This is done particularly in regard to women.
And while yes, certain things are very different for women now, it doesn't mean that we can or should disregard our Sages as much as many otherwise frum Jews tend to do in this area. (And this disregard comes from a lack of understanding, and not any intentional disrespect.)
I'm just going to focus on one small example of this. (There are much bigger and thornier ones.)
I once heard the story of a rabbi who wished to repair the problem of the lashon hara sometimes spoken by the women of his household and community.
As a rabbi and a father/husband, it is his halachic responsibility to oversee the halachic observance of his home and his community. He also wanted to do so in a palatable manner, which is also his halachic obligation.
So far, so good.
But his conclusion was that the women in his community needed a kosher outlet for lashon hara. So he encouraged his wife and her friends to read kosher (and I think secular) literature so that they could trash-talk the characters in the books rather than slander actual people.
And this was presented as a bright solution.
And it always bothered me, but I didn't know why.
(At the same time, a part of me also liked the idea, but wasn’t sure why, either.)
After all, aren’t we always looking for kosher ways to express our talents and utilize our skills?
Not All Outlets are Created Equally
Then I got it: There is no need for lashon hara nor that which sparks it.
The very root of lashon hara is bad. That isn’t true of talents or skills.
Yes, a female singer legitimately needs a kosher outlet to perform or record.
Singing can be used in spiritual and positive ways.
Yes, a frum intellectual needs to find a kosher outlet for his or her intellect.
Intellect can be used in spiritual and positive ways.
However, the very roots of lashon hara are fault-finding, arrogance, the craving to feel superior by depicting others as inferior, etc. And these are very bad things that one should not indulge in, even casually. Chazal speaks very sharply about these traits.
This explains my initial ambivalence toward the idea:
My yetzer hara liked it, but my yetzer tov did not.
The Rabbis Who Did It Right
Here are some positive examples given by some of our greatest Sages:
The Ben Ish Chai (Baghdad, 1835-1909)
Toward the end of the Ben Ish Chai's Laws for Women, he presents a series of riddles for women to solve. Addressing his fellow Jewesses as "dear ladies" and "noble daughters of fine lineage," the Ben Ish Chai explains how he created these riddles in order to give Jewish women something constructive to discuss, something which avoids lashon hara and idle chatter. Furthermore, the riddles and their solutions are based on Jewish concepts and are not mere mind-candy. As the Ben Ish Chai states, the riddles are meant to "sharpen wits" and to "be of great benefit." Interestingly, he advises women to solve them together with her husband and children.
Why didn't he just advise women to read 1001 Arabian Nights and then discuss the characters as an "outlet" for lashon hara? I'm sure they could have dished out some good dirt regarding Sinbad the Sailor. Why did the Ben Ish Chai decide to completely replace the women's lashon hara with an intellectually and spiritually beneficial exercise?
The Kli Yakar (Bohemia, 1550-1619)
In Parshat Yitro, the Kli Yakar clearly describes the necessity of women knowing and internalizing Torah values and halachot as much as men, even though in his time, most women were illiterate and not considered to possess the same intellectual capability as men (although he clearly considered them to possess very high spiritual capabilities and wisdom; wisdom being different than intellect). But he obviously felt strongly that one absolutely must give Torah over to a woman in the way she'll best absorb it - and he derived this from God Himself.
The Pele Yoetz (1785-1828)
The Pele Yoetz advises us to raise our daughters to accustom themselves to "less conversation" while at the same time encouraging daughters to speak copiously with Hashem and to learn to read and write "in order that she learn to bless, pray, to learn the holy books that have been translated, and to fear God."
At a time when book-printing was less common and more expensive, he also thought it was a good idea for girls to write out their own copy of a prayer book so that they had a copy of their own. These are are all fine ways for a Jewish female to spend her time when she doesn't have anything else meaningful to do or discuss. Notice, he didn't say that women and girls must completely forgo conversations or cut their speech down to their bare basics, but just to habituate themselves to "less" conversation.
Furthermore, Chazal repeatedly warns against engaging in mindless chatter. David Hamelech emphasizes this in the very first chapter of Tehillim when he warns us against sitting in a gathering of letzim. (The Malbim describes a letz as "inactive, doesn’t do any evil, but doesn’t do any good, either. Just pursues wind and nothingness and frivolousness and jokes; doesn’t involve himself with Torah.")
And while it seems that more leeway is given to women than to men in this regard, it is by no means a free pass. While a woman needn't probe the depths of Sefer Yetzirah in every conversation (although she can if she wants), at the same time, a woman also doesn't need to spend her hours blabbering "wind and nothingness and frivolousness."
The Innate Demands of Major Multi-Tasking and Verbal Expression
I do want to add here that, of course, women possess an innate need for more verbal expression than men. And it is an actual need, as demonstrated by Chazal when they stated said that out of 10 parts of the tongue, Hashem gave women 9 parts—which can be used constructively or not. So Hashem gave this to women for a good reason and it doesn't seem like the standards Chazal set for men apply in the same measure to women.
Furthermore, the sheer amount of details, tasks, and weighty responsibilities that permeate a woman's day, plus the fact that a mother may be in a serious long-term phase of sleep deprivation, make it harder to concentrate and focus on heavy, deep topics.
But a certain amount of speech-refinement can still be beneficial and possible.
It has to do with balance and each woman being honest with herself about her individual and varying needs and capabilities at any given time of her life.
The Prejudice of Soft Expectations
There is the prejudice of soft expectations. A rabbi who comes to such a “novel” solution is revealing something about his core attitudes toward women and their capabilities.
There is also a certain arrogance in modern Western society regarding the Torah, that we know better and “things are different now”—particularly in regard to women.
Yet we see that the expectations our Sages held regarding female character surpass those of the 20th-century rabbi.
Again, I really can't deny how often Jewish sources say to avoid mindless chatter. Even commonly acceptable topics, like discussing politics and news at length, is discouraged. And these sources explain why such talk is harmful. So if you truly care about the women in your life, why would you actively encourage them to engage in it?
Internalize Torah as Much as You Can
I absolutely believe that the above-mentioned rabbi truly felt he was doing a positive thing.
Yet had he truly internalized Torah values—including an authentic view of women—he likely would have arrived at a solution similar to that of the Sages mentioned above. Or he could have just looked into the Shulchan Aruch or the Pele Yoetz (who describes at length in several chapters how a man must oversee his home and how he can do so pleasantly) or have utilized a similar Sagely guide to see how he should proceed.
But we live in a very murky culture.
And while no one can ever be perfect, the more we internalize Torah values, the less likely we are to provide non-Jewish solutions for Jewish problems and then present them with a kosher stamp of approval.