Communication & Gender:

Myths, Theories, and the Missing Links

Com.444 - Fall 2003 - George 212 – Mondays 2:30-5:00

D. Davis, Ph.D. -- School of Communications


Office: Crawford Hall, Room 307


Office hours: MW: 9:30-12:00

Phone: 956-3332

(Other times by appointment)

Listserv: COM444-L


Catalog Description: Application of theoretic and methodological criteria to researchable questions in communication and gender.


Objectives: Gender differences in communication have been observed through myths and folk tales for centuries. They have also been systematically and extensively studied by communication scholars of both sexes for at least the past three decades. We will read and discuss a number of communication theories and their more recent analyses from a gendered perspective. We will also consider unexplored or only recently acknowledged research areas in gender-related communication. The objective is to make conscious what has been a subconscious process for most of us.


With potentially half of our interactions taking place with members of the "other" sex, it is hard to ignore the many communication stereotypes used to perpetuate our collective real and perceived differences. We will look at examples from interpersonal, organizational, mass, and global communication areas in our quest for ways to improve the quality and impact of our interactions. One way to look at our discipline with fresh eyes - and to hone our personal communication and critical thinking skills at the same time - is to focus on gender-related aspects of communication. Once we consciously observe the differences in world-views and acknowledge them in our research methods and theory construction, we can pave our way beyond them, into potentially more effective communication with everyone.


As Lana F. Rakow points out, "It is through communication that we become gendered individuals, and it is through communication that gender relationships are structured and maintained. To understand our own gender identities and to understand how gender operates as a fundamental category of social organization we need to look at language, culture, and technology and the communication processes they embody."


Evaluation: This is a writing (and speaking!) intensive seminar and will use a variety of methods and tools to improve the student's written presentation skills including, but not limited to, in-class exercises and a series of short papers. A portfolio collection of all written work comprises a maximum of 70% of the course grade. The remainder is reserved for contributions to classroom discussions and semester-long evaluations.


Continuous assessment begins with the self, extends to peer-evaluations and is monitored (and mentored) by the instructor. Students will keep a portfolio on all class-related work for the entire semester (or may choose to share their work on our BlackBoard website). Detailed information on portfolio contents and format appears elsewhere in the syllabus. Your final grade will be based on a 100 point scale, with 105 total points from which to choose. There will be no curving of any grades and no letter grades will be issued until the end of the semester. Because each point you earn is in fact 1% of your total grade, you should have no difficulty in keeping track of your grade throughout the semester. The easiest way to check on your grades continuously is to sign up for BlackBoard access.


No make-ups will be offered, nor are they necessary for this course. Late submissions of assignments are unacceptable for weekly observation papers and severely penalized for end of semester final drafts. Through November 3rd (due date for last weekly paper), any paper submission on a given Monday will be credited toward that week’s work. There will be no back-dating (make-up) of these papers, but they can be post-dated: that is, you may submit up to two papers per week if you anticipate missing a future deadline. Once you begin working on your final term paper, deadlines become very important as late work will be severely penalized. This extends to portfolio submissions as well, with a 10% reduction of points for each day that the portfolio is late after December 8th. Note that some attendance and contribution credits are absorbed in other assignments that require your presence in class.


Weekly papers: one @ 5pts (due Sept. 8 for ALL); five @ 10 pts.

Three week skips (your choice): Sept. 15- Nov. 3


Book review & critique (paper: 10 pts. Due on or after day of presentation but no later than Nov. 17th) & presentation (5 pts.: 10/13-12/1)


Term paper (based on 3-6 of above papers)


In-class, portfolio, &/or online contributions


Self- and instructor assessments


Pre-approved optional project(s)/exams



Resources: In addition to a variety of print, video, and audio options available to us, there is much to be gleaned - formally and informally - from the Internet. Though online participation may not be a course requirement, you will be missing out on a great resource if you choose to ignore online sources. In any case you are required to subscribe to the class mailing list: send e-mail to: with no subject heading and body message as follows:




(If using lower case, remember not to confuse the numeral “1” for the letter “l”!)


Primary use of the listserv is for sharing and documenting administrative information related to the course. We will have access to a BlackBoard site for forwarding information from other sources or to continue discussions for which we run out of class time. Last but definitely not least, I consider the students in this seminar to be our most powerful learning resource. I am looking forward to a semester of substantive, stimulating, and exciting work for all of us.


Your primary & optional texts are available at the bookstore. In addition, a number of classic and contemporary books and articles will be placed on reserve as required reading for this course. It is the student's responsibility to obtain and keep up with such readings regardless of the student's presence in any class session. It is also expected that students will keep current with communication and gender-related events and processes through independent study of various scholarly and public media.




Primary: Wood, Julia T. (2003) Gendered Lives: Communication, Gender, and Culture. 5th Edition. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.


Optional/ highly recommended: Adams, R. & Savran, D. eds. (2002). The Masculinity Studies Reader. Malden, MA: Blackwell.


Book Review & Critique: Students may choose from the list at the end of this syllabus (or receive approval for a similar book of their own choosing) on a first-come-first-served basis. Each student is required to read one unique book (not shared by other classmates) in addition to our common texts (Wood; Adams & Savran) and present an oral and written review and critique to the class.


Course Requirements: Each student is required to provide concrete evidence of knowledge s/he has gathered, processed, and disseminated throughout the semester. In short, this evidence may take the form of classroom contributions; short critical or evaluative response papers to lectures, readings, or class discussions; or written observations based on external information sources and personal experience. In addition, students are encouraged to introduce new topics for discussion based on documented preliminary research. At least one hour per week will be devoted to student-based projects, thus punctual and regular attendance is highly desirable.


As a courtesy to all of us, please come to class on time and do not leave until the class is over, unless you have encountered an emergency. I consider private conversations and random entrances and exits mid-class as "negative" contributions toward our learning goals. This may lead to substantial grade reductions, beyond the 10% reserved for instructor evaluation of your overall performance.

Week of: Topic/Activity:

8/25    Introduction and overview: the course (and what it is not), its structure, content, students & instructor. Building a language & culture consensus. Age, gender, and acculturation. Basic definitions & parameters. Parameters of working in groups.


Read Wood: From now on, read at least two chapters per week, one from part I of the text and one from Part II (e.g., by 9/8 read chapters 1 & 2 & 6 in addition to the intro). Take the chapters in order when possible and check the syllabus for special instructions (e.g., for 9/22 you should read at least two chapters from Part I), but feel free to jump around to your favorites on Part II - especially if they help with writing papers or doing additional research. Aim to have the entire book covered no later than the week of October 6th. You will then have time to review each chapter more carefully as you continue to write your papers and prepare for classroom discussions. This will also allow you more measured time to read from the optional text as well as your own unique book selection.


The sooner you finish reading Wood, the better understanding you will have of in-class material and the more quickly you will be able to relate your observations (and thus your weekly papers) to its academic foundation. In addition, you must inform me (and your classmates) via Com444-l of your book choice for review & critique. These selections are assigned on a first-come-first-served basis as they appear on the listserv. No two students will be permitted to work on the same book in the same manner; though you are obviously encouraged to read as many books on this topic as you can handle!


9/1      Holiday


9/8      Basic definitions & parameters, contd. Changing language & other media representations as an indicator of social change. A review of your research & findings based on your first assignment. Please be prepared to read from, or discuss the topic of your first paper and your personal reactions to the readings assigned to date (Wood: through Chapter 2, plus Chapter 10)


Papers Due: Beginning this week & continuing through November 3rd, your weekly observation paper will be collected at the beginning of each class period. Late submissions will be posted as received for the following week’s paper due date. You may not submit more than two papers per week; nor will you receive credit for ANY weekly paper after the beginning of the class session on November 3rd.


9/15    Growing up feminine/masculine: review of chapters 3, & 6. Paper discussions take place each week.


9/22    Verbal and nonverbal communication. Read/review Wood as appropriate (Chapters 4 & 5).


9/29    Close relationships: Interpersonal & family communication. Read/review Wood as appropriate; including Chapters 6 & 7.


10/6    Educational and organizational communication (Institutionalized norms). Choose reading appropriate to your research. Finish reading Wood; review Chapters 8 & 9.


10/13  Midterm assessment. Bring portfolios to class. Media & gender: mass communication’s role in entrenchment of stereotypes; review Chapter 10; read Chapter 11. Book review and critique presentations begin and continue for the remainder of the semester. Sign up on a first-come, first-served basis.


10/20  Revisiting mass and niche media. Student book reviews & critiques.


10/27  Intercultural communication. Review Wood (epilogue) & read one new selection.

11/3    Ethics, fairness, justice, & power. Review Wood (Ch. 11) & read one new selection. Last of weekly papers due


11/10 Book review presentations.

11/17  Privacy, individualism, and gender. Book reviews continue. Final due date for book review papers or online postings.


11/24  Discussion of term paper topics, theme options. Final brainstorm! Book reviews.


12/1    Term paper may be submitted today for comments (not for revisions; no editing takes place on final papers) Book reviews; current events coverage continue.


12/8    Final class session. Course Evaluations. Wrap-up, review, & “finals” options. Final date for submitting portfolios, including all paper resubmissions and the final term paper (which is NOT new work but a crafting of already revised and approved earlier papers). Reflections on course contents and process. Any remaining presentations.


12/15 Final exam; leave time open for final presentations or final exam, as needed. Final date for submitting any missed assignments for good-will (as opposed to credit!) purposes.


Policy on written assignments: All written assignments (excluding in-class work; online forum postings, and journal entries) should be typed double-space, with one-inch margins using 10 or 12 pitch/point type. Weekly observation papers are expected to be approximately 1000 words each and should apply communication theories to the gender-based topic of your choice (or you may choose to use an exercise supplied in class or noted in Wood as the basis for your papers). Such papers should be carefully proofread to reflect your high level of care and diligence in the preparation process. To receive ANY credit, each paper MUST include at least one bibliographic source and standard reference (your textbook may be used as your primary reference). Your final paper should be based on three or more of your earlier "selected" and already fully revised papers, developed around a common theme. The final paper is expected to be approximately 10-12 pages (2,500-3,000 words).


The Portfolio: Obtain a three-ring binder for this class and keep ALL of your Com 444-related work in this binder. These portfolios will be collected at mid-term and end-of-term for evaluation. The following tabbed sections must be included in your binder, and you are encouraged to add your own sections as you deem necessary during the course of this semester.


·      In-class assignments: to include assignments completed in class (essays, surveys, etc.) You are not required to share class notes or keep entries beyond class-based work.


·      Observation papers. Be sure to save ALL of your drafts, from the first attempt to the final product. Every revision counts in the final analysis, and previous work acts as a benchmark of your progress. Grade Alert: No new drafts will be reviewed or graded if past records are missing!


·      Book review & critique paper.


·      Clippings & collections. This section may include clippings from mass media sources, bibliographies, interviews, or simply your notes on your independent research topics. You may also include early rough drafts, ideas, or questions and themes for potential observation papers or other unfinished assignments. You may also refer to your work online.


Tips for (our joint) survival


Every "ground rule" for this course is in this syllabus, except for what is already printed in the University's current General Catalog and The Student Conduct Code. Please pay close attention to grounds for dismissal noted in the latter document.


On class "contribution": I depend on you to be intellectually present and to have informed contributions to make in class and in your papers, e-mail, or whatever other mode(s) of communication you choose. Contributions are not necessarily limited to "answers" to questions, but they are more than simple “participation” with no content - they can be other relevant questions, comments, or humor. An appropriate mixture of all of these ingredients helps all of us gain the most from the process as well as the outcome of this course.

Optional Reading List



Many of the following books have already been placed on reserve (or are on their way and not quite available the first day of class). Once the majority of you have posted your book choice to the class listserv and I’ve confirmed, we will change the reserves to one-week check-out. This will give you ample time to read the book for as long as you need it this semester, but will prevent others from “recalling” the book beyond that one-week period. You can choose books outside of this list as long as I am aware of your selection and you are prompt about obtaining them. There may also be several additional books on reserve that do not appear on the list below.

Cautions: (1) If you choose a “popular”/non-academic title (such as Gray’s book), the critique must follow academic standards and not remain at the shallow levels of the author! Such books may need to be supplemented with scholarly readings to complement or contradict the premise of the chosen book. Still, there is much merit in reading and recognizing the strengths and weaknesses of such books. As an aside: only the Gray book listed here will be accepted for critique; past experience indicates that all of his other works have very similar content, so to avoid duplication of effort only one person may choose this ONE Gray book! (2) If you see an article, rather than a book, that you like: keep in mind that you will need to find several (that is, eight to twelve – depending on length) other complementary or juxtaposing articles that will in effect provide you with the equivalent of reading a regular book.



Adams, R., & Savran, D. (Eds.). (2002). The Masculinity Studies Reader. Malden, MA: Blackwell.

Angier, N. (1999). Woman: an intimate geography. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Baker, E. F. (1964). Technology and Woman's Work. New York: Columbia University Press.

Banks, M., & Swift, A. (1987). The joke's on us: Women in comedy from music hall to the present day. London: Pandora.

Barreca, R. (Ed.). (1988). Last laughs: Perspectives on women and comedy. New York: Gordon & Breach.

Barreca, R. (Ed.). (1992). New perspectives on women and comedy. Philadelphia: Gordon and Breach.

Bassett, C. (1997). Virtually gendered: Life in an online world [1995]. In K. Gleder & S. Thornton (Eds.), The subcultures reader (pp. 537-550). London: Routledge.

Bateson, P., & Martin, P. (2000). Design for a life: How behavior and personality develop. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Bly, R. (1990). Iron John: a book about men. Boston: Addison-Wesley.

Bly, R. (1996). The sibling society. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley Pub.

Bly, R., & Woodman, M. (1998). The maiden king : the reunion of masculine and feminine. New York: Henry Holt.

Bowen, S. P., & Wyatt, N. (Eds.). (1993). Transforming visions: feminist critiques in communication studies, edited by. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press.

Burke, C., & Speed, B. (Eds.). (1995). Gender, power, and relationships. London: Routledge.

Canary, D. J., & Dindia, K. (Eds.). (1998). Sex differences and similarities in communication: Critical essays and empirical investigations of sex and gender in interaction. Mahwa, N.J.: Erlbaum.

Counihan, C. (1999). The anthropology of food and body: Gender, meaning, and power. New York: Routledge.

Craig, S. (Ed.). (1992). Men, Masculinity, and the Media. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

Fletcher, J. K. (1999). Disappearing acts: Gender, power, and relational practice at work. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

Freeman, J. (1973). The origins of the Women's Liberation Movement. American Journal of Sociology, 78, 792-811.

Friedan, B. (1963). The Feminine Mystique. New York: Norton.

Gallas, K. (1998). Sometimes I can be anything: power, gender, and identity in a primary classroom. New York: Teachers College Press.

Gardiner, J. K. (Ed.). (2002). Masculinity studies & feminist theory : new directions. New York: Columbia University Press.

Gilligan, C. (1982). In a different voice: Psychological theory and women's development. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Gilman, C. P. (1979). Herland: A lost feminist utopian novel. New York: Pantheon Books.

Gray, J. (1992). Men are from Mars, women are from Venus : a practical guide for improving communication and getting what you want in your relationships. New York: HarperCollins.

Halpern, D. F. (1992). Sex differences in cognitive abilities (2nd ed.). Hillsdale, N.J.: L. Erlbaum Associate.

Hamer, D. H., & Copeland, P. (1998). Living with our genes : why they matter more than you think. New York: Doubleday.

Hendricks, C., & Kelly, O. (Eds.). (1999). Language and liberation: Feminism, philosophy, and language. New York: State University of New York Press.

Herring, S. C. (1996). Gender and democracy in computer-mediated communication. In R. Kling (Ed.), Computerization and controversy: Value conflicts and social choices (2nd ed., pp. 476-489). San Francisco: Academic Press.

Kalbfleisch, P. J., & Cody, M. J. (Eds.). (1995). Gender, power, and communication in human relationships. Hillsdale, N.J.: L. Erlbaum Associates.

Kembler, S. (2003). Cyberfeminism and Artificial Life. New York: Routledge.

Kimmel, M. S. (Ed.). (1989). Men's lives. New York: Macmillan Pub. Co.

Kotthoff, H., & Wodak, R. (1997). Communicating gender in context. Amsterdam: J. Benjamin.

Lather, P. (1991). Getting smart: Feminist research and pedagogy with/in the postmodern. New York: Routledge.

Levy, B. (1997). Ladies laughing: Wit as control in contemporary American women writers. Amsterdam: Gordon and Breach.

Longmire, L., & Merrill, L. (Eds.). (1998). Untying the tongue: gender, power, and the word. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.

Lorde, A. (1984). Sister outsider. Trumansburg, New York: Crossing P.

McKie, L., & al., e. (Eds.). (1999). Gender, power and household. Houndmills [England]: Macmillan Press.

Meyers, M. (Ed.). (1999). Mediated women : representations in popular culture. Cresskill, N.J.: Hampton Press.

Peterson, V. S., & Runyan, A. S. (1999). Global gender Issues. Boulder, CO: WestView Press.

Plant, S. (1997). Zeros and ones: digital women and the new technoculture. New York: Doubleday.

Romaine, S. (1999). Communicating gender. Mahwah, N.J.: L. Erlbaum.

Rubin, B. M. (1998). Fifty on fifty: Wisdom, inspirations, and reflections on women's lives well lived. New York: Warner Books, Inc.

Sen, G., & Grown, C. (1985). Development, crisis and alternative visions: Third World women's perspective. DAWN.

Spender, D. (1995). Nattering on the Net: Women, power and cyberspace. Melbourne, AU: Spinifex P.

Sreberny, A., & Zoonen, L. v. (Eds.). (2000). Gender, politics, and communication. Cresskill, N.J.: Hampton Press.

Tannen, D. (1990). You just don't understand: women and men in conversation. New York: Morrow.

Tannen, D. (1994). Gender and discourse. New York: Oxford University Press.

Tavris, C. (1992). The mismeasure of women. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Taylor, A., & Miller, J. B. (Eds.). (1994). Conflict and gender. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press.

Toth, E. L., & Aldoory, L. (Eds.). (2001). The gender challenge to media : diverse voices from the field. Cresskill, N.J.: Hampton Press.

Tyler, C.-A. (2003). Female Impersonation. New York: Routledge.

Weibel, K. (1977). Mirror, Mirror: Images of Women Reflected in Popular Culture. Garden City: Anchor Books.


Book Review & Critique Guide

Com444 - Communication & Gender

Fall 2003


Your Book critique should be reasonably formal in tone and be checked for grammar & spelling so that these superficialities don't get in the way of the information you wish to convey. It should follow the outline noted below.


I. Bibliographic information on your book (as it would appear in a term paper bibliography) plus: number of pages, presence of bibliography, general subject area(s) covered and disciplinary focus and/or genre (e.g., communication, psychology, genetics, literature, novel, interdisciplinary, etc.) and any other pertinent information you can give about the background of the author or the book. Who is the intended audience for this books? What are the author's credentials? What else could you dig up to put the book in context?


II. Abstract & Annotations. Include a one-paragraph summary of the essence of the book, followed by the table of contents or chapter headings, and under each heading a summary of the contents of that part or chapter as you see fit. Basically, the idea is that we should really learn about the major contributions of the text to our knowledge in the field. It needs to be a LOT more precise than the little annotations you might get online or off the book’s jacket. Of course, you could cheat and find an online site that gives the blow by blow, but then you're depriving yourself of a good learning experience and you still won't get full credit - 'cause there's still more to it than that!


III. YOUR critique and expansion: relate the book’s content to life in Hawaii or YOUR life as well as to theories in Wood. You might refer to my notes as well as to examples from our class discussions. In other words, include enough course-specific details and expansions that even if you were silly enough to have lifted Part II straight from the book jacket, you can still demonstrate that you understand how the concepts apply to our current discussions in this class.



If this is a popular self-help type of a book (such as Gray's books), you will need to delve deep enough under the how-to's to recognize not just content issues, but also the way a work is presented: are there built-in gender biases in the design and presentation of the text? Is the author generalizing the concepts beyond the original sample? (E.g., Gray's clinical patients were in long-term marriage relationships on the verge of a break-up or break-down; they were generally older, more traditional, white, middle-class, couples. Can we successfully generalize from that to the universe of humanity? Point out similarities and differences in suggestions given to Gray’s patients and what would be considered “nontraditional / nonsexist views” for the same circumstances.)


IV. Summary and Conclusion. Wrap up your final thoughts and summarize your experiences in reading this book. Make it as opinionated and personal as you like, but back up your opinions with enough credible information and critical thinking to make your points stick - instead of backfire!


LENGTH: This report should be as long as you think it should be, no more and no less (keep in mind its relative value compared to your other assignments). Just remember that it needs to cover the above sections thoroughly. No need to quote extensively from the book in order to make it seem long! It's YOUR critique and thoughts that count and how you connect it to the topics in this course. Ultimately, however, we want to walk away from the reading as though we have absorbed the most important points that were being made.