What the surveys DON'T tell you about gossip




I do it at home. I do it at work. I do it at parties. I do it in the bathroom. I even do it on my own. I gossip. And so does almost every other woman. But it seems the gravity of these conversations is being underestimated.

This week, a UK study revealed that the typical woman yakety-yaks for about five hours. Every. Single Day. I don’t dispute this.

But it’s what this survey doesn’t say that really has me reaching for the phone for a good goss. The research claims women spend most of their precious chit-chatting on shopping, diet and exercise, holidays and what we would do with a lottery win. Yawn. I’m bored. No, wait, I’m shocked. Actually, I’m angry. Women are smarter than this.

So, I called the company responsible – First Cape – only to be referred to spokesman Steve Barton. That’s right, a man. I spoke to Steve for half an hour about what he thought women like to talk about.

Now, I told Steve in a very polite fashion that I’m no bra-burner, but I found it disappointing that topics such as career, politics and finance don’t cop a mention. He said these topics “sunk to the bottom of the list”. Huff. So who the hell answered these questions? Six-year-olds?

Two thousand UK women filled out this online survey from a population of almost 68 million. So it polls less than half a per cent of their total population. And yet, it’s gone global – picked up by everyone from the Indian Express to the Asian Age.

First Cape is a wine company targeting the powerful female grocery buyer with low-alcohol booze. Their survey is a cheap shot at getting their publicity wheels rolling. It worked. Girls were the target, made to look flighty, light, boring and dumb.


Gossip isn’t just about whether the boss farted or how much you hate your friend’s husband. Gossip – good gossip – binds the sisterhood.

There’s no doubt we natter about the little things. We’ve dedicated months to prattling about Pippa Middleton’s bottom, Pippa Middleton’s dress, Pippa Middleton’s romance with Prince Harry … but we also talk about life’s big issues – work, politics, school, interest rates, family.

Since school, my friend Katrina has been the cornerstone to every juicy yarn. A few months ago, she revealed one of our very modest friends and her husband were doing it tough on the money front. So, we’ve been pitching in. Dinners, shouting her brekkie, taking her kids to the zoo. If Katrina wasn’t such a gossip, we’d never have known. Good gossip does prevail.

Sure, a lot of gossip is toxic. Perhaps that’s why men steer clear. They like to call it “networking”.

But good gossip is a rollercoaster of emotions peppered with meaty debate. Female conversation isn’t dull, irrelevant or basic. We’re rather uniquely gifted at being able to seamlessly argue over the latest government antics and the price of nappies all in the same breath. We should be proud of the issues that matter to us because every voice counts. Every conversation counts.

Do you classify the conversations you have with your friends as gossip? How important is gossip to you?

Alissa Warren began her career answering phones for Steve Price at 2UE in Sydney and then went on to report news.   Two years later she moved to “A Current Affair” and  was lucky enough to interview everyone from Elle Macpherson to Australia’s dodgiest termite inspector. Alissa’s currently on maternity leave from Nine’s Sydney newsroom