Gender and Communication
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biological & physiological characteristics that are the historical basis of male/female binary
characteristics that complicate the binary
distinctions between those characteristics
due to one’s biological embodiment, social functions that: A) one can perform or B) meanings and expectations for what functions one should perform
implicated with embodiment, sense of self (sometimes called “psychological characteristics”), and the social meanings and expectations held for oneself, and for others’ social performances based on their embodiment
internalized, deeply felt sense of being male/female/both/neither
acceptance/alignment of conventional link between sex and personal feeling
rejections/misalignment of that link, including rejection of the M/F binary and the assumed stability of those categories
grounded in the personal & social meanings of embodiment, how you act (i.e., perform yourself) in specific social situations/contexts; & how others should perform themselves in terms of the social meanings of feminine & masculine qualities [Thus, Gender & Gender Role are important sites of cultural struggle and contestation.]
presenting one’s identity in particular ways – that is, what we affirm about who we are through the way that we present ourselves to others communicatively
the process of others bestowing/imposing particular qualities upon you
Identity as Negotiated
between avowal and ascription
Identity is negotiated through what & how you avow, how and whether that is affirmed or disconfirmed by the other person, & what other definitions of you are offered by the other person
a political definition of sexuality that presumes choice and conscious decision (heteronormative position usually invisible here)
a view of sexuality as natural and innate
denigrating/subordinating one sex or gender position and celebrating/privileging the other sex or another gender position
celebrating and privileging heterosexuality over other positions of sexuality (i.e., advocacy)
the cultural assumption that heterosexuality is the norm (to the point of universality), both descriptively and judgmentally (i.e., normatively; unreflective assumption)
fear or revulsion of homosexuality (as violation of “proper” Sex-Sexuality relationship), of homosexuals, and of being so labeled
Same as homophobia, but focused on Transgender (See emergence of Avowal labels such as Transman, Transwoman, Genderqueer)
Back to the binary. A model (more or less flexible) of social meanings, characteristics & expectations for performance derived from historic meanings of being male and acting “as a man” should. [Note possibilities of “Masculinities.”]
Back to the binary. A model of traditionally inflexible social meanings, characteristics & expectations for performance derived from historical meanings of being female and acting “as a woman” should. [Note range of possibilities of “Feminine” BUT also the absence of “Feminines.”]
Hyper-masculinity & Hyper-femininity:
paradoxical, exaggerated embodied performance of historically celebrated qualities and social & sexual roles of masculinity, and femininity; as performances, simultaneously subverts and supports those social meanings
the blending, or selective combination, of qualities historically deemed as Masculine or Feminine; refers to both “inner” qualities of identity and to “outer” material appearance & performance
The organization of society and its institutions – both formal and informal -- in ways that privilege men and the qualities of dominant masculinity
a constellation of meanings, practices & points of view that are based in qualities & values that the culture historically identifies with the “essential” character of men
Gender Communication: two distinct definitions
Narrow: communication about the social meanings of embodiment, or between men and women (See Ivy)
E.g., How we want to be addressed; How we talk to others across apparent gender differences (M/F binary; sexuality categories); metacommunication about these matters
Broad: a dimension of all communication, since communication is produced by gendered beings, is interpreted through cultural assumptions about communication as gendered
Grice’s Maxims for Coherent Conservation: “The Cooperative Principle”
The Maxim of Quantity, where one tries to be as informative as one possibly can, and gives as much information as is needed, and no more.
The maxim of Quality, where one tries to be truthful, and does not give information that is false or that is not supported by evidence.
The maxim of Relation, where one tries to be relevant, and says things that are pertinent to the discussion.
The maxim of Manner, when one tries to be as clear, as brief, and as orderly as one can in what one says, and where one avoids obscurity and ambiguity.
Women’s speech tends to be
Indirect, Emotional, Standard, & Conservative
Softening declarative statements
Engagement vs. dispassion
Standard ----------------------- Idiosyncratic
Grammar, syntax, accessibility of word choice
Conservative ------------------- Risky
Proper, harmonious; See Grice’s Maxims
When a statement contains as its ending a question posed to the other person. (e.g., . . . don’t you think? . . . isn’t it?)
A) Hedges/Qualifiers (e.g., It’s/I’m like; kind of, sort of, I guess, possibly, maybe, perhaps)
B) Disclaimers (e.g., I’m not sure, but; I’m just guessing but could it be )
Empty modifiers (adjectives, adverbs)
(e.g., adorable, awesome, cute, sweet, darling, fabulous, totally. . . ) “She’s so adorable. She’s totally fabulous!”
Feminized terminology (constructs the opposite of “Positive” Semantic Space)
(e.g., shades of color; styles of shoes; clothing styles & features; cooking & cleaning terminology)
Politeness & “hypercorrectness”
Fundamental concern with being appropriate & being perceived as appropriate.
Grammatical: using the subjective pronoun when the objective should be used (e.g., “It was just a conversation between my friend and I” – should be “my friend & me” = “us” and not “we”)
Compliments: Focus on the affective & relational function of language: “That’s a nice jacket” is less a truth statement than an expression of closeness Who gives? To Whom? With what Response (accept/challenge)?
Lengthening Comments & Responses: Not “getting to the point”
Elaborate Requesting: “Would you mind if . . .” “If it’s not too much to ask . . .”
Vocal exaggeration (Paralanguage)
(Speaking in italics, elongating syllables, fluctuating pitch, Vocal Fry)
Rising intonation (Paralanguage)
Elevation of pitch when NOT asking a Q; appears at the end of a phrase or declarative sentence; (Originated with “Valleyspeak”)
Relatively humorless (an attitude towards communication)
Concerns being sincere & assuming others’ sincerity in communicating (vs. teasing, joking, violating rules of propriety). Recall the Quality Rule & Relation Rule of the Cooperative Principle
IF statements lengthened (perceived need to explain); more hedging, disclaimers, tag Qs à THEN more Indirect
IF tone more varied and higher portion of vocal range used; greater vocal exaggeration; volume deviates from “normal” à THEN more Emotional
IF more polite; more use of hedges, disclaimers, tag Qs; less profanity; fewer interruptions; give & accept more compliments; apologizing; more concern for Grice’s “Cooperative Principle” à THEN more Conservative
IF more conventional language use, fewer verbal shortcuts, nicknames, or slang à THEN more Standard
SI focuses us on the relationship between communicators, between the Individual and the Social Community to which the person belongs.
is the process of creating shared meaning through symbol systems
lThrough interaction with others we form a concept of our self & we internalize society (i.e., we carry within us the social meanings of things & rules for interacting – and these frequently concern gender).
Your self concept, the way you interact with other people determine how you think about yourself.
Engaging in “Role-Taking”
We imagine and anticipate how our own conduct will be interpreted and responded to by the other(s) before we act/speak.
We anticipate how the other person is likely to respond to us before we even act or talk. (I must for a quick second put myself in your position before I decide to act )
Uncertainty Reduction Theory
uncertainty (about others, about how to interpret or act/communicate) is uncomfortable, producing anxiety
we need some degree of certainty to know how to communicate with others in order to produce the outcomes that we want to bring about.
Communication is both a process of reducing uncertainty and of securing one’s preferred outcomes.
3 levels of information
Cultural: Most general & broadly applicable. Expectations for & assumptions about gender (incl. stereotyping) – “American” + “woman”
Sociological: Group-level“College student” + “Business major”
Psychological: “Individuating” InformationHas a hidden tattoo to proclaim that she’s not a tool of corporate conformity. Swears when relaxed.
3 strategies for acquiring information:
1.Passive (observational); note that embodiment is a key resource for information-gatheringSit back and look without being seen
2.Active (consultation with 3rd parties)Where there is evidence of someone without actually interacting with them (looking at someone's facebook page, talking to someone to get information about another individual)
3.Interactive (conversational)Actually communicating with another individual to obtain information about them.
What constitutes a language?
A language is a system of arbitrary verbal signs (written or oral), governed by a series of rules.
production [sound (thus, “accent”), words, grammar, syntax (parts of speech and proper usage)],
meaning [conventions, associations], and
situational use & consequences [pragmatics]
within a speech community [a group who share norms and rules for interacting in culturally understandable ways].
Two types of Language Systems
Grammatically GenderednNaturally Gendered (English)
Nouns are neutral
Gendering or sex identification only occurs when the sex of the referent needs to be identified
1. Nouns with [historically] sex-specific referents (bride, father, sister, groom)
Note how same-sex marriage & partnerships are destabilizing this assumption
2. Nouns that specify sex in their construction (bridesmaid, groomsmen)
Gendered Indexical Associations
nconnections we make between signs
“Men have appropriated the universal, while women bear the mark of gender”
linguistically shows the deviation from (or violation of) cultural expectations.
E.M.A.L.: If “Every man is a Lute,” then what is every woman? ( a “Lady Lute”)
Now consider Indexical Associations: What are the meanings of “Lady” (vs. other terms for women)?
NOTE HOW MARKING LEADS US TO INDEXICAL ASSOCIATIONS
NBA vs. WNBA; PGA vs. LPGA
claims spheres of activities or artifacts for one sex
Also called “Man-linked terms/terminology”
Generate a list of words/ phrases that include “man”? (e.g., manpower, repairman, man up)
Now compose a list of “Woman/Lady-Linked terms”nUse of diminutive suffixes to Differentiate:
How do “ette” or “ess” & “trix” not only designate a role to be occupied by a female, but actually change the denotative meaning of the term?
Connotatively, how do these suffixes “lighten” or “trivialize” or “diminish”?
unequal denotative meanings for paired terms or phrases
Understianding one thing (the tenor) in terms of another (the vehicle)
Bestowing human qualities (usually feminine) on objects/ processes through female qualities
Ex: "Lady Liberty," "Virgin territory," "Father Time," but "Mother Nature"
reducing/removing the qualities of "FULL" humanness; "demoting someone's place in hierarchy
Men - Women - Children - Objects ("it)
A sign of intimace [consider animal, food, and plant terms for persons]
Terms that Sexualize or insult. Reducing the whole to a part
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