Using a Woman’s Touch in War

Posted on March 6, 2010. Filed under: arab culture, cross cultural communication, cross cultural conflict, Uncategorized, women | Tags: , , , , , , , |

The US military is using female marines in a culturally appropriate role in Afghanistan, giving war a woman’s touch.  As part of a military cultural experiment, female marine engagement teams will meet with Afghani women to build relationships and gather intelligence.  For many Afghani women it is prohibited or at least culturally inappropriate to speak with an man who is not your kin. Female marines offer a way around that.

Because they are women, these soldiers will have access to the local social network of information that is common among rural women. Male marines would never have access to this network.

Just as women in business have gone from using male models for communication and leadership to valuing and incorporating female models, ie. relationship-based, women in the military are now being valued for the unique skills and access their gender provides.

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one mother’s polychronic tendency

Posted on February 17, 2010. Filed under: cross cultural, time, women | Tags: , , , , , |

Men Shopping              Women Shopping

I recently read about “women’s general polychronic tendency when shopping for groceries and clothing” and was relieved to learn that there is actually a cultural term for what some call wandering aimlessly.

Polychronic People are multitrack and circular.

I’m not wandering aimlessly. I’m multi-track and circular. “Yes, I came to the store to buy bread, but this chicken would be great for next week’s barbecue (I could freeze it) and Carla needs a bottled drink for her field trip tomorrow and more hair conditioner, and ooh! look! Whole Milk Stony Field French Vanilla is on sale– I could stuff Calvin with some calories off of that….”

Being a mother requires polychronic tendencies. If moms did things in a sequential, linear manner, like monochronic people do, very little would get accomplished.

Moms and Polychronic People:

  • Do many things at once. Time for different tasks can overlap,  as long as all tasks get done.
  • Are relationship oriented: Interruptions (think kids) are normal, expected and often welcome.
  • Meet time commitments depending on circumstances and relationship.
    What mom hasn’t had her plans change instantly because the baby suddenly fell asleep?
  • Change plans often and easily when circumstances change.
    Either that, or go crazy.

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You think we gossip, we think you’re shallow

Posted on July 21, 2009. Filed under: cross cultural communication, Uncategorized, women | Tags: , , , |

It only took me about 47 years, but I no longer get annoyed at the way men communicate, and I no longer try to get them to change. Both being annoyed and hoping  others will change are a total waste of time and energy.  Now when I see the stark differences in communication styles, I just say, wow, look at that.

GENERALITIES (please don’t write me that these are generalities. I know. That’s why I’ve included the header, GENERALITIES):

(straight) Men tend to use communication to:

  • Impart knowledge
  • Define status
  • Present solutions

Women tend to communicate to:

  • build relationships
  • Seek consensus
  • maintain harmony

Women also process out loud, talking things through, whereas men prefer to process internally, and talk when they have a solution.

I fall somewhere between these two extremes–I like to build relationships, but frequently like to cut to the chase and focus on solutions without all the touchy feely lets-talk-it-out stuff. I’ve been told more than once that my communication style is masculine.

Still, I am sometimes shocked at the shallowness of men’s conversations. (sports talk as communication is another posting). Their conversation often shows no interest in the details, vivid descriptions, and microscopic analysis of events that define women’s conversation.

Case in point:

My best friend (female) called me with some “holy crap! I can’t believe it! You have got to be kidding me!!” kind of news yesterday. We went over every aspect of this astounding news in gory detail, revisiting all the juicy parts 2 or 3 times. We spent a good 1/2 hour on the topic.

My husband (male) also told me some “holy crap! I can’t believe it! You have got to be kidding me!!” kind of news yesterday. When I asked for more detail,  his response was, ” I don’t know. I didn’t ask, and he wasn’t volunteering any more info.” And he was quite comfortable leaving it there.

Guys–PLEASE, explain to me: HOW  in the world do you not ask for more info? details? images? insights? analysis? Aren’t you curious? Aren’t you dying to know???

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Women do not think “Differently”

Posted on June 4, 2009. Filed under: cross cultural communication, women | Tags: , , , , , , |

“Debate on Whether Female Judges Decide Differently Arises Anew”

This headline in the NY Times today caught my eye and  it made me so furious that my heart started pounding. Differently than what?? Differently than the way real judges make decisions? The headline didn’t say Debate on Whether Male and Female Judges Decide Differently Arises Anew. It is the females that are acting different.

The article goes on to say:… the idea that women may inherently view the law differently on occasion is something that troubles even several female judges who believe it may be so. Why is the possibility that women don’t think like men troubling??  The fact that even some females  judges think this is a problem doesn’t validate the argument, it just shows that they have internalized oppression.

This reminds me of when I was an undergraduate, and recieved my degree in Women’s History (Women’s Studies/US History).  This was not real history. This was different history. I noticed that the other courses in the department were not called Men’s History, which actually would have been quite accurate.

Are we still at a place where women have to act like men in order to legitimize their power? I thought that went out with the power suits with padded shoulders of the 1980’s. Men and women do think differently from each other– and both styles are valid and useful.

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The burqini, and other forms of women’s liberation

Posted on February 22, 2009. Filed under: arab culture, cross cultural, culture, women | Tags: , , , , , , |

Recently, I read about the  burqini and at first thought it was a joke.  To most western women, the idea of a burqa (the head to toe covering worn by some Muslim women) is seen as an oppressive prison. We read about women who are beaten for not wearing them in public, and only see them as a form of oppression.

When I visited the burquini website I found out that it is swimwear and sportswear for active Muslim women. And based on the testimonials, it is a new form of women’s liberation. Woman after woman wrote to say how they could now participate in sports and go swimming, while still maintaining the modesty required of their religion. “I don’t look like a fool in the water anymore, and I’m not weighed down by all the heavy wet clothes I used to wear,” wrote one happy customer.

Women from different cultures face different challenges. For these women, the burqini is a big step foward in being able to define themselves and actively participate in daily life.  We must be careful not to belittle desires of women whose cultures are different or contrary to our own. They themselves, must define their path.



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An extended First Family in the White House

Posted on February 4, 2009. Filed under: American culture, diversity, family, race, women | Tags: , , , , |

How cool is it that President Obama brought his mother-in-law to live in the White House, making our First Family an extended one. The First Grandma has played a key role in raising Malia and Sasha, and was vital to family stability during the primaries, when both parents were often on the road.

Extended families are the norm outside of Western culture, and even in the US, African-, Hispanic-, and Asian-American families very often have an extended family structure.

The Western model of the nuclear family as the ideal  is an outgrowth of a number of factors, including the Industrial Revolution,  emphasis on individualism, and the growth of government services  to replace those traditionally provided by the family.

Extended families lessen the workload for the mother and make child and elder care much easier. It offers children various adult role models and sources of love, and can lessen the tension often found in the overworked parents in today’s nuclear family structure.

How empowering for extended families in the US to see themselves in the First Family. They are no longer the other type of family–the ones who aren’t Ozzie and Harriet.

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