Interpersonal Communication

A college student's class blog

Ever wonder why girl’s play house with plastic kitchens while boys are playing cops and robbers with cap-guns? Or why little boys don’t think “real boys don’t cry?” Believe it or not, these ideas have been being reinforced since birth. From pink, frilly Barbie bedroom sets, to NASCAR racecar beds, children are constantly reminded that they should behave in certain ways and they should like certain things. Their genders are being reinforced constantly. According to, children learn their roles through their parents, family, religion, and their culture, especially mass media. Even toys and literature children are exposed to help reinforce these roles given to them they are expected to follow. This blog is going to explore how children are destined to become a “true” boy or girl.

I become aware of the way children are encouraged to act in a certain way or liker certain things while taking a children’s literature class. One day, we looked at the Disney Princess website and it really opened up my eyes. Upon access the website, you are overwhelmed by a pink-themes barrage of “girly-ness”. “Welcome to the magical world of Disney princess. The loveliest place you ever dreamed of,” are the words you are welcomed with. All the princess featured on the website are slim, tall, long-haired, googly-eyed characters who look like the. According to Julia T. Wood’s book, Gendered Lives, women are supposed to be skinny. This is a desirable trait that media has shown to society. This website also reinforces the sexuality of the princess and how the Disney princesses use sexuality. The article The Princess and the Magic Kingdom: Beyond Nostalgia, the Function of the Disney Princess suggests that there is a constant underlying sexual theme in most of the Disney movies involving a female main character. They use their womanly attributes to take advantage of other characters and to overcome problems.

From Google Images

From Google Images

Along with these looks, the stereotypical way children, both boys and girls, are supposed to act and think are taught to children through literature, TV shows, and advertisement.

In a study called “The Gender-Role Content of Children’s Favorite Television Programs and Its Links to Their Gender-Related Perceptions”, researchers did studies to identify gender-role stereotypes in children’s shows and to identify a connection between children and the characters on the show based on these gender-roles. They did this by conducting two different studies. The first was to determine gender-role stereotypical message found in programs watch by first- and second-grade children. The children watched Pokemon, Rugrats, Doug, Arthur, Rocko’s Modern Life, and CatDog. The results of the test focused on the gender and personality characteristics of both lead characters and discrete narratives. The results showed that male main characters outnumbered female characters 2:1. The results also showed that the characters tended to be more neutral in the gender-roles and personality traits.

A video from

The second study aimed to link the results of the first study to the children’s attraction to the different characters based on gender-role values and interpersonal attraction based on interviews of the children. The results showed that the boys preferred content that included hard work and humor, which are considered to be male traits. In Woods’ book, Gendered Lives, she states that there are certain traits males are supposed to have including being successful (hard-working), being aggressive, and being self-reliant. This is an example of males being taught to grow up masculine.

In another study called “Children’s Responses to Gender-Role Stereotyped Advertisements, the researchers wanted to look at how gender of preadolescence children had an effect on their perceptions of advertisement that used stereotypical male and/or female traits. . The subjects consisted of two groups, the first being male and females aged 5 to 6 years old and the second group being males and females aged 9 to 10 years old. The ads used were storyboards. One storyboard reflected independence, strength, and decisiveness. The other storyboard reflected nurturance, empathy, harmony, and need for affiliation. It was found that perceptions of gender appropriate behavior varied between males and females. Both sexes of the younger children did not favor any ad more than the other, however, the older group of girls responded more favorably to the feminine-based storyboard than the younger girls. There was no difference with the older boys than with the younger boys; they both favored the two ads equally. This is important because it examines how adolescence children view advertisement that depicts certain masculine- or feminine-community characteristics. It also shows the differences that age can have on these perceptions of advertisements. Woods describes a speech community as commonly understood goals about communication and commonly used methods of communication based on a person’s gender. This article exemplifies feminine speech communities when using nurturance, empathy, harmony, and need for affiliation as a way of being appealing to females.

Finally, the article “Books are Sexist and Enforce Gender Inequality”, looks at how children’s literature reinforces gender roles and gender stereotypes, such as males being the heroes and the females needing assistance. Many studies of children’s books from the 1900s-2000 showed that male main characters far outnumber female main characters. It also states that male characters’ names are more likely to appear in the title of children’s books than female characters. “Evidence of this inequality was noted in how readers ‘interpret even gender neutral characters as male’ and in the way mums ‘frequently label gender-neutral animal characters as male when reading with their children.” By having so many male characters in TV shows and books, it is possible for children to assume that women have a less important role in society.

There are advancements being made about these roles being reinforced to children. The Men in Childcare Pilot Project was created to put males in the typically female role of childcare. Its goal was to desegregate a job that was mostly held by women and to teach children at a young age that not only women can care for other people, especially children. It was also meant to discourage children of seeing their mothers having what Woods calls a “second-shift”.

From Google Images

From Google Images

This second shift occurs when a women, after working at her “real” job all day, has to come home and work in the home providing meals and doing other household work. This project rejects the “traditional view” that childcare is to be done by women by encouraging men to take this role.

Based on the research above and the examples given, it is easy to see how children are introduced to the idea of gender roles and speech communities. They really have no choice but to perceive what they see as the way things should be. It is important to understand how the simplest things such as a Disney program or a television advertisement can really be giving subliminal messages of gender perceptions to children. It is important to not view these stereotypes as “facts” but rather as something to challenge. What is wrong with a boy who likes to play house, or a girl who wants to be a super-hero for Halloween? Hopefully this blog has explained that it is time for gender roles to be questioned.

When I went home for spring break, I was introduced to a new topic of argument between my twin six-year-old brothers: who is Elizabeth’s friend. Elizabeth is a cute little girl that is in my brothers’ class. She is friends with both of my brothers and comes over to the house to play. My step mom wants to adopt her and it is clear that there is a little competition going on between Creed and Clay for her attention. But what is going on here? Aren’t girls supposed to have cooties?


According to an article by Eileen Kennedy-Moore, Ph.D., it is a healthy thing that my brothers have befriended this girl. Boy-girl friendship early on can create strong foundation for male-female relationships later on down the road. Seeing them interact made me wonder about this kind of relationship and how even now, there is a fine line between guy friends and girls that are friends. Even though relationships with people of the same gender are more common, it is important to understand the differences between the two types of friendships in order to have healthy relationships with members of the opposite sex.


The differences between men and women are what make gendered relationships so important and potentially rewarding. In a relationship between a male and a female, each brings with them a unique set of characteristics. In Julia Wood’s book, Gendered Lives, she explains this. Females, due to their own speech and communication communities, often foster relationships with other females that are very emotionally taxing. So when they have a relationship with a male, it is more focused on companionship rather than feelings. Because males often experience more competitive and/or group relationships with other males, it can be pleasing to have a relationship that can offer more emotional support. In male-female relationships, males often communicate more often than in same sex relationships.

So when you are wondering why your guy friend just wants to talk about his day, or if one of the girls you are friends with wants to go play catch, you should realize they are wanting a break from interacting with members of their same sex. It is nice to do something different than what you would normally do, and it is important to understand why mixed-sex relationships are different from same-sex relationships. Knowing these differences can also help if you are having a problem with a friends of the opposite sex and can lead you to look at things from a different perspective. I’m not too sure if my little brothers are venting their kindergarten problems to their friend, but I’m sure Elizabeth doesn’t mind taking a break from her dolls to play cops and robbers with my brothers.

When we first started talking about the subject of being transgendered in class, it brought many questions to mind. Mainly, I was curious about other parts of the world dealing with this concept, especially in places where ideological laws have serious consequences. I am going to be looking into how being transgendered is viewed in other parts of the world, both by society and institutions.

Google Image
Transgendered symbol from Google Images


First, let’s take a look at what exactly transgendered means. According to Julia T. Wood, someone who is transgendered believes that their biological sex is not consistent with the sex they identify with. I know that in some countries, particularly in the Middle East, it is against the law to be homosexual. So, what about people that think they are actually the opposite sex? Actually, according to the World Health Organization, being transgendered is considered to be a mental illness. Though it is illegal to be homosexual in some countries, being transgendered does not necessarily mean that you are attracted to members of the same sex. However, throughout Africa, people who are transgendered are still often classified as homosexual and are not treated well.

But on the bright side, organizations such as UNAIDS are creating opportunity and giving help to transgendered people despite social tensions. It are these things that will help the world to understand that sex and gender are not definite. There are other possibilities beside the normal “man” with “woman” ideal that, much as it goes against what many people believe, are natural for some people.

In the United States, being transgendered, homosexual, and/or transsexual is being much more widely accepted. Though it may take a while for other countries to feel the same way, progress is being made. It is important to understand that these people are only doing what makes them happy, and that it is also important to realize that people around the world are being prosecuted for trying to be happy.

Transgender activists from Uganda, South Africa, Botswana, Zambia and Namibia met in Windhoek in May 2010 to recieve extensive training to strengthen their orginisations and the Transgender network in Africa. From

First off, for those of you who aren’t one of the 600 million plus who want “the power to share and make the world more open and connected,” as per Facebook’s own Facebook page, it might be helpful to have a little understanding as to what exactly Facebook is.


Facebook is a socially interactive technology.  Just like text messaging and online instant messaging, it offers cheap and fast communication in a network. Originally intended for college students, but now open for anyone with an email address, Facebook is a website that allows people to create a profile, upload pictures, create statuses, and have a network of friends (among thousands of other things). These friends are obtained by sending or receiving a “friend request.” Once you have become “friends”, you are able to see the information they have posted about themselves, including pictures, you can comment on statuses or pictures and write on the person’s “wall”; a space for short messages that can be  viewed by others.

Right now, I have 870 friends on Facebook. I normally don’t become “friends” with people I don’t know in real life on Facebook, so I should be able to call up all of these people right now and ask for a favor right? For some reason, I don’t think this is very plausible. So why is this? If I am “friends” with them, why didn’t they call me on my birthday, or why haven’t I seen some of them in over a decade? In this blog, I am going to try to explain what it means to be friends with someone on Facebook and why people become friends with each other on Facebook. Hopefully by the end, you will have a better understanding of the relationship you have with your Facebook “friends” and why you are friends with them at all.

The more time I have spent on Facebook, the more people I have seen with anywhere from 32 friends to over 2,000 friends. The more I saw these large numbers, the more I thought about my own number of friends. Am I truly friends with these 870 people I call my friend on a website? Do I want to be associated with all these people? Why did I become friends with them in the first place? The more I asked myself these questions, the more I wondered.

Some researchers believe that the term “friend” used on Facebook is a term with a much more broader aspect than the traditional connotation of the word. According to Robin Dunbar, an evolutionary anthropologist, we are only capable of having a meaningful relationship with around 150 people. So, since it is physically not possible to have the traditional share the title of “friend” with 1,547 people, there must be a reason to have that many Facebook friends.

No doubt that many people add acquaintances, or people they know of, but not personally, to their Facebook friend list, including me. But is there a reason why people might go beyond this? Studies have shown that a person with a number of Facebook friends around 250 will have a higher popularity rating, along with a higher pleasantness, heterosexual appeal, and confidence rating. At the same time, as a person becomes Facebook friends with more than 300 people, these ratings start to decline.

Not to say that people consciously add friends to seem more appealing to others, but one conscious reason people add friends may be to gain social capital. In this case, social capital is the total number of online resources that a person acquires in order to create a network of possible opportunities. In other words, the more people someone befriends, the more chances they have of hearing or learning about things they normally wouldn’t within their circle of relationships. This knowledge can lead to employment opportunities, upcoming events, different types of music, etc.  It basically gives a person the means to learn about things they would not normally have learned about.

From; Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.

If someone were to say to you, “I added so-and-so in order to survive,” however incredulous you may be, they might be serious! Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs states that the feeling of belonging ranks right above shelter.

According to Julia T. Wood, author of Interpersonal Communication: Everyday Encounters, humans need to feel accepted in order to enjoy life. There are even studies that have been done that show that lonely people are more susceptible to heart disease than those with strong relationships.   Even though a Facebook relationship is not something you can physically touch, it may be the difference between life and death. Now that’s a promotion slogan!

These are reason’s why people have the friends they do on Facebook. These people are friends, acquaintances, and people who may be able to benefit you in the long run. But what is the meaning of these online “friendships”? Which of these people can you call to help you move out of your apartment, or come over to watch the Super Bowl, or call when there’s a problem you need help with a work? And which of these people would think you were weird if you asked them how they were doing?

In order to make this decision, you have to be able to categorize these Facebook “friends.” According to Wood, there are three different levels of communication: I-It communication, I-You communication, and finally I-Thou communication. Based on what type of communication you would expect to share with someone can can tell you about the meaning of their relationship with you.

I-It communication is between people who have no relationship whatsoever. We might as well consider them a “thing” rather than a “person”. An example would be if someone friend requested you on Facebook, and you accepted. They are a friend of a friend of a friend’s. Then one day, they instant message you. You don’t know them, are don’t care to talk to them right now, so you ignore them.

I-You communication is most likely the type of communication you will encounter with people on Facebook. In fact, I-You communication accounts for most of the communication we take place in throughout our lives. People using this type of communication consider the other person as more than just a “thing” but don’t talk to them as a truly unique individual. If you have a Facebook friend that you went to high school with, and you want to know what their plans are for the summer, you might exchange wall messages to talk about each other’s  summer plans. But this is the extent of the conversation.

I-Thou communication is the most least likely to happen, but it is also the most meaningful. This type of communication occurs between people who see each other as highly unique individuals and you see them apart from a casual friend. We trust the other person to accept who we are and all the baggage that comes with that. If you sent a message to you wife or partner on Facebook, telling them how much they mean to you and how they make you feel everyday when you are around them, you are opening yourself up to them. This would be an I-Thou conversation.

Another way of determining what type of friend a Facebook “friend” really is would be to understand what it means to be a friend. This goes beyond how you would communicate with them, but what you expect from them as a friend.

Wood describes five concepts that are necessary for friendship. The level of each that you share with someone determines the level of friendship you share with that person. The first is the willingness to invest. People invest not only time, but also thought and feeling into friendships. This could mean helping a friend with a project.

The second is emotional closeness. This is created through talking with one another and also by doing this together. The frequency and intensity of both have a strong impact on the relationship. If you go fishing every weekend with one of your friends, you are more likely to have a better relationship with them than someone you see once a month.


You have to feel accepted by your friends, and this includes your flaws. You have to feel like you can go to them if you need to, and they will be okay with it. This ties back to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. If you needed advice, and you instant messaged someone on Facebook, you are recognizing them as a friend.

Trust is essential too. This evolves two parts; trusting the other person will be dependable and trusting that the person cares about your well-being. Both of these are somewhat commonsense. Your not going to be friends with a person who is constantly blowing you off, or doesn’t care if you are hurt, physically or emotionally.

The last component of friendship is support. This can be just listening to the other person’s problems or just being available for someone. Typically, women tend to be more verbally supportive with emotional issues. If a friend knows your having a tough time with the loss of someone close to you, and they stop by to see how your doing, they are showing you that they support you.

Finally, a final way to know how meaningful a Facebook relationship is can simply be how well you pay attention to them. How important to you is the material they are communicating? This can either be done as status updates, wall posts, pictures, or instant messages. When you see these things, are you mindful of them? Mindfulness is to be fully focused on the communication you are receiving. This means that not only do you read and take in the information, but you look at it from their perspective too. Since doing this is a choice, not every status update you see on your news feed is going to stand out to you. As someone with over 800 friends, new statuses can be posted every minute. But you are being mindful when you ask,”What’s wrong?” when someone’s status tells you something is wrong. But is doesn’t stop there; you have to be fully engaged with that person after this, and when they respond, being mindful would mean to respond back.

Obviously, someone with hundreds of friends is not able to respond to everyone the same. You are not going to be able to be supportive of every single one of them, or be able to be mindful of every status update you see. You probably don’t hang out with everyone of your Facebook friends regularly, let alone talk to them enough to keep a strong relationship with them. So what can this tell you about your Facebook “friends”?

Chances are, you are not truly friends with everyone you are friends with on Facebook. Actually, according to what it means to be a friend, you are only real friends with a handful of your Facebook friends. Most of them are just acquaintances. Remember the difference between I-You and I-Thou communication? It is really up to the individual, but personally, I would only consider a person a true friend if I can speak to them through I-Thou communication.

So if your one of those people who have hundreds or thousands of “friends” on Facebook, you might want to think a second before you consider these people to be someone you can count on. Just because they are listed under “Friends” on a social-networking website doesn’t mean they really are a friend.

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Brittany and Ryan have been dating for a couple months. Brittany really likes Burger King, but Ryan only like is every once in a while. One week, they had been to Burger King twice already by Friday, and Brittany was crazing a Jr. Whopper again. Even though they had already been that week, and Ryan doesn’t really care that much for it anyway, he still went with her. He was not going to get anything in return, and he obviously didn’t want to go because he likes the food, so why did he go?

Ryan’s behavior is an act of grace. Grace is a staple element in relationships, both romantic and casual. It is human nature to want to help other people. So when Ryan goes with Brittany to Burger King, it is for her, not him. It shows her that he cares about her and wants her to be happy. It also shows that he is willing to make sacrifices for the relationship. This may be a relatively small sacrifice, but it is the principle that counts.  Not that I disagree, but I find it fascinating that humans are able to sacrifice for others. It goes totally against Darwin’s theory of natural selection. But what would the world be like if this weren’t the case? That is a scary thought.

So what is grace really? Grace is doing something for another with no expectation for any type of reward. Grace is also forgiving someone for something they did, not because you have to, or because you will gain if you do, but because you want the other person to be at ease. Grace, as Julia Wood says,”isn’t allowing others to have their way when we have no choice.” As important as grace is in relationships, it is not always the right thing to do. Not every actions deserves to be forgiven. It would be easy for a deviant person to take advantage of someone who regularly commits acts of grace. In the above example, the action of Ryan going with Brittany to Burger King is the act of grace. However, if Brittany thinks that she is able to manipulate Ryan and make him do anything, it is important for Ryan to see this as to not be taken advantage of.

To understand grace is important. It is important because people should understand the difference in doing something to gain and doing something as an act of grace. It can actual by beneficial to both partners in a relationship because it is healthy for the relationship. Healthy relationships are important to both a persons physical and mental well-being. And not to mention, healthy relationships will most likely last longer, which can be seen as the most important aspect of this concept. How can you commit an act of grace if there is no relationship to begin with?

You may have see Jeff Foxworthy do one of his, “You might be a redneck if…” jokes. At some point in the past, people would not have found this funny, but rather offensive. The term redneck was once a derogatory term used to describe, “poorer inhabitants of the rural districts…men who work in the field, as a matter of course, generally have their skin stained red and burnt by the sun, and especially is this true of the back of their necks”. The fact that we find humor in this term now, and use it freely, is because it’s meaning has been changed through reappropriation. Reappropriation is when a group takes a term that is used to demean them and begin to use it in a positive way. When Jeff Foxworthy uses the term “redneck” as part of his comedy, he is using this term in a positive way; even though most of his followers are “country” so to speak, they still laugh.

I find the process of reappropriation very interesting. People can use words to covey extreme hate, but these same words can be taken, and switch to mean something positive. I feel there is no better way to win a battle of words.People have used words such as gay, nigger, redneck, and guido to discriminate against certain groups. But then, these groups take these words and use them amongst each other casually or in jokes. There is a fine line that make many people nervous when they uses these words though. It may be okay for a black person to call another black person “nigga,” but it would not be appropriate for a white person to use this same term with a black person they do not know. But many terms, like guido, have turned almost completely into a joke (to some).  Many terms, such as geek, used to be used to cause harm, but now people use the term pridefully. The Geek Squad is Best Buy’s technical support team.

The reappropriation of words cannot be complete without the unfortunate existence of hate speech.  Hate speech is language used to degenerate and promote a feeling loathing for a particular group of individuals. It is a powerful tool used by people to spread feelings and attitudes about groups that they dislike. It is so powerful because of the extreme impact it can have on a person it is used on. An example of “hate speech” is the term nigger. I personally can not think of another word that can have such a serious connotation of hate and demoralization. There are several other words that can really hurt people, but this one stick out to me the most.

Understanding the term reappropriation can inform others of why it is okay to use some words that were once considered wrong or mean to use. This just shows that language can be used to be harmful, or be used to create a closeness within a group, based on the context of it’s use. In writing this blog, I hope to inform on the negative effects of hate speech, but on the positive abilities reappropriation has. Hopefully, in the future all hate speech will be ineffective and words we consider to be hate speech will be used or understood to mean things opposite of their purpose today.

Here is a clip of Jeff Foxworthy doing some of his “You Might Be a Redneck” jokes. From
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Hello.  My name is Austin Ling. I am currently a junior at Longwood University and I am studying Communications with a concentration in public relations/organizational communications with a minor in Business Management. I am from Yorktown, Va and graduated from York High school in 2008. Here at Longwood, I am the president of the Longwood Student Veterans (LSV), Vice President of Programming for the Virginia Lambda chapter of Sigma Phi Epsilon, and a member of the National Society of Leadership and Success. I am enlisted in the Army Reserves but have not yet deployed. I enjoy spending time outdoors and with my family and friends.

As a student, I have had several opportunities to use what I have learned in my communication studies. For the past two years, I have hosted ceremony for Veterans Day. The first was an event I coordinated that had distinguished guests, including our school’s president, Brig. Gen. Patrick Finnegan, along with a reception. I spoke briefly at the event, mainly introducing the speakers. The second Veterans Day ceremony was held before our men’s basketball game versus Navy. Along with the Longwood Athletic Department, we offered free admission to the game for veterans along with a free t-shirt and a light reception. I also invited a guest speaker from the Virginia Wounded Warrior program to speak about services they offer to veterans. Lastly, I have been a team leader for a communication audit of a Longwood University office. I had five team members that I worked closely with to observe our client, conduct interviews, and create a survey that were all used to determine communication strengths and weaknesses within the organization. I have also worked as an administrative assistant. This entailed talking to people, both workers and companies we had contracts with, and doing an assortment of other “business” oriented tasks. These are just a couple of examples of experience I have in the communication field, other than taking communications classes.

Several of my communication classes have explored the differences in communication among men and women. I find much of what I have read and learned to be surprisingly accurate and when I notice examples of this in real-world situations, I am a little more understanding of why that may be. After taking my Gender and Communication class, I hope to have a more complete, in-depth understanding of the communication between the sexes instead of knowing only the fundamentals I have learned so far.

Here is a little clip on the History of Communication.
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