Gender and Communication

Gender and communication is an important topic from the course outline of ‘gender across cultures.’ This topic tends to focus on one significant aspect of our daily life; communication. Communication is a process through which one is able to transfer/send a message across to another person or receiver. Language is one of the most complex symbols used for interaction. Language interprets our culture and traditions. It highlights the prevalent hierarchical relations in society.

Gendered verbal Communication

‘I now pronounce you both as man and wife’

What’s wrong with this sentence? It is the language and terms used to represent two people getting married. The problem lies with associating the man as a man but the woman as ‘wife.’ This implies that a woman is only defined as to her relationship with a man, and has no value or standing of her own.

Male Generic language- Gender and Communication

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Using male generic language is very common, it is fair to say that is has become a norm within societies across the globe. Using male generic language tends to erase and or silence women, which apparently aims to include both the genders. However, in reality, male generic at times completely excludes women from the equal representation of their own. Examples include; businessmen, sportsmen, spokesman, mailman, mankind e.t.c.

People generally believe there is no harm in using male generic language and using inclusive language such as ‘he’ or ‘she’ is just for the sake of political correctness. A study conducted in the US highlighted that even when people talk about a president or prime minister who is hypothetical, they tend to use words such as ‘he’ or ‘him.’ This reinforces how society defines men as being the superior being which is why most top positions are held by men.

After many years of research, people have finally come to realize that male generic language is not perceived as ‘generic.’ That is when newspapers and major dictionaries stopped using this language. However, in some cases, dictionaries and newspapers have begun to highlight men as a standard and woman as an exception. An example of this is using terms such as ‘lady doctor’ for females but using the term ‘doctor’ for a male. This mainly comes from the prevalent gender roles, that it is men who are supposed to work and not women.

What’s in a Name?- Gender and Communication

In the early 1970s, the US stated that women were no longer required to assume their husbands’ names after marriage. Other states, however, insisted that a woman must assume her husband’s last name on marrying. A lot of people went against this idea because they link women’s loyalty to this very aspect. Men would often question their wives ’ commitment and loyalty upon assuming his name. Although men feel more strongly about this issue, upon surveying it was comprehended that women also favored the idea of assuming their husbands’ names. Attaching a husband’s name to a wife’s last name is influenced by cultural values and heritage.

Language and Perceptions of Gender

Language organizes the perception of gender in two major ways. One of them is stereotyping men and women. The second one is encouraging polarized perceptions of sex and gender. A stereotype is referred to as the generalization about an entire class of phenomenon based on some knowledge of some members of the class. For example, if most women are not interested in sports, it may be stereotyped as women generally being uninterested in sports.

This may halt people from noticing that in reality most women do engage in sports. This is evident that stereotyping in general forces us to overlook important qualities in humans just because a small majority of one segment of the human race does not involve in that specific activity.

It is a norm for people to stereotype women as emotional and weak, and men are regarded as rational and strong. Ideas such as these tend to distort our perception of certain stuff. At times women’s wise opinions and decisions are disregarded because they are thought to be backed by emotional values rather than rationality. Assertiveness is an attribute of that of men, however, if women follow the pursuit of assertiveness they are presented as rude or arrogant.

Polarized thinking is defined as conceiving things as polar opposites. Things are right or wrong, good or bad, appropriate or inappropriate. this puts certain speech styles into two extreme categories. For example, men showing emotions, and women being assertive and authoritative is wrong or bad.

Feminine Speech Style- Gender and Communication

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Women tend to engage in conversation and share themselves with others in order to maintain relationships. Females apparently possess the ability to take care of their family and have the essence to compromise to keep relationships healthy. Moreover, women usually aim to establish equality between people. Here women use the phrase ‘You are not alone in how you feel’ or ‘I have felt like that too.’ Women possess the ability to feel empathetic and supportive of others. ‘Oh you must feel terrible,’ communicates that women can understand how others feel.

 In addition to this women tend to sustain conversations. They never let conversations end or are the ones who start conversations. ‘How was your day?’ and ‘how was your trip?’ These are a few conversation starters women often use to initiate the talk.  A feminine person might make eye contact, or use words such as, ‘interesting, tell me more.’ This implies feminine speech style involves being more responsive.

Also, feminine speech style includes using personal anecdotes, personal disclosure, and concrete reasoning when talking about something. Feminine speech style is also more tentative. That is being more inclusive of other people’s opinions. This includes statements such as ‘the movie was good, wasn’t it?’

Masculine Speech Style- Gender and Communication

Masculine speech style is regarded as assertiveness, exerting control, preserve independence, entertain and enhance status. Masculine speech style is making an effort to establish status and control. They tend to use phrases and sentences that begin with the word ‘I.’ Another way to establish control is to give advice or possess a problem solving style. Despite the stereotype on how women talk a lot, in reality men often talk in greater lengths on certain topics as compared to women. Contrary to women, men do not use personal anecdotes and personal disclosure while they speak. They opt for more abstract talk that is factual based.

The whole topic highlights how stereotyping is common in society. It also pinpoints the views on how women tend to be more supportive and calm when communicating whereas men tend to be assertive and authoritative.

Also Read; Gender across cultures