Body language and gender from a dancer’s perspective | Natalia Khosla | TEDxYale

Body language and gender from a dancer’s perspective | Natalia Khosla | TEDxYale

Translator: Ellen Maloney
Reviewer: Denise RQ For how many of you does
the following situation sound familiar: you are with a group of friends,
you are all dressed up, and someone whips out a camera. There is mostly girls in the group. You are going to see
a little something like this. (Laughter) Now imagine there is
mostly guys in the group. Same camera comes up. You are going to see something
more along the lines of this. (Laughter) Interestingly enough,
probably with my having said anything, you could have told me which gender each
of these behaviors is associated with. Even more interestingly,
this is hugely consistent across boundaries,
across nations, and cultures. Why is it that we can categorize these two
behaviors as distinctly male or female? Is there something evolutionary about it? Is there some benefit to us,
whether we have XX or XY chromosomes, to act one way or another? When I think about behavioral
or cultural analysis, the first resource I look to is Facebook. This is me on Facebook. As you can see, I am portraying
a lot of the female stereotypes that we might think about. I am tilting my head, such that my inner
ears are misaligned from the upright axis, which puts me off-balance. My legs are crossed in such a way
that if you even pushed me a little bit, I would probably fall to the ground. Further, this little cultural phenomenon
made an appearance in my pose; it is clearly not helping me,
but the “Peace” sign is there. Taking a look at the other end
of the spectrum, this is my dad. He would be amused to know
that he is in my PowerPoint. (Laughter) This is the smile I was trying
to talk about earlier. You know that, “I want to act
like I am here, I am interested, but I really do not want to seem
like I care too much what I look like so mostly I am just having this mental
struggle and I am uncomfortable. Please just let this photo be over.” Same thing with his body
language; he is leaning back. Thank goodness he had
a pocket because otherwise, his hand would be going through
the same mental struggle. (Laughter) As we can see, none of these gender
norms, none of these behaviors are actually helping either gender. They are just for aesthetic reasons, so the biological explanation
seems unlikely. What we know from social psychology is that this is very much
a cultural phenomenon. We are a culture, are socialized into
the norms that our society expects of us. As men and women, there are expectations
for how we will act in society in order for it to run smoothly. We are taught that from a very young age. As a dancer, I have to be hyper-aware
of my body language and what it means. For women, these social stereotypes are things like kindness,
friendliness, and cooperativity. For men, the cultural stereotypes
are assertiveness, power, taking a stand. As a dancer, whatever I do,
whatever movement I make, is very calculated,
and it is always for a purpose, to try to get a specific
perception from the audience. When I am doing something
like hip-hop for example, I notice that I spread my legs out wider. I lean forward a little bit more,
and I am definitely more aggressive. Something a little bit like this. (Dancing) ( Chiddy Bang-“Pass Out”) Like that. (Applause) That was what I would do
as a hip-hop dancer. As you can see, a lot of the things
we saw in my dad, or in the spread-out, – leaning forward, aggression –
is what I was doing there. Whereas, when I contrasted it
with something more balletic, like lyrical or contemporary, I realised that I took on
many of the feminine norms I was talking about earlier. That coy, kind of flirtatious look; definitely more sexualized form. Something like this. (Dancing) (Lorde – “Royals”) That is what I would call
a lyrical form of dance. (Applause) Thank you. All these things came to me and I realised
that when I am choreographing, when I am thinking about
hip-hop versus a lyrical piece, what I am actually doing is deciding what
gender I want the audience to see me as; what stereotypes I would like to activate
in all of you when I start dancing. Then it occurred to me that there is no way that this is limited
to the stage, or to Facebook. If my leaning forward, and spreading
my legs out, and being aggressive activates in you the stereotype
of power, of confidence, then what does it mean
when I sit in class like this? Which is probably something you see in
a lot of women in public spaces, offices. It is a pretty common default position. I certainly sit like this, usually
with my thighs over my hands. It is literally a physically
compacting position. If leaning forward means confidence,
then I started to wonder what this means. Probably the opposite. Then I started to contrast it
with my male colleagues. I would look around me in class
and see boys sitting like this, which is something we would expect of men. But this activates something
that is consistent with leadership. Power, assertiveness,
“I know what I am doing”. I realised that these things
cannot be limited to dance, or the stage, or to Facebook. And that they must have consequences. The fact is that they do. A recent Harvard Business
review article told participants to read a script to an audience. They were given identical scripts, but half the participants were
placed in power positions. The other half were not. Those who were placed in power positions,
at the end of reciting the script, reported that they felt more confidence
in what they were saying, that they believe they deserved
the position they were going for more. Further, they were judged by the audience as being more competent,
and more fit to lead. Finally, they even had
a physiological response, such that their testosterone levels rose. What I started to see
is that body language it’s just the tip of the iceberg. Body language is the symptom
of a much deeper problem which is that in our society, the gender norms and stereotypes
that we ascribe to men and women differentially place them to succeed
in society and to be leaders. For example, the norms associated
with women; commonality, friendliness. These are not consistent
with what we need in a leader. Those that we see in men;
power, assertiveness, that is what we want in a leader. In order to see these phenomena
come out in an interview-type setting, Dr. Moss-Racusin and her team
ran an experiment where they created a mock interview. They had participants watch
a male or a female actor being in an interview setting,
saying the exact same script. They found very different responses
from their participants. What they found was
they had them watch identical videos. The actors had the same intonations,
they said the same words at the same time, and for the same amount of time,
and had identical resumes. What they found from audience
members were reactions like, “The woman was too arrogant.” “She talked about herself too much.” But the man was considered
bright, a leader, someone I would want in my work-space. But this is not only a problem for women. This is a problem for men as well. The same experiment was repeated, expect now, they had the actors
act modestly on purpose. They told them to emphasize
teamwork, togetherness instead of their own personal attributes. This time, the results were reversed;
people liked the woman more. They said that she seemed like someone
they would want in their workplace. But the man was considered
weak, incompetent. What does this mean
about what we value in our leadership? Studies have shown again and again that teamwork, cooperativity,
that is what leads to innovation. But that is what we are selecting out
of our population. Especially for men. What I am trying to get at with this
is that men and women act differently, but it is largely
because of our cultural constructs. It is not genetic. What this means
is that there is a silver lining. We can change our cultural constructs,
we can change our expectations, and that will change behaviour. Why this is a problem and why this is
something we need to pay attention to? If we are limiting our pool of innovation
by essentially 50% because of gender bias, we are not getting
the most qualified people into the positions where they need to be. It is statistically impossible. People like Jane Goodall, Alice Stewart,
would have been left out in history had gender bias kept them from
getting the opportunities they had. Jane Goodall revolutionized
the study of primatology. She found an entirely new approach
to study the chimpanzees: she decided that breaking away
from the traditional form where the researcher
would come in and assert themselves in the community of chimps, she would slowly inch in, a much gentler
approach, very conservative, and found observations
we couldn’t have found any other way. The grant that she got, was originally
not going to be given to her because it was not considered proper
for a woman to go into the jungle alone. How do we solve this problem? I propose that we start
where the problem starts. Research has shown the gender stereotypes
are already ingrained in children at the age of three and a half. I think this is where
the intervention needs to begin. I propose that we instill early
childhood education and training programs for educators and parents alike. This way we can let them know the subtle
behaviors that they might be showing, with children, that perpetuate harmful
gender stereotypes into the future. For example, one study showed that if a kindergarten classroom
is recorded for the entirety of a day, even if teachers know
they are being recorded, they tend to call on boys
significantly more often than on girls, even if equal numbers of boys
and girls are raising their hands. Further, when girls blurt out answers
without raising their hands, they are disproportionately
scolded for doing so, whereas boys tend to be
recognised for their insight. Girls, on the other hand,
are most often complimented on their shoes, their hair,
and their dresses. One can only imagine what effect
this has over a lifetime. If you are told what matters
is your appearance, and you are often not recognised
for trying, for taking a risk, you see what we saw before;
women literally, physically shrink. They make themselves small. They say less. They hesitate more. They speak softly. Men, on the other hand, feel
that they can’t talk about their feelings. They feel that it is wrong
to ask for help, and that they need to figure
everything out on their own. We know that this is not OK for mental
health and for many other reasons. What I propose is that we let
teachers know from an early age, “Just be aware, you might be turning
slightly towards the boys in the classroom in math class, and towards the girls
in the classroom in English, due to a subconscious expectation.” Further, I would hope that this would
expand to corporations and organizations. Letting interviewers know,
as potential employers, that they should pinpoint exactly why they did not like
an interviewee or liked an interviewee, before they write them off, so that we can avoid
letting gender stereotypes dictate who we let into our organizations
more than merit. If there are three things
I hope you take away from this, it is one: that the gender differences
that we see in behaviour are cultural constructs, so we have
the power to change them. Two: the reason it is important to change
them is because we are limiting our pool of innovation by nearly 50%,
and we have so much more potential. And three: there are so many ways that each of you, today,
can begin solving this problem. Next time you see a parent or a teacher, or anyone interacting
with a young student, think about what they might be reinforcing that could help perpetuate gender
stereotypes that we want to eliminate. Think about it next time you are
on a hiring committee: Why you did not like that applicant
or why you loved that applicant? Is it something specific
about their merit? We have narrowed down a problem,
we have a lot of ways to solve it. All we need is action. Thank you. (Applause)

79 thoughts on “Body language and gender from a dancer’s perspective | Natalia Khosla | TEDxYale”

  1. Natalia, well done presentation, but I disagree with your premise. The differences between men and women don't need to be "trained out" of society to equalize a power imbalance. Individuals each have unique talents and, if they can master being themselves and learn to exploit their personal "talent package" to its maximum potential, their results will far their exceed their wildest expectations.
    Gender traits exist, although on a bell curve as opposed to binary opposites. Each person must to play to their personal strengths and never deny their own nature to play the game using rules set by others.
    You and your talk, incidently, are living proof of my premise. Even on the small screen of my phone, your ability to capture an audience in moments with your natural talent for dance was palpable.

  2. For those of you who are interested in more about gender, I highly recommend "Psychology of Gender", 4th edition 2011 Vicki S. Helgeson. There cannot be enough said about stereotypes in general and what they cause. However, I would be concerned of a generation that blurs gender completely rather than allowing true liberation.

  3. External reaction's (body language), are caused by internal action's (feeling's), and each gender has specific hormone ratio's which lead to differentiated body language from an emotional expression of that difference , this external reaction over time (thousands of years or more) then get's biologically adapted or expected from each gender from an individual and cultural standpoint. Every culture in the world has somewhat similar body language and opinion in regard's to gender's, because gender determine's genetically what typical body language a person has and in turn how that person will generally act, which get's carried into what is called cultural norm's. I respect this lady's opinion, and she has recognized a interesting phenomenon however she has prescribed an unproven and non scientifically sound conclusion to it. Simply put she observed an event without figuring out it's intended or actual purpose.

  4. I don't believe that body language stereotypes necessarily influence hiring practices, and I don't think that some of the stereotypes presented are viewed as negative or positive by all people or organizations. For example, the guy who was sitting forward was not necessarily positive to me. You mentioned it could have represented a male who had not learned to pay attention, or a male who was disguising his nervousness by sitting that way. Disguising anxiety is normal and not necessarily a bad thing. But the male did not appear to me to be all that thoughtful or a candidate for leadership at that particular moment.

    I tend to agree with roxana, Patrick, and the lady who referenced the book on gender studies.

    Howver, I do agree that we need to get away from gender bias in hiring practices and when gauging potential for success. I do believe that the way we behave is based partially on genetics and partially on how we were brought up. There are a other of good people. And all of them should be valued.

  5. I see aggressive men not as good leaders but as inherently insecure and probably insufficient and compensating. When I see men who express authentic humility, I am much more apt to see a man who is more evolved and internally strong. He is the one I want to work with, be with, support and promote.

  6. body language is the ultimate form of communication in almost all species on earth.  the differences from males to females are an essential part of the communication process.  To label these diffs as "stereotypes" of a negative nature I think is wrong.  The thought of teaching children to ignore what is natural, or worse "train" them to perform in some preconceived manner to "balance or reduce" the so-called gender gap is seemingly damaging to me.  I would prefer to see parents teach human "values" in kindness, compassion & mutual understanding/acceptance – letting the child develop it's own/individual manner of expression based on these values.  There will always be differences, and yes, some may seem unfair at times.  But that too is perception of what "should" be in the mind of one person to another.  These differences are healthy in my opinion, and exposure to both sides builds character.  Great presentation, but not every situation/experience is meant to be a Dance.

  7. I don't advocate pigeonholing people in any kind of category and stifling their possibilities, but also don't believe in this 'gender is a social construct' bullshit either. There are some effeminate men and masculine women, but what about the average man or woman? We need all types to run this world. Of course, discriminating against anyone due to gender is bad, but a hermaphrodite human society is definitely not the answer, everybody should be respected for what they are. let this speaker raise HER children in the way she is advocating and demonstrate the awesome results it is supposed to produce, before telling it to others. By the way, trying to raise children by interfering too much and not letting them be who they are will, I believe, only produce dysfunctional kids. This thing called 'stereotyping' is inevitable as long as humans are making decisions because we evolved for that. We consider what is the highest probability how someone or something will behave as we have no time to evaluate each and everything we come across in detail. If a big dog is running towards me, I won't spend too much time making sure whether it will bite or not, I will search for safety. Stereotyping works somewhat on same basis. This should not make you think that I am biased intentionally, but for some reason I am not comfortable around guys who cry as easily as an average woman, and am not attracted towards women who swear a lot and behave too aggressively.

  8. As a male nudist I can tell you that we cannot usually cross our legs above the the knees while wearing pants without seriously harming our testicles. Also, our narrower bottom requires a wider leg spread for stability while sitting.

  9. I don't think gender expression is 100% society based. I know transgender people that were born male but transitioned into female that have had extremely feminine body language for their entire life, even when they were a boy. They didn't just learn it to "blend in" as a female. Why would someone that grew up as a boy and had boy expectations from society still retain female body language their whole life?

  10. "What I'm actually doing is deciding what gender I want the audience to see me as." Ummm what? Maybe I'm just ignorant to the subject, but that is just not true in my case. I never think about gender when I dance.

  11. Uh…wrong! My daughters acted very feminine for as long as I remember. I never told them how to act, and there were men around them, they decided to be mushy, want to go to the dresses at the store on their own and pick pink princess outfits ignoring the boys section on their own. I even got them legos so they wouldn't be limited by stereotypes and my daughter made teddy bears, babies and figures of mom and dad holding hands and snuggled her lego block creations. She twists and turns very feminine and talks talks talks even before she knew words. I remember feeling intense craves towards warfare and construction toys, motorcycles and trucks and my sisters Barbie doll games seemed like the most boring activity imaginable, wrestling was all day and I just wanted to die evertime my sister played the Pointer Sisters. Gross was the cool and pretty was gross. This is NOT moulding to gender expectations, but instinctual. Women and men in their natural states are wired directly opposite and thus attraction!

  12. she is trying to become some thing and she is not. every thing she says is stolen from here and their, and trying to make it as her own idea or invention and finely meaning less.

  13. Serious question: I have severe hearing loss. I lean in to hear better all the time. I cup my hand over my ear while I do it sometimes. How does my disability complicate these gendered explanations of body language?

  14. Bullshit,gender is written in our genes;we can transform it to suit our ideas but nature has her own rules and don`t you forget it!

  15. Before buying on gearbest, know that it's thieves.
    They do not repay,
    on google search for "Thieves Gearbest".

  16. This chick is way into mind control. I believe at the least, half of what she blames on culture is in fact animal behavior. She uses Jane Goodall then fails to see our primate behavior. Didn't she say something early on in the presentation about behaviors that were common across cultures?

  17. It is amazing to read the comments and see that so many people don't 'believe' the presenter's ideas. Guess what? There is plenty of research that supports the notion that body language can be taught as and construed as gendered. It won't hurt any of you to learn more rather than simply disagree without having thought the information through. Remember that our own personal experience is not sufficient.

  18. On interesting aspect of her talk is that the position that are socially expected by society for man is that it give and express confidence and bioligically so what women can do base on how they view by society to express confidence and that you can be a leader

  19. Nice observations. However, your conclusions are not backed up by anything. What proved so far that those behaviors are social construct? You might need to look into evolutionary biology. You can see different behaviors for different genders in Primates. Is it also social construct? 😀

  20. To all of those trying to defend the way we´re sitting… no it´s not because it may be painful. We sit like that because we like feeling strong and dominant. We sit like that because we like feeling confident and self assured. And you know what? That is okay. And why wouldn´t it? We are men and we should stay that way, instead of becoming women with testicles

  21. People shouldn't try to fit a mold for the sake of CONFORMING to culture and society.
    But at the same time, I shouldn't be expected to fit a certain mold just for the sake of CHANGING society.
    We should all live true to who we are without shame.

  22. Я бы не сказал, что все женщины говорят тише. По-моему, большинство говорит громче мужчин и их невозможно переспорить.

  23. I stopped as soon as she said body language is purely for aesthetic reasons. WRONG.
    There's more to the state of Being than just "social norms."

  24. wait… she just said this happens ACROSS cultures all over the world. then she says it's a cultural phenomenon. … a cultural phenomenon that just happened to manifest all over the globe, from culture to culture to culture? but there's no biological basis in it?
    uh… try again?

  25. The moment she started dacing I said well she's selling her performance instead of getting to a point which was, by that time, very inconsistent.

  26. Well… But being more aggressive for example, can ne causes by testosterone of which men do have more of because of their genetics – I mean we COULD theoretically select those that have less testosterone for reproduction, but I'm not to sure that's the best idea to solve the problems created by the gender gap

  27. I actually disagree. I feel very powerful and confident when sitting in the compacted form. I know I'm a leader.

  28. Amy Cuddy also comments on this body language male female bio effects and bias in interviews issue. I feel inspired yet your mention of teachers gets me down. Many of them, disproportionately are women.. they need a licence to teach (like a doctor) and yet they are most overworked and underpaid. A lot of them take on a lot and yet are under supported.  It seeps in this bias irrespective of consciousness. My thought on your video is to find a new way of moving around through space to ignite a different dialogue between men and women, women and women, men and men. We feel different when we move. It is like medicine without drugs. No?

  29. Strangely enough, this contradicts studies presented on TEDxTalks/TED Talks stating that everything else being equal, there is a statistical difference showing the women are more into "people" and men are more into "things", Cf. Dr. Peterson's studies. Even within medico-surgical specialties, for the same amount of studies – women tend more towards "medical" specialties while men gravitate towards more "interventionist" or "surgical" specialties. Same thing within the engineering field i.e. women in PhD programs in Bio-Engineering and men into similar programs in Mechanical Engineering.
    Similar studies were done with Chimpanzees, where female young chimps went more for "animal-looking" toys whereas male-kid chimps played with "things" (cubes, sticks, …).
    Ciao, L

  30. Another speech to point out the obvious- men and women are different. And trying to convince us of why this is a problem. She seems nice and did her speech well, but I'm not convinced that men and women being treated differently is a terrible thing. I think it's just natural, due to natural differences.

  31. look it is simple for life and survival there needs to be balance and just that

    and before a culture copies something they have to agree with it first
    i don,t think some one is good because i'm told its because i see it

  32. Male dancer here , primarily in ballet. I found myself standing in 3rd postion all the time. I find it to be a humble position as if I don't need to prove anything but I still want to keep my spine straight with a demi plie ready.

    I see most male managers and authority figures like police usually take the wide "boss" stance. To be honest, the stance reeks of insecurity.

  33. I noticed that after the hip hop dancing, she wasn't out of breath, but after the lyrical dancing, she was a little winded.
    Perhaps those "feminine" moves are more physically challenging.

  34. Women are powerful and I as a fellow women are strong! no matter the stereotype of feminine and masculine as both are within. We have abilities and support eachother. I sit open and I am strong powerful as we are all powerful we should empower each other! Equality

  35. I thought America was sexist ??? How did she get into college ? Also …there are too many women in psychology and not enough men.We more men and less women in psychology.

  36. I've kind of realized that when my teacher ignored my answers in the class and praised a boy's cleverness for the exact same thing he'd said. But it's fine. I know I've got the right answer and I credited myself inwardly. Sometimes it's no use trying to change other people. What we should do is to recognize our own forces and shortcomings and stop caring about others' attitude upon us.
    Chances are, the world or others won't change for us. Life is not a Hollywood movie.

  37. men sit that way because it's comfortable… women sit like that because they are wearing a tight dress….. it's fashion's fault

  38. Lol this is an individual problem not a cultural construct. You need to teach people to stand strong which is what you were literally proving in the first place

  39. "Men, on the other hand, feel they can't talk about their feelings"

    They do??

    More fantasy.

    More nonsense.

  40. I think she has some points but some important ones are also missing.
    I dont beleive that postures and atitudes are merely a social construct. I beleive that a big part of the social construct has its source on real archetypes and organic diferences. Even if only 60% of women have a very feminin body (with small feet/ big hips/smaller shoulders/body size and headsize) than average man- and only 60% of man have tipical male bodys, just the simple fact of having bigger hands/feet/smaller hips already shows the same basic cliche gesture she spoke about being tipically masculin, where the activity goes towards the external, extroverted/ or in the case of feminin where activity goes direction heart and hips and where halds seem to be more of a perception organ than a organ of changing the Outside world.

    Your Biografy and posture can certainly influence and sometimes even can change and mold you to a certain extent. But if you are abd inhereted naturallty a tipically female body, your natural behavior will seem to be Classical feminin behaviour. We schould not expect this from everyone and its terrible that nonmasculin man and masculin woman are seen as beeings that arent interesting or as valiable as those who fullfill the clichê or those who desperatly try to fake it! (This schould change!!!)

    But the rest will tale very long if its even ever changeable or desirable to change. Human kind is full of odd variations. The rule the tipical is the fascinating exception!
    The more you are trying to force this beleive unto people the more old people will laught about left wing thinkers.

    The problem for men is not only the expectation of women. If you are a peacefull sensitiv not agressiv man, some man will simply use and abuse, kriticise and even beat you up, because you are a provocation and reason for them to feel unconfortable/ stronger/ jealows.

    So you get used to in school and live that as a man you are bot worthy of protection (others can beat you- you arent as fragile as a woman – you dokt have the right to make out of you a victim, people will treat you even worse.

  41. Is it possible to have a normless society? Is it enough to deconstruct current norms, without replacing them with something new?

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