Gender Mattered in Democratic Debate

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Scholars who study the way men and women talk say -- at least traditionally, in our culture -- men want to "win" when they communicate so they dominate the conversation. Women often want to include others and create consensus.

Professor Laurie Bentley, who teaches gender communication at Kent State University and Hiram College said both senators behaved in typically male and female ways. Clinton smiled a lot. Obama didn't .

Bentley: "Smiling is something that in general women do more of. It's a way of showing friendliness. It's even a way of showing a woman is not a threat, either to a man or other women. Men tend to smile less, and that is a way of showing dominance."

Bentley said these habits are pretty well formed before kindergarten and have to do with the kinds of games boys and girls play among themselves.

However, Clinton did take on one traditionally male conversational trait to "win" her points in the debate.

Bentley: Interrupting is one of those things. She did do quite a bit of interrupting of Senator Obama and of the moderators.

Bentley had one bit of advice for both candidates that had nothing to do with gender...

Bentley: "It seems like they made their points and just kept GOING,.They both might do themselves a favor if they talk a little bit less."
However the two were perceived in the debate, it's unlikely we'll hear any less of them before the March 4 primary.

Kymberli Hagelberg, 90.3.

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