Science just disproved this sexist myth about women and gossip

One of the oldest and most tired myths on the planet is that women and girls like tearing each other down and are “gossipy”—especially as compared to their male counterparts. However, a new study from the University of California, Riverside suggests that this sexist stereotype doesn’t actually have much basis in reality.

While the study found that women do tend to gossip (aka talk about people who aren’t in the room) more than men do, the researchers noted that “gossip” is not inherently negative—and women are no more likely to speak negatively about others than men are.

To arrive at these conclusions, Megan Robbins, an assistant professor of psychology, worked with graduate student Alexander Karan to compile data from 467 participants in five studies. The group was composed of 18 to 58 year old, with 269 women and 198 men. Each person wore a listening device that recorded about 10% of their conversations over the course of the day, which Karan and Robbins later analyzed to see how much of it was gossip and whether it was positive, negative, or neutral.

The news release again notes that the researchers defined gossip as talking about someone who wasn’t in the room, and reiterated that it’s not necessarily a bad thing to do so.

"With that definition [aka, speaking about someone you know who isn't there], it would be hard to think of a person who never gossips because that would mean the only time they mention someone is in their presence," she said. “They could never talk about a celebrity unless the celebrity was present for the conversation; they would only mention any detail about anyone else if they are present."

Overall, the results showed that everyone gossips, with about 14% of conversations being classified as such. And the overwhelming majority of gossip was neutral. The study also found that the amount that a person gossips wasn’t related to their class or education level, but they did find that younger people spread more negative gossip than older people.

So the next time you hear someone shaming women for “gossiping,” kindly remind them that science is on your side.

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