When engaged in a conversation in which the woman is the expert on a given topic, certain subtle and some overt interactions take place. According to a study by Leet-Pellegrini when two women are paired together and one is the expert, the second takes a supportive role in the conversation. However, when women were the experts and men were not as well informed, (some were given information prior to the conversation to aid them in knowing more about the subject of violence and television), men usually jockeyed for position over the woman, challenging her expertise and being less supportive. Although seen by Leet as indifference to the woman, the author, Deborah Tannen, thought it could be a sign of mutual respect because the man was treating the expert woman the same way that men treated the expert men in their paired conversations. The point being that men always sought what she defined as respect whether paired with another man or with a woman.
I know of a study for married couples that determined that men would rather live unloved than disrespected. I think that respect is the controlling point of the conversation, not gender, even though there was occasion where it seemed demeaning to the man that the woman knew more, that too still could have been respect related rather than simply gender.
In AriesÃÂs study with the male groups and female groups that were seeking camaraderie, the males did so by determining a pecking order, or hierarchy based on knowledge of the subject. The women sought camaraderie by establishing a network of intimate connections. The key to a hierarchy for women, if it can be said there was one was who was most interconnected in the group. Relationship was the issue for the female groups. In working in different types of groups throughout my education, both formal and informal, I have found that females are much more interested in relationship, supportive types of care rather than on a pecking order based on expertise. The women I know seemed to be more concerned about providing support to the network with the expertise they have rather than using their expertise as a dominating tool over the group. This relational net-working, however can be a volatile arrangement as well. When a female felt outside of the network, there was struggle to attempt to fit back in and it sometimes came at a cost of relationships within the group.
Machiavelli, Niccolo. The Prince, translated by N.H. Thomson. Vol. XXXVI, Part 1. The Harvard Classics. New York: P.F. Collier & Son, 1909ÃÂ14; Bartleby.com, 2001.