I'm Taking a Gender Communication Class and This Is How It's Changing My Life

Being a journalism and communications double major, I have an abundance of choices for elective classes to take. There are so many that pique my interest that it’s difficult to pick the amount that I need for my schedule. This semester, I’m taking Gender, Communication and Culture. 

Here’s part of the course description

Gender is both personal and social. It is personal because each of us is a gendered person whose thoughts, feelings, actions, goals, and experiences reflect and enact the gender identity that we individually adopt. In this class, we will explore both the personal and social dimensions of gender, communication, and culture and how all three interact in our lives. We will also examine how culture shapes gender and communication.

Why I decided to take it

I’m taking this as one of my Communications classes for multiple reasons. One, I took gender studies in high school and absolutely loved it. Secondly, since I’ve seen how gender is discussed in our society and in our digital age, I was extremely curious to see how all of this would apply to a classroom setting. Even as I study for this intimidating midterm, (if my professor or TA see this, I swear I’m studying religiously. Also, does this count as studying?), this class has become one of my favorites to attend this semester. I’ve learned a lot conceptually, but also things that I’ve been more aware of in my daily life. 

If you’re not already aware, the society we live in is a patriarchal one. The direct translation of this is, “ruled by the fathers”. The simple definition of this would be that society reflects the perspectives and priorities of men. We see this even in our language. If you see a woman delivering mail, somehow she’s still a mailman. We as humans, even the women, and non-binary individuals, are part of mankind. Sensing a problem? You should be. This class has also taught me how to be inclusive of people who do not identify as men and women, or people who don’t identify with the sex they were assigned at birth. It is important to recognize that people who identify as transgender, or non-binary (meaning they do not identify with either gender or identify with both fluidly) experience gender in their daily lives differently than some, and some gender identities are safer than others. Our daily language isn’t even inclusive of the other majority of who makes up our population, and that isn’t right. 

What I've noticed

This class had prompted me to notice the social and cultural effects of our society. I’ve learned about the communication styles of men and women, how they’re different, how they interact. You don’t have to be in the class to know that most men like to talk less emotionally than women do. Women communicate expressively and as the main way of forming relationships, whereas men communicate instrumentally with a goal in mind. 

I’ve also observed the cultural effects of the things we learn about. I’ve seen senseless sorries and women condensing their bodies to accommodate others in action. Senseless sorries are apologies that aren’t actually necessary. For instance, if someone steps on my foot, I’m more than likely to be the one to apologize. My TA will be the first to make you notice when you do it in her presence as well. Don’t even try to start a question with, “this might be dumb, but...” because you won’t get very far. These things are ingrained in women unwillingly, and I’m definitely part of it. Please don't apologize for existing! You deserve respect! 

I’ve seen the idea of toxic masculinity in action, as well. Our society has a clear idea of men, and if they’re vulnerable or emotional, they don’t make the cut. Boys are raised to be tough, not to be expressive. I, for one, see faults in this. If you participate in Twitter, you probably saw the backlash from some of the men over the very powerful Gillette ad. An ad that was meant to empower men to be the best they could be was ripped to shreds by some people because it didn’t fit the societal ideal of being a man. That’s just one example. There are boys in my class, which I think is an awesome thing. My discussion also has the majority of the guys in the class in it. They share their stories and opinions sometimes, but I wish they shared more. I like listening to everybody’s different perspectives whether in lecture or discussion.

How it's changed me

Attending and participating in this class has definitely changed the way I go through my daily life. I no longer shrink to the smallest size I, as a 5’3” female, can achieve on the bus. This isn’t to say I’ll be man-spreading in a seat or anything, but I don’t allow myself to be small in many aspects of my life now. I notice when I put senseless sorries into my conversations, and I’ve tried to stop using them altogether. Habits are hard to break, though, I’m working on it. Even the other day in a meeting when a few girls were having trouble speaking up over people, I suggested that we all need to be more assertive. The guys do it, so we should be able to do it as well without getting looked at twice.

Mostly, I’ve learned that small pushes against unjust societal rules are good pushes. Stop senselessly apologizing for simply living, speak up for yourself when you need to. I’m immensely grateful to my professor and TA for teaching such an amazing class. I highly recommend you take Gender, communication and culture regardless of how you identify. 

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