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Gender-related aspects of social interaction

- For anyone who has ears to hear and to see it seems patently obvious that women and men have different social interactional styles. We are told that men and women in conversation “just do not understand” each other. We hear that women and men come from different planets, that they inhabit different cultures. According to numerous popular books, the sexes are “worlds apart”; they encounter “barriers” when they at tempt to communicate; their talk is marked by a “communication gap”; there is an acute need for “healing dialogues.” That the sexes have different styles of interacting has seemed so incontrovertible that it has appeared that the only thing to be established was and not whether.
- To be sure, there are some gender-related aspects of social interaction. The goal here is to expand the question that need to be asked about the relationship between gender and social interaction. Instead of probing the various ways that women and men differ in how they interact we will look more closely into context who else present; what functions the interaction is serving. In short, I view gender as a highly contextualized and multifunctional set of phenomena and processes. Social interaction is not only a context for understanding gender but is itself always embedded in particular social context in which gender may or may not be particularly salient.
- Of late, there has been considerable debate about the best way to approach the study of gender and social interaction. For much of the 20th century, three perspectives have held sway: the deficit model, the cultural difference model, and the dominance model. The predominant view early on, and still strong in some quarters, is a deficit view that holds that the communication style of one sex, typically women, is problematic. Jesperson (1922) was one of the first linguists to single out the language of women as a special case.
- He argued that women are quicker to learn, hear, and answer than men on the face of it, positive qualities. However, Jesperson  attributed men`s slower time in answering to their greater desire to be accurate and clear. He also believed that women were more indirect and linguistically conservative than men, again qualities that suffered by comparison to men`s purported greater effectiveness and inventiveness with language
- A half century later, Lakoff noted that it was women who showed greater hesitancy and indecision, such as ending sentences with a rising pitch and adding  questions after statements. Lakoff argued that such features convey uncertainty, although she placed the locus for these linguistic  deficiencies on social forces designed to keep women in a separate and unequal plase.
- In response to the idea that women`s interaction styles were not deficient in one way or another, others countered that women`s interactional styles were not deficient relative to men`s, they were merely different. They acknowledged that sex-related differences existed but noted that one sex`s interactional mode was not inherently better than the other`s. In several books, Tannen went to considerable lengths to argue that differences in male/female conversational style are the result of men and women being socialized into different cultures. For example, Tannen posed the women are more concerned with the “rapport” aspects of social engagement, whereas men are   more conversational strategies aimed at eliciting disclosure and reducing conflict and enhancing solidarity. Men, on the ather hand, are ostensibly more concerned with clarity, comprehensibility, and economy.
- According to Tanner, these different strategies stem from the fact that men inhabit a hierarchical social order in which conversation  serves as a negotiating device for preserving independence and avoiding failure. Women, Tannen argues, communicate for the central purpose of building connection through which they acquire and pass along confirmation and support. Although there may be hierarchies in women`s communities, for Tanner, these collectives are designed preeminently to sustain intimacy and ward off social isolation. These gender as well as beliefs about the appropriateness of various interactional processes.
    Tanner  has hesitated to draw conclusions about the origins of such gender distinctions. She suggests environmental origins but does not argue for them in any detail, noting only that differences in conversational styles are observed in very young children. Persons familiar with evolutionary accounts of human behavior will no doubt find it hard to resist a partial explication of Tannen`s date in common in other species and has seemingly been part of the human experience from its beginnings. But it is obvious to those familiar with the nature/nurture debate that neither side alone that can make sense of complicated human interactional behavior. 
- This difference framework, whether there from the beginning (essentialist) or acquired through socialization (cultural),has been found wanting by those who argue that it fails to recognize gender inequalities at the societal level. The difference perspective assumes that men and women are oriented toward different aspects of human relationships. Hence, differences in how they communicate arise from women and men adopting different agendas and/or having learned different ways of interacting. But once discrepancies in dominance. According to a dominance model, people who show more concern with the rapport aspects of interaction do so because they have less power. Conversely, those who are focused on control and things being settled are likely to have more power.
- The deficit, the difference, and the dominance models are now being challenged by those who view gender in performance perspective, gender is a dynamic acting-out or ongoing construction of perceivable behaviors, with self and other as the audience. Such performances are not set early or in response to established structural arrangements. Rather, people “do gender” in social relationships rather than having a gender or occupying static roles. 

Дата публікації: 06.07.2011
Прочитано: 2067 разів

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