In a sexist society, women are conditioned to be cheerful and peppy and men are trained to be confrontational and ambitious. The expectations placed on individuals based on gender contribute to some awful things like assertive women being called “shrews” or kind men being considered weak.
A new study by the Institute of Information Technology in Canada’s Saif Mohammad and Tony Yang suggests that we might internalize these destructive double standards more than we want to accept. The scientists studied 32,000 work emails from men and women, keeping an eye out for language that suggested “joy, sadness, anger, fear, trust, disgust, surprise, and anticipation.”
Apparently, women approach women with expressions of joy and sadness, while men send emails to women that suggest joy and anticipation. Men receive text regarding trust, sadness, and disgust from other men and trust and anticipation-related emails from women. In other words, people of both genders place their trust in men and confide in women about their joys. As New York’s Maggie Lange puts it, “women are generally more cheerful than men.” Wow.
The study suggests not the tired prejudice that women are nice and men are reliable; instead, it gives us a chance to reflect on the ways we are expected to behave. Mohammad tells Lange that “[his] goal is [...] not to propagate stereotypes, but to give people power to analyze their own data, and how they speak.”
Our emotional language online has more power than we might expect; advertisers target us based on our email lingo. As Mohammed puts it, “Emotions are central to our life. There are implications in health, there are implications in social cultural aspects, there are implications in product marketing.” So if I write, “Thanks so much!” at the end of an email or if I tell my fiance I miss him, will an ad for tampons pop up? That makes me extremely uncomfortable.
What do you think? Do you feel pressure to behave differently online because of your gender? Let us know in the comments!
Thanks to New York Magazine Images via Melissa Northway and Dorothy Dalton