If there’s one thing I learned from spring term, it would be that men and women aren’t nearly as different as I thought.
Before you say, “Duh, Molly, even I knew that,” try to come up with at least five similarities between men and women that don’t include basic human needs and common body parts. It’s harder than you might expect.
The biggest and most overlooked similarity is that men and women speak the same language. Crazy, I know. Yet in this day and age, the most common forms of communication aren’t always clear. Just because we may mean different things or communicate how we feel differently doesn’t mean our intent when speaking isn’t the same. Even if you’re giving someone the silent treatment, you’re still communicating—pretty loudly, in fact.
I read a study in class on what it was like for men to take the more passive role and wait to be asked to dance at a club while women took the initiative role and asked men to dance. Both genders reported feeling uncomfortable and fearing rejection. Men thought it was normal for women to attract men in order to be asked to dance, and women felt it was normal for men to take the risk of being rejected. Both genders reported a feeling of being emotionally drained. This scenario challenged the norms of what we expect from each gender.
As a communications major, the study of speech fascinates me. Why we decide to say one thing and not another. Or why it’s so hard to say what we really mean to the people closest to us, or even not that close to us. The ways we choose to communicate through something as impersonal as texting has only enforced similarities of expectations from men and women.
Thanks to romantic comedies, our society now believes in a thing called fate (that everything happens for a reason). In reality, fate doesn’t exist. You may be thinking it’s incredibly cynical of me to think this way, but really consider it: We’re all making conscious decisions about how to communicate in specific ways.
After finding out this stunning revelation, I took a look at how I communicate with the opposite sex, as well as with others. Texting has become ingrained in how I communicate, in how everyone communicates, on a day-to-day basis, and yet it’s one of the most unclear forms of communication we have. You can never really tell the tone of how someone’s saying something; a conversation that could last one minute on the phone can take a whole day over texting, and understanding what someone really means may never become clear.
People have come to build relationships over texting. Without knowing who someone really is, we can come to like a person by the way they communicate through text. We build personalities up in our head about who someone may be by the way they respond. We can create feelings out of ideas of who people are, all because we’ve seen a version of them through a piece of technology. But that’s not really who someone is. It’s easy to sit behind a screen and create a personality.
Texting is really just a game people play, just like the dance club initiation game. If you respond too quickly, does that make you needy? Or if you don’t respond for seven hours, does that make you annoying? Either way, we all have our habits.
We have built these gender roles and have gotten so used to them that anything else feels abnormal. What would happen if we began to break down these barriers of what’s normal? Have women begin to initiate and men take a step back from that role. I think we may begin to understand one another better.