with people who think of feminism as a dirty word, who imagine angry bra-burning man haters who just won’t stop yelling. Who gets to define what too much is? If a woman is smart and has something important to say, who’s to say she shouldn’t get to say it? And even if she isn’t particularly smart, or she just wants to talk about something mundane, well who’s to say she shouldn’t say it anyway? When you tell women they shouldn’t talk about what they believe in you end up right where we are now. We see women being misrepresented on TV and in movies, and being portrayed negatively as they grab Starbucks with one hand and gab on the phone with another while some long suffering and silent man stands by and suffers neglect. Or, think Amy Poehler in Parks and Recreation whose character talks incessantly. Think Carrie Bradshaw or anyone on the Disney Channel. When Raven Symoné was tearing it up on That’s So Raven she was often criticized for the very controversial subjects she tacked. Does anyone else remember that amazing racism episode? I’m calling shenanigans on this stereotype. I know lots of women who talk a lot, but I know just as many men equally capable of carrying on a lengthy conversation.
I don’t have any problems with the study on the whole. They found the more communicative gender in rats, dogs, and humans all had more Foxp2, this protein. So while I don’t have a problem with their findings, I do wish the media wouldn’t take the well known fact this study uses and then twist it so that outspoken women seem like a bad thing. Outspoken women got the vote. Outspoken women marched on Washington in 1963. To men and women alike: I say don’t let some protein determine what people think about you. Keep fighting for whatever it is you believe in. Keep talking about the issues that everyone seems to know about- racism, marriage equality, and equality between men and women, as well as the ones that get less widespread attention, like ableism and classism. And when people say you talk “too much,” just know that you’re probably doing something right. You say what you want, whoever you are.