Women and Sex Roles: A Social Psychological Perspective

By Irene H. Frieze; Jacquelynne E. Parsons et al. | Go to book overview

16

Being Feminine
or Masculine—Nonverbally

*The separation of people in our society into females and males is one of our most basic divisions. At a very young age boys begin to learn how to "act like boys" and girls learn to "act like girls." This difference in male and female behavior includes a whole set of nonverbal behaviors. Boys and girls learn to sit and stand differently, to gesture in certain ways, to use facial expressions more or less extensively, and to occupy space in different ways. These nonverbal behaviors are strengthened through continuing socialization, so that by the time children have grown into adulthood, they think of these actions as instinctual and natural. Many people assume that "feminine" women automatically sit and stand in certain ways, and rarely are these nonverbal behaviors questioned, unless someone acts in a way considered sexually inappropriate.


NONVERBAL COMMUNICATION

We communicate with one another in many ways, both verbal and nonverbal. Face-to-face interaction involves not only words, but also various types of nonverbal signals which modify or intensify the meanings of spoken language. The tone of voice we use and our facial expressions, gestures, and body positions all are interpreted by the people around us. One learns about

____________________
*
Irene Frieze was the primary author of this chapter.

-321-

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