Gendered Verbal & Non-verbal Communication
Language and nonverbal behaviors play critical roles in creating and perpetuating gendered identities and social patterns.
Verbal and nonverbal communication reflect and shape cultural understandings of masculinity and femininity.
1. Language Defines Gender -
The most fundamental implication of symbolic ability is that symbols define phenomena. We use symbols to name objects, people, feelings, experiences, and other phenomena. Because symbols are not concrete or tied naturally to things, the language we use selectively shapes our perceptions.
The names we apply emphasize particular aspects of reality and neglect others. What we emphasize is guided in part by cultural values, so that we name those things or aspects of things that are important in society's perspective.
Our language negates women's experience by denying and dismissing women's importance and sometimes their very existence. In so doing, it represents men and their experiences as the norm and women and their ways as deviant. This marginalizes women.
Example: Male generic language excludes women. Male generic language purports to include both women and men, yet specifically refers only to men. e.g. mankind
Research demonstrates conclusively that masculine generics are perceived as referring predominantly or exclusively to men. example urban man vs. urban life.
One of the effects of male generic language is that it makes men seem more prominent and women less prominent than they are in real life.
Male generic language reduces awareness of women and tends to result in perceiving women as excluded or exceptions to the rule. This affects comprehension of language, views of personal identity, and perceptions of women's presence in various spheres of life.
Think of the difference between:
"To boldly go where no man has gone before." Capt. James Kirk, Star Trek
"To boldly go where no one has gone before." Capt. Jean-Luc Picard, Star Trek, The Next Generation
Example: Spotlighting - which is the practice of highlighting a person's sex. Terms such as "lady doctor" and women lawyer define women as the exception in professions and thereby reinforce the idea that men are the standard.
Example:Women are defined by appearance and relationships. - Women much more than men tend to be defined by appearance and/or relationships with others, while men are more typically define reflect society's views of women as decorative, emotional, and sexual and men as independent, active, and serious. Examples - coverage of women's sports, coverage of women in professional and political life regularly directs attention to appearance.
The cultural association of women with relationships is explicitly expressed in the words Miss and Mrs., which designate, respectively, unmarried and married women. There are no parallel titles that define men in terms of whether they are married.
The still-prevalent tradition of a wife adopting her husband's name on marrying. Symbolically, she exchanges her individual identity for one based on her relationship to a man: Mrs. Roger Keller
Reluctance to use titles and occupations for women -example - difficulty in addressing Mr and Dr. Keller
2. Language names what exists. Finally consider the pivotal power of language to name what does and does not exist. We attend to what we name and tend not to recognize or reflect on phenomena we leave unnamed. Spender argues that not to name something is to deny it exists or matters, to negate it. examples - sexual harassment and date rape, domestic violence, child abuse, elder abuse.
3. Language Organizes Perceptions of Gender
We use language to organize experience and perceptions. Because language is abstract, not concrete, we can classify, phenomena and think in terms of generalizations.
The organizing function of language expresses cultural views of gender by stereotyping men and women and by encouraging polarized perceptions of gender.
Stereotyping gender - Because symbols are abstract, they allow us to think in general ways and to understand broad concepts like democracy, freedom, religion, and gender.
While our ability to think in broad categories is useful in many ways, it is also the source of stereotypes which sometimes misrepresent individuals.
A stereotype is a broad generalization about an entire class of phenomena based on some knowledge of some aspects of some members of the class. Verbal communication groups men and women, masculine and feminine into broad stereotypical categories. Women are classified as emotional, while mean are classified as rational; men are defined as strong, while women are stereotyped as physically weaker. Because cultural stereotypes promote these views of men and women, they restrict perceptions of others and of ourselves.
Encouraging polarized thinking. - A second implication of language's organizing function is encouraging polarized thinking. Polarized, or dichotomous, thinking involves conceiving things as opposites. English emphasizes polarities. This makes it difficult for us to think in terms of variation and range.
Polarized language and thought are particularly evident in how we think about gender: The world gets divided into two realms - one for males, the other for females. Then we are all expected to conform to the stereotyped molds or suffer the consequences of negative social judgments. Research indicates that women who use assertive speech associated with masculinity are judged as arrogant and uppity, while men who employ emotional language associated with femininity are often perceived to be wimps or gay. ...Polarized thinking about gender encouraged by our language restricts us from realizing the full range of human possibilities.
4. Language Evaluates Gender - Language is not neutral. It reflects cultural values and is a powerful influence on our perceptions. Related to gender, language expresses cultural devaluations of females and femininity. It does this by trivializing, deprecating, and diminishing women and things defined as feminine.
Semantic Derogation - the process by which the meaning or connotations of words are debased over time.
Women are often trivialized by language. They are frequently demeaned by metaphors that equate them with food ( dish, cookie, cupcake, hot tomato) and animals (fox, chick, pig, dog, cow, bitch) or as possessions (his wife, secretary)
Women are also deprecated by language that devalues them. 220 terms for sexually permissive women but only 22 for sexually promiscuous men.
Frequently women and what is feminine are diminished by language. Diminutive suffixes are used to designate women as deviations from the standard form of the word: actress. Calling women girls (a term that technically refers to a female who has not gone through puberty) diminishes them by defining them as children. Or Rush Limbaugh demeans feminists by calling them feminazi and fembots.
5. Language Enables Hypothetical Thought- ("What if?")
Symbols allow hypothetical thought, i.e. to think about things that do not exist in the moment. This enables us to think of past, present, and future and to conceive of alternatives to current states of affairs.
6. Language Allows Self-Reflection - This final implication of symbolic ability is especially relevant to thinking about our own gendered identities. If we don't like the self we see, we are able to change it- to alter how we act and how we define our identity. We do this by combining our capacities to think hypothetically and to self-reflect. Androgynous people identify with qualities the culture defines as masculine and feminine, instead of identifying with only those assigned to one sex.
Second issue: Do women and men speak different languages? Because males and females tend to be socialized into distinct speech communities, they learn different rules about the purposes of communication and ways to indicate support, interest, and involvement. Because women and men have some dissimilar rules for talk, they often misread each other's meanings and misunderstand each other's motives.
We create our own gender through talk.
Gendered Speech Communities - also called female register or male register - linguists use the term "register" to indicate a variety of language characteristics defined according to its use in social situation.
Speech communities - exist when people share understandings about goals of communication, strategies for enacting those goals, and ways of interpreting communication.
In many ways women and men operate from dissimilar assumptions about the goals and strategies of communication.
Women's speech - For most women, communication is a primary way to establish and maintain relationships with others For women talk is the essence of relationships.
Consistent with this primary goal, women's speech tends to display identifiable features that foster connections, support, closeness, and understanding.
1. Equality between people is generally important in women's communication. To achieve symmetry, women often match experiences to indicate "You're not alone in how you feel." - "I've felt that same way." Growing out of the quest for equality is a participatory mode of interaction in which communicators respond to and build on each other's ideas in the process of conversing.
2. Also important in women's speech is showing support for others. example - "I think you did the right thing."
3. Related to these first two features is women's typical attention to the relationship level of communication. You will recall that the relationship level of talk focuses on feelings and the relationship between communicators rather than on the content of messages. In conversations between women, it is common to hear a number of questions that probe for greater understanding of feelings and perceptions surrounding the subject of talk. example - "How did you feel when it occurred?" Probes that help a listener understand a speaker's perspective.
The content of talk is dealt with, but usually not without serious attention to the feelings involved.
4. A fourth feature of women's speech style is conversational "maintenance work". This involves efforts to sustain conversation by inviting others to speak and by prompting the to elaborate their experiences. Women, for instance, ask a number of questions that initiate topics for others: "How was your day?" Communication of this sort opens the conversational door to others and maintains interaction.
5. Inclusivity also surfaces in a fifth quality of women's talk, which is responsiveness. Women usually respond in some fashion to what others say. A woman might say "Tell me more" or "That's interesting" perhaps she will nod and use eye contact to signal she is engaged. Responsiveness reflects learned tendencies to care about others and to make them feel valued and included. It affirms another person and encourages elaboration by showing interest in what was said.
6. A sixth quality of women's talk is personal, concrete style. Typical of women's conversation are details, personal disclosures, anecdotes, and concrete reasoning. These features cultivate a personal tone in women's communication, and they facilitate feelings of closeness by connecting communicators' lives. The personal character of much of women's interaction sustains interpersonal closeness.
7. Tentativeness. this may be expressed in a number of forms. Verbal hedges - "I kind of feel you may be overreacting." In other situations they qualify statements by saying "I'm probably not the best judge of this, but..." Another way to keep talk provisional is to tag a question onto a statement in a way that invites another to respond: "That was a pretty good movie, wasn't it?" Tentative communication leaves open the door for others to respond and express their opinions.
Controversy about tentativeness in women's speech. R. Lakoff who first noted that women use more hedges, qualifiers, and tag questions than men claimed these represent uncertainty and lack of confidence. Calling women's speech powerless, Lakoff argued that it reflects women's socialization into subordinate roles and low self-esteem. Others say it expresses women's desires to keep conversation open and to include others. It appears that the situation is important, example, a female lawyer and male lawyer's language in court are more similar.
Another form of female register is the use of intensifiers, and what Lakoff refers to as "empty" adjectives or adverbs. Some of these could be contained in a word list which is distinctively female. "This is a divine party." "Such a darling room," A study by McMillan and her colleagues (1977) indicates that in group discussions women use six times more intensifiers than men. An exclusive pattern for woman is that they often literally intensify the intensifier by heavily emphasizing and elongating the word. "it was so-o-o- wonderful." An emotional overtone is added to a simple declarative sentence.
Vocabulary - women express a greater range of words for colors, textures, food and cooking. When parents talk to their children about emotional aspect of events, they use a greater number of "emotion" words with daughters than with sons.
Finally, female register includes forms of speaking that are more polite and indirect. Coupled with the use of tag questions, women's speech appears much more polite than men's. By keeping the conversation open, asking for further direction, and not imposing one's views on another, polite requests rather than forced obedience result. While men use imperatives with greater frequency ("Answer the phone") women will make polite requests "Please answer the phone: Belliner and Gleason (1982) show that fathers produce more directives phrased as imperatives than mothers.
Socialization into language forbids profanity in general, but more so for females. Men tell "dirty" jokes, and women are often the targets of them.
Women tend to use substitute expletives that are deemed more acceptable (Oh darn)
Men's Speech - Masculine speech communities tend to regard talk as a way to exert control, preserve independence, and enhance status. Conversation is often seen as an arena for proving oneself and negotiating prestige. This leads to two general tendencies in men's communication.
First, men often use talk to establish and defend their personal status and their ideas, by asserting themselves and/or by challenging others.
Second, when they wish to comfort or support another, they typically do so by respecting the other's independence and avoiding communication they regard as condescending.
To establish their status and value, men often speak to exhibit knowledge, skill or ability. Equally typical is the tendency to avoid disclosing personal information. .... On the relationship level of communication, giving advice does two things. First, it focuses on instrumental activity - what another should do or be - and does not acknowledge feelings. Second, it expresses superiority and maintains control. The message may be perceived as implying the speaker is superior to the other person. Between men, advice giving seems understood as a give-and-take, but it may be interpreted as unfeeling and condescending by women whose rules for communicating differ.
A second prominent feature of men's talk is instrumentality - speech is used to accomplish instrumental objectives. As we have seen, men are socialized to do things, achieve goals. In conversation, this often expressed through problem-solving efforts that focus on getting information, discovering facts, and suggesting solutions. Again, between men this is usually a comfortable orientation, since both speakers have typically been socialized to value instrumentality. However, conversations between women and men are often derailed by the lack of agreement on what this informational., instrumental focus means. To many women it feels as if men don't care about their feelings. When a man focuses on the content level of meaning after a woman has disclosed a problem, she may feel he is disregarding her emotions and concerns. He, on the other hand, may well be trying to support her in the way that he has learned to how support - suggesting ways to solve the problem.
A third feature of men's communication is conversational command. Despite jokes about women's talkativeness, research indicates that in most contexts, men talk more than women. Further, men engage in other verbal behaviors that sustain prominence in interaction. They may reroute conversations by using what another said as a jump-off point for their own topic, or they may interrupt. Men use interruptions to control conversation by challenging other speakers or wresting the talk stage from the, , while women interrupt to indicate interest and to respond.
A different explanation is that men generally interrupt more than women because interruptions are considered normal and good-natured within the norms of masculine speech communities. Whereas interruptions that reroute conversation might be viewed as impolite and intrusive within feminine speech communities, the outgoing, give-and -take character of masculine speech may render interruptions just part of normal conversation.
Fourth men tend to express themselves in fairly absolute, assertive ways. Compared with women, their language is typically more forceful, direct, and authoritative.
Fifth, compared with women, men communicate more abstractly. They frequently speak in general terms that are removed form concrete experiences and distanced from personal feelings. The abstract style typical of men's speech reflects the public and impersonal contexts in which they often operate and the less personal emphasis in their speech communities. Within public environments, norms for speaking call for theoretical, conceptual, and general thought and communication. yet within more personal relationships, abstract talk sometimes creates barriers to knowing another intimately.
Sixth, men's speech tends not to be highly responsive, especially not only their relationship level of communication. Men, more than women, give what are called "minimal responses cues", which are verbalizations such as "yeah" or "umhmm." Men's conversation also often lacks expressed sympathy, understanding, and self-disclosures. Within the rules of men's speech communities, sympathy is a sign of condescension, and revealing personal problems is seen as making one vulnerable. yet women's speech rules count sympathy and disclosure as demonstrations of equality and support.
"Troubles Talk" Tannen identifies talk about troubles, or personal problems, as a kind of interaction in which hurt feelings may result from the contrast between most men's and women's rules of communication. - Some women are often frustrated because men do not respond to their troubles by offering matching troubles, men are often frustrated because women do. Some men not only take no comfort in such response, they take offense.
"I'll fix it for you." Women and men are both often frustrated by the other's way of responding to their expression of troubles. Men are frustrated by women's refusal to take action to solve the problem they complain about. "Troubles" is intended to reinforce rapport by sending the metamessage "We're the same; you're not along." Women are frustrated when they not only don't get their reinforcement but, quite the opposite, feel distanced by the advice which seems to send the metamessage "Were not the same. You have the problems; I have the solutions."
The Point of the story - Another instance in which feminine and masculine communication rules often clash and cause problems is in relating experiences. Typically, men have learned to speak in a linear manner in which they move sequentially through major points in a story to get to the climax. Their talk tends to be straightforward without a great many details. The rules of feminine speech, however, call for more detailed and less linear storytelling. Whereas a man is likely to provide rather bare information about what happened, a woman is more likely to embed the information within a larger context of the people involved and other things going on. Women include details not because all of the specifics are important in themselves but because recounting them shows involvement and allows a conversational partner to be more fully part of the situation being described.
Relationship Talk - Men and women tend to have very different ideas about what it means to talk about relationships. In general, men are inclined to think a relationship is going fine as long as there is no need to talk about it. In contrast, women generally think a relationship is working well as long as they can talk about it with partners. The difference here grows out of the fact that men tend to use communication to do things and solve problems while women generally regard the process of communicating as a primary way to create and sustain relationship with others.
Interestingly, research suggest that women and men who are androgynous are more flexible communicators who are able to engage comfortably in both masculine and feminine styles of speech.
Lecture 6 - Nonverbal Communication
Like language, nonverbal communication is related to gender and culture in two ways: it expresses cultural meanings of gender, and men and women construct their gender identities through differences in their nonverbal communication.
Nonverbal communication consists of all elements of communication other than words themselves. It includes not only visual cues (gestures, appearances) but also vocal features (inflection, volume, pitch) and environmental factors (use of space, position).
Like language, nonverbal communication is learned through interaction with others. Like verbal communication, nonverbal behaviors reflect and reinforce social views of gender and encourage individuals to embody them in distinctive feminine and masculine styles.
Functions of nonverbal communication -
Nonverbal communication can supplement verbal communication.
Nonverbal communication may repeat words, as when you say "right" while pointing to the right.
Nonverbal communication can regulate interaction -Nonverbal communication may be used to regulate verbal interaction. We use body posture and especially eye contact to signal others that we wish to speak or that we are through speaking.
Women frequently use nonverbal signals to invite others into conversation, men more frequently use them to sustain control of interaction. For instance, if a man who is talking does not initiate eye contact with others, they are unlikely to jump into the conversation.
Forms of Nonverbal Communication
Artifacts - personal objects that influence how we see ourselves and express the identity we create for ourselves. The first gender artifact - pink and blue. Parents send artifactual messages through the toys they give to sons and daughters.
One implication of sex-differentiated toys is that they cultivate different cognitive and social skills.
Other artifacts - clothing - make-up, jewelry
Advertisements for food, homemaking, and child rearing feature women, reiterating the view of women as mothers and the view of men as uninvolved in parenting.
Proximity and Personal Space -
Proxemics - refers to space and our use of it. As researchers began studying space, they realized it is a primary means through which cultures express values and shape patterns of interaction.
Personal space - reserved for friends and acquaintances which extends from about one and a half to four feet Intimate distance - extends to about 18 inches.
Space is a primary means by which a culture designates who is important, who has privilege. Those who are more powerful have more space.
For example - women not allowed to own property - women are literally denied space. (India denied inheriting property - mid-1990s)
Consider who gets space in our society - Executives have large offices - secretaries have cubbyholes.
In the house - women have no room of their own.
Men sit at the head of the table.
Men have "off-limits" areas
Example - who controls the arm rest in an airplane
Territoriality - refers to ours sense of personal space or our private area that we don't want others to invade. Yet not everyone's territory is equally respected. People with power tend to invade the spaces of those with less power. Men invade women's spaces more than women invade men's spaces. Invasion of space are sometimes interpreted as sexual harassment because too much closeness communicates a level of intimacy that may be perceived as inappropriate in work and education situations.
Men tend to respond negatively and sometimes aggressively to defend their territory while women tend to yield space or free their territory rather than challenge the intruder.
Haptics - touch - Parents tend to touch sons less often and more roughly than they touch daughters. Daughters are handled more gently and protectively. Early tactile messages teach boys not to perceive touching as affiliative, while girls learn to expect touching form others and to use touch affiliatively.
While women are more likely than men to initiate hugs and touches that express support, affection, and comfort, men more often use touch to direct others, assert power, and express sexual interest. These gendered patterns of proxemic and touch behavior are linked to the problem of sexual harassment. The meaning of touching depends on more than touch per se. - How we interpret touch depends on factors such as its duration, intensity, and frequency and the body parts touching and being touched.
Men rarely touch one another, especially in what would be seen as an emotional display. Fairly intimate displays of physical contact in sporting events - but this has its limits. International Federation in Zurich - soccer players were admonished for their "excessive and inappropriate" kissing.
Kinesics (Facial and Body Motion) - bodily movement, posture, and general demeanor, eye contact
This area of nonverbal communication reflects a number of gendered patterns. Smiling
check your yearbook.
In addition women tend to tilt their heads in deferential positions, condense their size, and allow others to invade their spaces. Women - facial restraint in showing anger - often gets masked by crying which is more acceptable.
Men too tend to enact patterns they were taught by displaying less emotion through smiles or other facial expressions, (other than anger )
Using larger gestures, taking more space and being more likely to encroach on others' territories. In combination, these gender-differentiated patterns suggest that women's facial and body motions generally signal they are approachable, friendly, and unassuming. Men's facial and body communications, in contrast, tend to indicate they are reserved and in control.
Men and women tend to differ in how they use their eyes to communicate. Women signal interest and involvement with others by sustaining eye contact, while men generally do not hold eye contact. These patterns reflect lessons form childhood in which girls learned to maintain relationships and boys learned to view for status - to show interest in others may jeopardize your own position. Women not only give but also receive more facial expressions of interest and friendliness.
Men - the eye challenge.
In general, woman use higher pitch, softer volume, and a lot of inflection. I'm soooo happy.
Men tend to use their voices to assert themselves and command the conversation which means they use lower pitch, harder volume, and limited inflection. Further, men discourage others from talking by interrupting and responding with minimum and delayed "umms"
Physical Characteristics - Overall, the physical ideals our culture defines for males are less oppressive and less tied to individual worth than those defined for females.
Research indicates that both men and women tend to be dissatisfied with their bodies. The nature and scope of dissatisfaction differ between the sexes. Men who are dissatisfied with their weight or muscularity - primary requirements for masculine attractiveness - tend to confine their concerns to their bodies. They may dislike physical features, but that seldom affects how they feel about their competence, worth and abilities.
For women, dislike of their bodies - particularly weight - often affects overall self-esteem. In other words, women generalized from the specific idea that their bodies don't meet the cultural standard to the broad evaluation that they are unworthy and unattractive.
The difference between women's and men's feelings about their bodies makes sense when we consider cultural definitions of the two sexes. Women's greater concern about physical appearance reflects our culture's emphasis on physical attractiveness in women. Unfortunately, women who fall short of cultural ideals are judged more harshly and negatively than men who do not meet the cultural benchmark.
Inherent in social views of femininity is attractiveness, so not to be attractive by arbitrary standards is to be unfeminine.
What is designated as the ideal female form, however, is not constant. Naomi Wolf believes that there is a strong correlation between cultural pressures for women to be body conscious and women's gains in social, professional, and political equality. She notes that "dieti