The Unexpressive Male
An excellent class discussion can easily be built around the recent study, “Guys can’t say that to guys”: Four experiments assessing the normative motivation account for deficiencies in the emotional support provided by men (Communication Monographs, 72, December, 468-501) by Brant Burleson, Amanda Holmstrom, and Cristina Gilstrap. The basic question they asked was what accounts for males not being as emotionally supportive as women. The answer, according to this study: “Our present studies suggest that men use lower quality forms of emotional support because, in part, they want to maintain a masculine gender-role identity, particularly when interacting with other men.” It’s hard to believe that men are so focused on maintaining a “masculine gender role identity” that they would fail to provide significant/appropriate levels of emotional support. But if they are, surely we’ve done something wrong—as parents, as friends, as teachers of interpersonal communication (and of psychology, sociology, anthropology, and lots more). And, perhaps the more interesting question, what to do?