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Reporting of sex differences

Nearly everyone has an opinion on sex differences. And there’s money to be made by writing about them

Take a look at any magazine shelf and it’s clear that there are sex differences in magazine publishing. Beautiful women smile out from countless women’s magazines, while men’s magazines boast… well, beautiful smiling women, with perhaps the odd car, gadget or footballer.

So magazine publishing tends to see men and women as separate audiences, with different desires and needs. This can be seen either as reacting to differing gender roles or reinforcing them. Interestingly, these magazines also provide tips on how to understand individuals of the opposite sex.

Some popular books have taken this to the extreme, such as John Gray’s ‘Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus’. Other publications exploit perceived differences to promote traditional gender roles.

Some newspapers, for example, will pounce on any suggestion that women are adapted to be homemakers and loyal supporters of their male partners.

There are at least two obvious problems here. The first is that small sex differences get exaggerated, either because of a writer’s personal beliefs or in order to sell more newspapers or books. The other danger is that such publications reinforce perceptions of differences. If men and women are really so different in their communication styles, say, what chance is there of talking through issues?

Lead image:

MarieEly/Flickr CC BY

About this resource

This resource was first published in ‘Sex and Gender’ in January 2006 and reviewed and updated in October 2014.

Topics:
Statistics and maths, Psychology
Issue:
Sex and Gender
Education levels:
16–19, Continuing professional development