Do Males and Females Communicate with each other in different ways?
I do not give you the right to raise your voice to me because you are woman and I am man
" (Tannen p 23) This statement is offensive to both men and women alike. Yet it is a true, telling statement as well. This one sentence shows us that in many countries, including the U.S., a patriarchal society creates a hierarchal push and pull between the genders, creating a very large gap in communication. This assertion also brings up some important questions: Are males and females merely people with different sexual organs? Or is it how we are raised which makes us communicate differently? Does mass media attribute to societal inequalities? Or is our culture to blame for how men view women and vice-versa? As working people, does sexism and institutional discrimination shape how we converse with each other? Or can you sum up all of the issues simply in the difference between the masculine' or feminine'? These are questions that many people, including sociologists have had, and studied in-depth. Many books and articles have been written on the topic, to help the masses understand the one thing they could not possibly comprehend, the other sex.
From conception, humans are biologically designed to be one sex or the other. Therefore, we are simply people with different sexual organs. But there is much more to the story than that. Children are often treated and handled in different ways based solely on their gender. As an infant, or young child one cannot communicate properly with the adults in their lives. Therefore, as adults we treat a baby in the only way we can relate to them, as either a boy or girl. While a female baby is often coddled lovingly and dressed traditionally in pink, a male child is more often bounced on a knee or thrown in the air by a playful adult. This raises another question, does this social conditioning by adults unconsciously stay with the child throughout their lives, forcing them to conform to their gender as their only identity? Shuvo Ghosh M.D. Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at McGill University Health Centre and Montreal Children's Hospital says yes, "
the parents create the gender role, and parental decisions play the largest part in determining environmental influences." As a child in the early years of development, boys and girls are often drawn to members of the same sex. Allowing them to feel most comfortable with people who think and often react exactly as they would themselves. Because of this inherent attraction to surround themselves with members of the same sex, sociologists can see clearly the differences between how each specific gender communicates with each other. In a research project with second graders dealing with how school age friends relate to each other, Deborah Tannen PhD found that girls sat much closer to each other and looked at each other very directly when speaking. As opposed to boys, who sat at angles to each other and never directly met the others' gaze in conversation. This study had very
similar results when performed on a group of older children, and even adults. In the same study Tannen found that boys' play was very hierarchal in action, playing games where only one is declared the "winner". While girls play was more earnest, allowing the rules to be broken for the better of the group.
Mass media also plays a large role in how the different genders' communicate. One example is to break down a very simple, and widely known Mother Goose nursery rhyme. Snakes and snails and puppy dog tails, that's what little boys are made of! Sugar and spice and everything nice, that's what little girls are made of!' This makes an obvious distinction between the sexes, that girls should be polite and quiet, while boys should be more outgoing and gregarious. Another example is television, which is commonly watched throughout this country and many others....
Cited: Chandler, Daniel. Television and Gender Roles. 29 July 2005 http://www.aber.ac.uk/
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Macionis, John J. Sociology. 10th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education Inc., 2005. 325-349.
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