Communication and Gender Studies! Brief Discourse on Gender and Culture Shock

Here is a quick lecture on the topic:

Culture Shock, Gender and Communication

Culture shock is a lack of psychological and physical agreement experienced by someone when they move to a new cultural environment. It is a feeling of personal disorientation, initial crisis of understanding and adaption, someone experiences when suddenly confronted with an unfamiliar way of life, value system, attitudes and behavior. Culture shock is momentary psychological and physical dissonance experienced when you from familiar to unfamiliar cultural environment

Culture shock could be intra-national or international. At intra-national level, you could get into a different community within the same country and find a way of life strange to you. This happens in Nigeria even within states. With over 240 ethnic groups, culture shock is virtually a common occurrence for a traveler. At international level, people experience culture shock when they move from one country to another. If you travel from Ghana to Japan for the first time you may not adapt quickly due to attempt to gradually shake off culture shock experiences. Some people who travel from the developing societies to the developed nations could experience culture shock in terms of adaptation to way of life due to sophistication of the society. So culture shock can be viewed from various angles – politics, education, religion, economy, the mass media, among others, depending on your interest.

Our interest here is gender and culture shock, especially as it relates to communication. First of all, what is gender? Gender is the socio-culturally determined roles of males and females in any society. This is different from sexuality which is biological state of being male or female. While gender is the socially perceived state of being male or female, sexuality is the biological state of being male or female. Gender is basically, socially constructed roles expected of a man or woman in any society. So gender refers to either of the two sexes (male or female) particularly in relation to socially constructed roles and relations between males and females. Basically, gender means socially constructed roles and relationships between and among men and women in a given society. Gender roles could vary according to society. Men could be regarded as bread winners in a specific society especially in the developing world, where as in the developed society that role is not restricted to men.

In what ways can someone experience culture shock from a gender-based perspective? One the basic culture shock experiences that could exist in the gendered environment is the accommodation of gender non-binaries (the in-betweens) in certain societies, particularly in the Western world. If you travel from Africa where the society gives no room for openly expressing behavior as an in-between, to the Western world where the Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community is living a free life, you might experience initial culture shocks. You find gays and lesbians getting married, walking freely in the streets, pasturing churches, and appearing o television shows, if you’re not enlightened on LGBT issues you may experience some form of psychological disorientation. You switch on the television set you see transsexuals being interviewed on popular TV shows, something rarely seen on any TV channel in your country.

Culture shock from a gender perspective could be experienced when you encounter a matriarchal society, especially coming from a patriarchal background or, in extreme cases, from a society misogyny (inexplicable hatred of, contempt for, or prejudice against women and girls) persists. While misogyny is expression of hatred or contempt for women, misandry it the reverse – expression of hatred, contempt, or prejudice for men or boys. If you find yourself in opposite environments you may experience culture shock. For instance, if you exist in a patriarchal society and suddenly find yourself among Meghalaya communities in India where women practically run the show, it will take you some time to shake off the shock.

With reference to traditional communication in some African countries for instance, when women perform certain functions it could send a wrong signal in terms of misinterpreted or misunderstood messages. A woman is not expected to break the cola nut, whether a man is around or not. A woman is not expected to climb certain trees, or even be seen as bread winner of the family in certain ‘extreme’ environments. These days you find women taking up chieftaincy titles but they are not to become traditional rulers in most parts of Africa. Where such exists it could be a culture shock to many.

In Nigeria for instance, and some other African societies, the mass media do not want their audience to experience culture shock so they ensure their programme contents reflect the gender binary nature of the society. Of course, you don’t expect less in nations where there is a law banning homosexuality (in public places). The film industry in such nations reflect a gender binary society (which recognizes the male and female genders only), not a gender non-binary society (which recognizes both straight people and the LGBT community). Gay and Lesbian movies may not thrive in Nollywood for instance, as they would in Hollywood movies. You have major box office high grossing movies in Hollywood accommodating the LGBT community through major roles even in non-gay themed movies, something you would not try in Nollywood movies you would want to be successful hits.

Culture shock is a recurring feature in gender and communication discussion, especially when viewing this topic from the perspectives of what obtains in the developing and developed societies.

 

NB: We expect you to find out other forms of gendered culture shock that could be experienced in traditional media environment. We mentioned the issue of a woman not allowed break kolanut and where that happens it could pass across the wrong message. What other features of traditional communication express or could express gendered culture shock in traditional media environment in Nigeria? Are there real life experiences?

You can also raise your questions when we meet in class.

The Author

Chinenye Nwabueze

Nwabueze is a communication researcher with several years of lecturing experience in Nigerian universities.

7 Comments

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  1. OCHUBA NKIRU MIRIAM

    This is an incisive lecture,another culture shock from a gender perspective especially in Igbo traditional belief is that a woman doesn’t climb a palm tree for any reason ,doing this as a woman passes a message that you are wild to the the extent of challenging men, (Diochi). No 2 is that a woman doesn’t masquerade in Africa at all irrespective of tribe,it is a culture shock but in developed countries, female folks can be seen in different kinds of masquerading canivals.

    1. Eberechukwu Ezekigbo

      EZEKIGBO EBERECHUKWU

      In lgbo traditional belief, women are not being asked about the welfare of ‘ezi na ulo’, as one will ask a man. It is believed that men are polygamous by nature, so they keep women both outside (that’s the ezi) as mistress and inside(that’s the ulo) as wife, while women are generally expected to be only for their husbands

  2. OCHUBA NKIRU MIRIAM

    Another culture shock from gender perspective in (Igbo land) is that a man doesn’t go for his daughter’s child delivery care (omugwo),it’s assumed to be female folks roles and where a man is seen attending to his daughter especially during hot water bath,it can be perceived as an abomination for such a man.

    1. Eberechukwu Ezekigbo

      Another culture shock from gender perspective in (lgbo land) is that women don’t propose to men for marriage, and don’t pay their Bride price

  3. gender shock perspective in (Igbo) land. a women is not allowed to collect her daughter’s dowry, even when her husband is late elder or relatives are always available. else it become abomination. secondly another gender shock perspective in the North, (Hausa) to be precised, a man does not enter into a house boldly written (Ba-ashiga) which means no entry for male. basically,other eye aside that of the husband is not permitted to see the wife or children. if any man goes contrary, it becomes (Haram!) abomination.

  4. Otete onyekachukwu blessing
    In Agbor land,Delta state,women are not allowed to bless Palmwine.2.Men are not permitted to wash the wife’s pants/underwear,men don’t peal cassava, fry garri,break melon,grind pepper,go to market for his wife,no Man marries more than one husband at a
    Time but men does.women don’t brush/clare farm land or dig holes for to plant yam,femals don’t ride okada,In Nigeria married woman can’t openly say in public that she bought land/built house/bought her car rather she will say that her husband bought it for her.some cultures call female journalists wearing trousers as prostitute ete.Female are not permitted to pay for the husband in public instead you should give your husband the money to pay.All. these are real life experience,no woman pays
    Her brideprice no matter how rich/how poor the is, it’s a man’s responsibility the female might assist in other areas because it’s letdown for a woman.

  5. pius lovelyn. 2018052012.

    The ist advert, portrayed woman as ” Cook”, there is a saying that the way to a man’s heart is his Tommy. women know, that’s one of their major role in the African society. but in western world such role is assigned base on gender.

    The second portrayed women as seductive and sex tool. in our society women are portrayed as sex object that is why one man marry many wives. like our president outrightly said that a woman belongs to the other room. basically when such advert is aired it will not developed any form of shock.

    The 3d portrayed women as house wife, Cook. seeing this advert communicates the role of a woman in African society, culturally a woman is expected to Cook for the family. but in western world such role is not particular to female sex.

    The 4th portrayed the man to be the woman, but gender is defined based on the society. in African society such role are for women. and this will be culture shock to developing countries and people that are not well traveled but will not be to western world.

    The 5th portrayed women as beautiful attractive and sex objects. seeing such advert will not be a shock because sexy ladies are often used for advert in order to elicit the right behavior from viewers which is patronage.

    the 6th portrayed man doing the gender role assigned to a woman in African society. it should be a shock to Africans but not to western world because roles are assigned in their society base on gender.

    The 7th portrayed a woman as a mother, career woman and the head. this is not suppose to be culture shock because in the society women take Care of children their husbands and also pursue their career. though is not the role assigned to her in African society but in western world such role is not restricted to a particular gender. but could be culture shock when you from a patriarchal background or case of misogyny against women encounter a matriarchy society.

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