Feminine gamification viewpoint: roles

Feminine gamification viewpoint: roles

As I travel and speak in various parts of the world, the conversations after the official sessions are over, are typically telling the true story of an event. In the last two weeks I have been in Italy, Sweden and the UK with groups of mixed gender, ages, interests and job or business orientation. I had fun conversations at all the different events and feel truly blessed to be able to do this.

It was at the last event it struck me that the narrative at events can work as inclusive or exclusive of either gender. We had a group of about 10 people with the majority men left to chat and joke. The conversation was a challenge for me as the only woman left in the party. It was quite disrespectful about another lady who had been in the group and who also had quite misbehaved to be truly honest. Although it was only a minor topic it also led me to reflect that maybe there is a narrative that by default makes one or other gender uncomfortable. A week before the balance was the other way, mainly ladies with a few men left standing and in that scenario at times I felt uncomfortable on behalf of the men.

It left me wondering can we really have an inclusive society?

Then I bumped into some research which looks at the language we use and the cultural role related narrative and how this actually is perpetuating gender roles in society even when active measures are take by companies, governments and individuals. Economists looked at what if languages co-evolved with other cultural norms of behaviour, then these correlations could be spurious (Roberts et al 2015) or dependent on the institutional environment itself (Gay et al 2016a). They researched immigration and early language learning.

They used the epidemiological approach in social science, which typically refers to studying immigrant populations in a common institutional environment in an effort to isolate the impact of specific cultural factors. This approach was applied to study cultural norms of behaviour including the formation and persistence of gender roles (Fernández and Fogli 2009, Fernández 2011, Blau et al. 2011).

Since migrants travel with some aspects of culture ingrained, but shed many of the external influences found in their home country, the epidemiological approach allowed researchers to study behaviour as a function of specific cultural traits, alleviating many forms of spurious correlation.

Using time-use survey data from the US, they showed that female immigrants coming from countries whose dominant language relies on sex-based grammatical distinctions bear a far larger share of housework (Hicks et al. 2015). The more heavily a language’s grammar employs sex-based grammatical distinctions, the greater the burden on women. These gaps are substantial, translating to 9% more housework by women and 28% less by men (compared to other immigrant households, which are already more skewed than non-immigrant households).

Moreover, the division of tasks in these households is more pronounced along stereotypical gender roles, with, for instance, men doing more automobile maintenance and home repair, and women allocating more time to cooking and cleaning. Interestingly, these patterns of behaviour exist even among individuals living alone, suggesting that bargaining and specialisation within marriage is not driving the association.

To study whether language could play a role, they divided migrants by age of arrival and compared individuals from the same country to one another on this basis. Researchers have shown that individuals learn languages best early in life, so late-arrivers will be more likely to speak their mother tongue instead of English. Starkly skewed gender roles appear in the behaviour of individuals who migrate at age eight or later, consistent with evidence on the critical period of language acquisition (Bleakley and Chen 2010). The pattern is driven by the behaviour of both sexes. Among gender-marked speakers, females devote more time to housework, while males devote even less.

As a former linguist and with a keen interest in stimulating inclusion, I am fascinated with these findings, because it means that teachers of language at an early age can have a major influence on how we perceive gender roles. When designing language learning curricula if gender roles were switched would this then have impact on how we grow up as adults?

Personally I think it is worth trying to use feminine and masculine language in narrative in the opposite sense. I could see it be a great game and it may require some serious gamification to embed new speaking behaviours.

I wonder what would me most effective. I would start with creating role stories and place both men and women into typically other gender roles, the race dimension can also be added for further fun. Then I would assign very typical feminine and masculine missions to be completed and look for feedback. The aim would be to reinforce success no matter what the gender is.

 What dimensions would you ad into your gamification design?

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