Masculine vs. Feminine Cultures: Distinctions & Communication Styles

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  • 0:04 Communication & Culture
  • 1:03 Masculine & Feminine Cultures
  • 2:58 Communication Across Cultures
  • 4:46 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jennifer Lombardo
A presenter should understand both masculine and feminine cultural characteristics. In this lesson, you will learn the difference between the two cultures and how to use that knowledge to create a message that will be received successfully.

Communication & Culture

When Lars talks to his friend Jane, he sometimes gets confused. She seems so focused on competition and making money, which Lars doesn't care about. He wonders how she could possibly be happy by focusing on those things. Jane doesn't understand Lars either. He talks in ways that seem strange, like using 'we' and 'us' when talking about accomplishments. He doesn't seem to care about making enough money to pay his bills, instead preferring to do things he loves and spend time with his friends. She wonders how he can sleep at night without worrying about the future.

Lars and Jane aren't just different, they come from different cultures. Culture is made up of the customs, beliefs, and rules of society. It informs much about the way we talk and think. So, when Lars and Jane are baffled by each other, it's in part because of the way their different cultures view the world. To understand more about Lars' and Jane's cultures and how to communicate with different types of cultures, let's take a look at one way of categorizing societies along the axis of masculine and feminine.

Masculine & Feminine Cultures

Geert Hoftstede, a social psychologist, was one of the first people to define cultures by gendered traits. His theory says that cultures can be categorized by gender based on how they stress the balance between individual achievement and social nurturing. Moreover, Hofstede says that people within societies often take on gender roles that are prescribed by whether a society is masculine or feminine.

According to Hofstede, a masculine culture or masculine society is one that stresses different expectations for men and women. In a masculine culture, men are expected to be assertive, competitive, and focused on material success. Women are expected to be nurturing and focused on people and quality of life. In contrast, Hofstede says a feminine culture or feminine society is one where gender roles are more fluid. Both men and women are expected to be nurturing and focused on people and quality of life.

It's important to note that Hofstede's descriptions of these cultural types are based on gender stereotypes. That doesn't mean that every woman is nurturing and thinking about how to live a fulfilling life or that every man is out to make the most money possible. It just means that those are the stereotypes. Even within so-called masculine cultures, which stress the stereotypical gender roles, there are women who are more focused on competition and achievement and men who are focused on nurturing people. Of course, there are also people of both sexes that are focused on both achievement and also enjoying time with the people around them.

Let's go back to Lars and Jane. Jane is focused on individual achievement and material success. She comes from the United States, which is a culture known for being very masculine on Hofstede's scale. She's a great example of how, even in a society that pressures women to be nurturing and family-focused, some women are competitive and achievement-focused. In contrast, Lars comes from Finland, where all people are expected to be nurturing and focused on building a social life filled with people and activities they love. Finland is a feminine culture on Hofstede's scale.

Communication Across Cultures

As we've already seen, Lars and Jane think about things differently, but they also express their thoughts differently. Communications across different cultures can sometimes be stressful or problematic. This is true of many different types of cultural differences. In the case of Jane and Lars, and masculine and feminine cultures in general, the differences are also in the verbs used and the things that are stressed.

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