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Verbal Communication Along Gender Lines

For a class, I was told to violate a social norm concerning gendered verbal communication. It was actually difficult to do so because I actually consider my speech to be rather masculine as well as feminine. I try to take control of conversation to discuss what I want to. I can be rather forceful with my language because I was raised to be honest and forthright, and I know I personally don't like having secrets held against me. I also feel like people don't know what I'm talking about because I generally speak in abstract terms; I often have a lot to say and just want to spill out a summary of it all.

The only feature of masculine speech that I don't exercise is interruption because being interrupted is a pet peeve of mine. At the same time, I didn't feel like interrupting the people I interact with on a daily basis would serve the purposes of this assignment because I work with males who interrupt me constantly.

I tried to give minimal response cues, but since I communicate mostly with men anyway, they didn't seem to mind, and yet I was flustered because I was actually interested in what was communicated to me, but I restricted myself only to "uh-huhs" and other paltry responses.

I suppose my thoughts concerning this assignment reinforce cultural prescriptions for gender for the most part. Even in how I wrote up this response, you might be able to see how I have noticed certain patterns in how the males I communicated with would communicate back. (I guess I can't blame people for following the social norms of communication for their culture; based on social learning theory and symbolic interactionism, such men as those I mentioned learn from other male models and are rewarded for their behavior.) However, I still feel that using both masculine and feminine speech seems to work well for me thus far, and I see no reason why someone shouldn't be able to utilize both styles.

Masculine and feminine styles of communication

Masculine

  • Used to establish status and control by asserting ideas, telling jokes and stories, or challenging others
  • Avoids telling personal details; more abstract
  • Attempts to show knowledge
  • Practical; attempts to solve problems and find facts
  • Conversation is longer and more frequent
  • May reroute the conversation or interrupt
  • Language is more assertive; "ums" and such are more infrequent
  • Less responsive emotionally

Feminine

  • Used to establish and maintain relationships with others
  • Show equality with others by showing sympathy, etc.
  • Full of questions to better understand others
  • Attempts to sustain conversation and invite interaction, often with questions
  • Involves emotional responsiveness; attempts to make others feel validated and included
  • Full of details and anecdotes
  • Includes verbal hedges and other forms of hesitancy

*Summarized from Julia Wood's "Gendered Lives" (2007): Thomson Wadsworth.

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