Gender, Power, and Communication in Human Relationships

By Pamela J. Kalbfleisch; Michael J. Cody | Go to book overview
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Foucault raised some interesting possibilities for gender research because he positioned experience within the discursive formations that constitute identity, although, as O'Brien ( 1982) observed, he failed to contemplate how men and women's experiences are positioned differently. Perhaps somewhere between either understanding oppression as a common enemy or focusing only on the fragmented and indeterminate "moments" of gendered meaning, gender research can look towards a more complete and complex understanding of the situated female self.

Certainly, there are many other rules that govern our research and that tell us what knowledge is valid and what is not. But what is interesting about these rules is their conformity to what has been labeled the "male perspective" or the "male system." Psychologist Anne Wilson Schaef ( 1981) discussed how a "White Male System" operates in our culture, surrounding and permeating our lives: "We all live in it. We have been educationally, politically, economically, philosophically, and theologically trained in it, and our emotional, psychological, physical, and spiritual survival have depended on our knowing and supporting the system" (p. 5). Although this currently is the dominant system in our culture, Schaef argued alternative systems or perspectives exist, including Black, Chicano, Native American, and female systems of knowing.

Still, gender is critical to the feminist perspective. Gender is notjust a variable. It is relevant to all aspects of culture. Gender challenges the traditional research paradigm that stresses objectivity and tries to determine precise laws that describe, explain, and predict stable, linear, and causal relationships among observables ( Foss & Foss, 1989).

Past research on gender did not adopt a feminist perspective. Just as women (and other minorities) have been silenced, the feminist perspective, itself, has often been muted in past research efforts ( Foss & Foss, 1989; Spitzack & Carter, 1989). It is more consistent to study gender using a feminist perspective. Pearce and Freeman ( 1984) noted, "The crucial issue in gender research, as we see it, is that of becoming and remaining 'sufficiently radical'" (p. 65).


Anderson K., & Jack D. ( 1991). "Learning to listen: Interview techniques and analyses". In S. B. Gluck & D. Patai (Eds.), Women's words: The feminist practice of oral history. New York: Routledge

Bartky S. L. ( 1988). "Foucault, femininity and patriarchal power". In I. Diamond & L. Quinby (Eds.), Feminism and Foucault: Reflections on resistance (pp. 61-86). Boston: Northeastern University Press

Bartky S. L. ( 1990). Femininity and domination: Studies in the phenomenology of oppression. New York: Routledge

Bate B. ( 1984, Fall). "Submerged concepts in gender/communication research". Women's Studies in Communication, 7( 2),101-104

Bem S. ( 1974). "The measurement of psychological androgyny". Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 42,155-162

Bem S. ( 1975a). "Androgyny vs. the tight little lives of fluffy women and chesty men". Psychology Today, 9,58-59.


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Gender, Power, and Communication in Human Relationships
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