Sex and Gender Differences in Personal Relationships

Daniel J. Canary, Tara M. Emmers-Sommer, and Sandra L. Faulkner

Paperback
Paperback
October 16, 1998
ISBN 9781572303225
Price: $31.00
193 Pages
Size: 6" x 9"
Copyright Date: 1997
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Challenging the commonly held assumption that men and women hail from different psychological and social “planets,” this illuminating work reexamines what the empirical research really shows about how the sexes communicate in close relationships. The volume demonstrates that stereotypical beliefs about men and women fail to predict their actual interaction behavior, and highlights evidence of similarities—as well as differences—between the two groups. Setting forth an integrative theory of gender differences, the authors propose that communication behavior is the means by which sex and gender role expectations are created and sustained.

“An informative, thought-provoking, and much-needed addition to the literature, this book carefully critiques and takes us beyond outdated stereotypic views of men and women in personal relationships. It provides an excellent synthesis of the scholarship on gender and the experience and expression of emotion, the communication of intimacy and control, and the division of labor in relationships. The book broadens and reframes our understanding of gender by carefully examining both gender similarities and differences and how they are constructed through activities. This is an important book that should be read by everyone with an interest in better understanding relationships between the sexes.”

—Elizabeth J. Aries, PhD, Professor of Psychology, Amherst College


“This book is comprehensive and fair in its treatment of gender. Rather than putting forth an overly simplistic and stereotypical view of gender, or arguing that there are no differences between men and women, this book explores the complexities and constraints on the dynamics of gender in personal relationships. It would make an excellent text for a graduate seminar on gender, and is also necessary reading for professionals in the areas of communication, gender, and/or personal relationships.”

—Kathryn Dindia, PhD, Professor and Chair, Department of Communication, University of Wisconsin Milwaukee


“Canary, Emmers-Sommer, and Faulkner explore the dynamics of gender in personal relationships. The authors provide a comprehensive review of the social scientific literature on sex/gender differences in the areas of emotions, relational dimensions of intimacy and control, division of household labor, and play-leisure activities in the context of personal relationships. Additionally, the authors present an activity-based model of sex/gender differences/similarities in personal relationships. Specifically, the authors argue that gender is socially/relational constructed and reconstructed in personal relationships through men's and women's different (but sometimes similar) activities, most notably, division of labor and play/leisure activities. According to this perspective, gender emerges from activities which can change over time, that is, as men's and women's activities shift historically and developmentally their gender changes. The authors also discuss the structural and relational constraints on activities engaged in which in turn define gender. “The authors demonstrate that gender stereotypes do not adequately or accurately represent men's and women's interaction in personal relationships. The authors present compelling evidence that a more complex view of gender is required to explain gendered interaction in personal relationships. 'This book is comprehensive and fair in its treatment of gender. Rather than portraying an overly simplistic and stereotypical view of gender, or arguing that there are no differences between men and women, this book explores the complexities and constraints on the dynamics of gender in personal relationships. “This book would be an excellent text for a graduate seminar on gender as well as necessary reading for professionals in the areas of communication, gender, and/or personal relationships.”

—Kathryn Dindia, PhD, Professor and Chair, Department of Communication University of Wisconsin Milwaukee


“This book is outstanding. Compared to other books on sex, gender and communication, it blows away the competition. This book is better researched, more balanced, less biased, and more current than any other on the topic. It focuses on both similarities and differences, both biology and culture, both perception and reality, both scientific and humanistic views. If students and scholars want the state of the art, this is it. I fully intend to use it in my class on sex, gender, and communication.”

—Peter A. Andersen, Professor, San Diego State University


“Deluged by an ever-growing body of social psychological literature in sex and gender differences, we nonetheless remain unenlightened. Scholars and teachers are inundated by confusing, conflicting, and incomplete social scientific research findings; lay readers have been fed simplistic pap about women and men hailing from different planets. Canary, Emmers-Sommer, and Faulkner do not profess to have a seminal understanding of the complex and convoluted nature of gender differences in personal relationships—they pose no easy answers. Yet, through a comprehensive examination of contemporary gender research, they develop a bold, new approach to looking at gender. Canary, Emmers-Sommer, and Faulkner view differences AND similarities between the sexes as a continuously developing process that emerges from women's and men's interactions with each other and from their various goal-directed behaviors, or activities. Their 'activity based' perspective captures their belief that gender cannot be adequately explained by biological differences or by sociological stereotypes; rather, gender roles emerge and are created within everyday interaction and activity, including the division of labor between the sexes. This approach is innovative, yet also intelligent. It does not insult the reader by suggesting that men's and women's relational differences are so profound that they might as well attempt to communicate with aliens. In scholarly yet highly readable prose, this book offers the hope that activities and contexts that foster gender equity will minimize gender differences, foreground gender similarities, and promote more satisfying relationships between the sexes.”

—Sandra Ragan, PhD, University of Oklahoma

Table of Contents

Preface

1. Moving beyond Stereotypes

2. Sex, Gender, and Emotion

3. Communicating Intimacy

4. Communicating Control

5. Division of Household Labor

6. Toward an Activity-Based View of Gender


About the Authors

Daniel J. Canary, PhD, is Professor of Speech Communication at The Pennsylvania State University, University Park campus. Dr. Canary has written several books, book chapters, and journal articles on interpersonal communication and relationships.

Tara M. Emmers-Sommer, PhD, is Assistant Professor of Communication at the University of Oklahoma. Dr. Emmers-Sommer's research focuses on relational development and de-escalation; her interests also include the portrayal of women in the media.

Sandra L. Faulkner is a PhD candidate in the Department of Speech Communication at The Pennsylvania State University. Her research interests include topics related to women's health, such as safe sex talk and practices, and she teaches in the women's studies program at Penn State.

Audience

Students, instructors, and researchers in communication, social psychology, family studies, and gender studies; therapists and counselors working with individuals, couples, and families.

May serve as a primary or secondary text for undergraduate and graduate-level courses.

Course Use

May serve as a primary or secondary text for undergraduate and graduate-level courses.