Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Women Wired For Communication (Part One)

Rob, who should be blogging himself because he makes me think hard, posted more comments:
OK, onto my point. I think my original comment about women studying war philosophy may have been a bit much. And you make a worthy claim that there are psychological, cultural and biological factors at work here.

All I'm saying is that when we're discussing power, whether it's wielded by men or women, there are forces that need to be considered and steps that need to be taken for individuals to obtain it. I made the war reference, because competition for power in the real world is like a war. The works of Sun Tzu, Machiavelli and Clausewitz address this human element.

I think women who are advancing to power positions - once held only by men - are adapting to this in competition. This explains why we see people like Margret Thatcher or Condoleeza Rice - and possibly Hilary - who have the stoic resolve that male predecessors displayed. These women are not representative of the female psyche, at least in a traditional and conventional sense.

Normative conformity explains conventional human behavior. What we've been witnessing is revolutionary, in terms of gender roles.
I don't believe that "competition for power is like a real war." Maybe I'm too Utopianistic (new word, I guess) but I not only believe it is possible for a person to have power without warring for it, but I welcome these people.

It is entirely possible, and even happens thus, that a person has power simply by excelling at something. In fact, there are many persons who have had power thrust upon them, even if they didn't ask for it or particularly want it. These folks we consider heroes, leaders and icons even ~ legendary but not legends for they are real. In the pursuit of power there are games, strategy and things akin to (if not outright) war; and those who achieve power can just as easily enter into the same games. But I see that as human weakness, not inherently part of power itself. That said, I'll move onto your more specific points.

Some of the female leaders you refer to, power brokers or those who want to have positions of power, they have fallen into the games of pursuit. Politics as we currently know it, is a pursuit of power. (Once upon a time the service of citizens was a job often thrust upon people ~ people who just thought they were doing their jobs or 'the right thing.; but now it's a 'run for office' more than a call to serve. Even those who view political office as a duty to serve are pulled into the games and strategy because of this 'race' mentality.) In this pursuit, one must play by the rules of the race.

If you think that these women have advanced by less-than-feminine behaviors, well reconsider my points about women having had to learn the game. If we women had to learn the rules for survival, we sure have to do so to excel. Currently the rules are male rules and those who adopt (or at least reflect) male attributes, it is thought, will succeed. In this sense they most certainly are "representative of the female psyche." Though as we've seen, when women do adopt male views, behaviors and stances they are not often respected for playing by the rules but rather impugned for not being feminine. It's a lose-lose scenario most often.

I see no data to support any claims that we are witnessing any revolution in terms of gender and leadership roles. That a few female leaders exist is quite sad when we are half (or more) of the population.

Rob continues:
What does this mean for future generations of young, bright and motivated women? I don't know, but the external pressures from all directions tell ME that our world is changing. And gender roles are changing with it. Women are not better communicators simply by nature. They're better communicators, because their previous role and survival required it. This isn't the case anymore.
Well you (and others) may see change, but it's small and certainly not hitting revolutionary status yet.

Are gender roles changing? It depends upon where you make your comparisons. Do women have more options or roles than they did in the 1950's? Somewhat. At least there are more of us willing to take the crap for being non-traditional. Do women have more choices than they have had at any point in history? I'd say no. For example, in the 40's women had more freedoms than in other years; but then again, once the men returned from war they had to be forced back ~ barefoot & pregnant into those 1950's kitchens. In pre-Victorian times there are quite a few examples to point to regarding women being valued more than we are now. (The Victorian period really did quite a bit of damage, with lasting effects ~ it's a fascinating subject, but I don't wish to digress more than I already have.)

The fact that "gender roles" is even a discussion points to the fact that there is inequity; so how much significant change has their been?

As for the matter of women being better communicators... this too is a very meaty subject. (At least my previous posts have not done enough to clear things up in this regard lol)

"Women are not better communicators simply by nature. They're better communicators, because their previous role and survival required it." Well, that implies that you got part of what I was saying ~ but you're reducing this to a 'nature vs. nurture' discussion and dismissing 'nature' as no longer relevant when it is a large part of our biology.

Survival, selection, has served the communicating female human well. She and her offspring survived where the poor communicator or non-discriminating sort did not. This gives us a genetic legacy, a biology which ~ even if you argue isn't needed or 'the case anymore' ~ we have not yet even begun to drop from our genetic selves. Looking at our species as a whole, our history since becoming an agricultural animal is but a blip in time. Our bodies have not yet caught up with these changes yet, so I doubt the female-communication connection has changed yet.

In fact, communication is gender issue inherent in our development. Every human brain begins as a female brain ~ if at eight weeks after conception it becomes male, excess testosterone shrinks the communications center (among other actions). This connection between gender and communication has been noticed by Louann Brizendine, M.D and written about in her book, The Female Brain.

Also recent findings regarding tentative connections between testosterone and autism and testosterone and empathy indicate that testosterone affects communication as well. (This could also indicate, as I suspect, that women are indeed far better suited not only to communicate ~ create marketing messages ~ but to evaluate a marketing campaign's success as she can better 'read' the reactions of receivers.)

As Brizendine says, "Gender education and biology collaborate to make us who we are." So as long as our brains are wired for communication (which it seems clear we are) and our culture still has unique gender roles (which there are, and they require us to learn male rules), we remain women who rely on and excel at communication.

Now, what say you? *wink*

(Stay tuned for Part Two; and if you have not yet done so, please subscribe to the newsletter!)

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Anonymous Rob Vagabond said...

Marketing Whore,

Good points. I agree with some, disagree with others. I'll work on starting a blog. In the meantime, this talk might interest you(most relevant to our discussion around minute 8:00 and on to around 13:30) :


May 1, 2007 12:36 PM  
Blogger Marketing Whore said...

Will put the link on my list ~ now, Rob, get thee to a blog! I want to read you!

May 8, 2007 1:35 PM  

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