Explore the concept of gender and explain the roles of different forms of communication within gender

Essay, 2010
17 Pages, Grade: 1,7


Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. Definition of „Sex‟ and „Gender‟
2.1. Definition of „Sex‟
2.2. Definition of „Gender‟

3. Judith Butler‟s concept of gender

4. Gender differences in communication
4.1. Verbal communication
4.1.1. Talkativeness
4.1.2. Affiliative Speech
4.1.3. Assertive Speech
4.2. Non-verbal communication
4.2.1. Facial expressions
4.2.2. Visual behaviour
4.2.3. Gestures

5. Theories explaining gender differences
5.1. Biological theory
5.2. Social-cultural theory
5.3. Social-developmental theory

6. Conclusion


1. Introduction

Books with titles like “Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus: The Classic Guide to Understanding the Opposite Sex” (Gray 1992) or “Why Men Don't Listen and Women Can't Read Maps: How We're Different and What to Do About It” (Pease & Pease 2001) have flooded the shelves of bookstores during the last few recent years. The topic of gender differences is still highly discussed and there is significant research in this field. This essay therefore has its main emphasis on the gender differences in language use. The main aim is to find out how male and female language can be characterized, looking at an extract of the large variety of differences in language use between the genders. The gender concept is only touched upon briefly. To begin with, the terms sex and gender are defined, then the gender concept of the popular post-structuralist philosopher Judith Butler is presented. Subsequently, gender differences in communication are outlined, focusing on specific aspects of verbal and nonverbal communication in trying to find out what distinguishes woman‟s language and men‟s language. Finally, attention is turned to various theories trying to explain gender differences in language use.

2. Definition of ‘Sex’ and ‘Gender’

At the beginning the terms sex and gender should be defined and their connection should be shown because they will be used frequently in the following essay.

2.1. Definition of ‘Sex’

Sex is a biological categorization, which classifies people as male or female based on their genes and sex organs (Basow 1992). Sex is predicated on a set of “anatomical, endocrinal and chromosomal features” (Eckert & Mc-Connell-Ginet 2003, P10). The choice among these attributes for the classification of sex is strongly based on cultural beliefs; about what kind of criteria defines an individual as male or female (Eckert & Mc-Connell-Ginet 2003).

2.2. Definition of ‘Gender’

Gender could be defined as the social forming of the biological sex. Gender is built on biological differences and transfuses those biological differences into areas where it is completely groundless. Eckert & Mc-Connell-Ginet (2003, P10) illustrate in their example that there is no biological reason “why woman should have red toenails and men should not.” According to them the individual is not born with a specific gender, rather gender is how we behave (Eckert & Mc-Connell-Ginet 2003). Butler (1990) mentioned that gender is no result of sex and is not bound to sex.

3. Judith Butler’s concept of gender

Looking at Judith Butler‟s concept of gender, it can be recognized that Butler uses definitions of sex and gender which differ from those presented. She mentions that gender is not directly defined by sex, rather it is a multifaceted interpretation of it. Butler mentions that people are formed by their environment and are forced by cultural compulsion. She describes the body as a passive medium which is embossed by the culture and works as a tool which creates its cultural definition by itself. For her, gender is the cultural meaning of the sexed body, which must not be the result of the biological sex. What follows from this statement is that the category „women‟ contains not only female sexed humans, but furthermore that the classification „men‟ is not exclusively composed of male bodies. As a result the term „men‟ or „male„ could denote a female or a male body, the same is possible with the terms „women‟ or „female‟. Moreover Butler alludes that even the sexes are geminate in their morphology and biological construction, there is no reason supporting the assumption that there are only two genders.

For Butler, sex is a culturally defined category of gender. As a result, it makes little sense to define gender as a cultural interpretation of sex. Furthermore she notes gender being not only the cultural attribution of a sex, rather gender includes the apparatus which develops the sexes (Butler 1990).

4. Gender differences in communication

At this point the different forms of communication are reviewed, analyzing some research results in the areas of verbal and nonverbal communication. Lots of research has been completed on gender differences in language use, in this essay only some points out of the wide range of language variations between the genders can be discussed, because of the limited space. The focus will be on several categories out of the fields of verbal and nonverbal communication.

4.1. Verbal communication

There is much research in the area of verbal communication looking at differences in the word use, word order, grammatical structure, the distribution of speaking times during a conversation to name but a few. The following paragraph concentrates on the differences in talkativeness, the use of affiliative and assertive speech. The aim is to find out what characterizes woman‟s and men‟s speech.

4.1.1. Talkativeness

In the field of talkativeness there exists the stereotype of women being more talkative than men. Hyde & Linn (1988) researched gender differences in verbal ability, coming to the result that there was a difference in the field of speech production between the genders. They got a positive effect size (d=0,33) supporting women being more talkative than men. Also Leaper & Smith (2004) looking at gender differences in children‟s language use detected female interviewees being statistically significantly more talkative than their male counterparts (d=0.11). Whereas Leaper & Ayres (2007) attained a contrary result, finding a significant effect size of d=-0,14; supporting men being more talkative than women. Also Bablekou (2009) investigated gender differences in children‟s communication and found boys being slightly more talkative than girls.


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Explore the concept of gender and explain the roles of different forms of communication within gender
University of Newcastle upon Tyne  (Communication and Culture)
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Bachelor of Science Marie Tolkemit (Author), 2010, Explore the concept of gender and explain the roles of different forms of communication within gender, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/177313


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