January 10, 2013 (excerpt from SEX JOURNAL)
There still exists a traditional division of labor by gender and sex. My friend Lyn told me that when she brought her mother into a Unitarian Universalist Church at which she worships, the mother couldn't stand the presence of a woman minister. A minister had to be a man, she felt.
However, my spouse, Rev. Liz Brown, who raised her children in a pagan religion, told me they once had a visiting male leader, and her son said excitedly, "Look, look, Ma! There's a man in the pulpit!" Aries concludes, "Certain work, activities, privileges, and responsibilities are still assigned to individuals on the basis of sex." And she says, "Communicative behaviours are strategies that evolve from situational constraints to meet social expectations."
What about non-verbal communication? To understand the sex and gender aspect of non-verbal communication, I turn to Judith A. Hall, a Ph. D. from Harvard, where she taught–also Johns Hopkins and Northeastern University. Much of her experience was psychologizing M.D.s.1
The study of gender and sex, it is important to note, is in flux, and there is not a whole lot of agreement. The Nature/Nurture Wars continue. You may agree with me that after thousands of years of men deciding gender, and men deciding sex, women have had only a few moments to set the record straight. Therefore, men being as tenacious as they are, and women hardly being listened to, it is not surprising that the new and proper insights have not been embraced and complimented. The more misogynist my men friends are, the more stubborn they are. Moreover, as Dr. Hall shows, it is difficult to even express such differences, let alone explain them.
What are nonverbal communication skills, at which women excel? "They include the ability to judge accurately the affective meanings of nonverbal cues, the accuracy with which one's nonverbal expressions (face, body, voice) can be judged, and the ability to know a face that one has seen before. For all these three skills, females are more accurate than males."
I remember reading a study years ago which explained that if you smile at someone, for example when passing in the street and making eye-contact, if it's a woman, she will smile back 2/3rds of the time, but a man? Only 50%.
1 Judith A. Hall, "On Explaining Gender Differences: The Case of Nonverbal Communication," in Sex and Gender, edited by Shaver & Hendrick, (N. Y.: Sage Publishers, 1987), 177–200.