Semiotics. Yes it’s a real word and it means the science of signs. Trust me it’s much more interesting than it sounds and it could help you, me and everybody to understand one another a little better.
Reflecting back on what I learnt about semiotics in my BCM110 subject made me consider my past studies of language in gender and how the theory of semiotics could help solve miscommunication between genders.
The common saying ‘men are from Mars and women are from Venus’, influenced by John Gray’s book Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus (1992) highlights how even a mere 25 years ago people still argued different genders were from different planets. This is due to the miscommunication between men and women, which usually results in an argument or fight. Through messaging, memes and universal signs the importance of understanding semiotics seems even more crucial than before. Ever get annoyed that your girlfriend is reading too far into the meme you sent her? Or that your best friend is completing misreading your message? That’s because everyone has different codes, meaning ways of decoding messages they receive or encoding the messages they send. As everyone has different backgrounds and cultural experiences people will interpret things differently according to their individual ‘code’.
I believe a major reason behind the misunderstandings between men and women is due to genders being treated and brought up differently. Feminists and linguistic theorists have studied semiotics along with language to understand barriers between the two sexes when it comes to communication. To understand how people can interpret pictures, advertisements, television or anything from the media differently based on gender one should try to understand Deborah Tannen’s theory in You Just Don’t Understand. She believes men and women are wired differently when it comes to communication thus highlighting how different ‘codes’ can result in a diverse interpretation of the same image.
However, not all men and women allow their gender to determine how they talk or interact with one another. Whilst it can ring true that men detach themselves from their emotions and women use politeness strategies in their speech more often (Holmes 1995) people can break free of these stereotypes. However, as society teaches men to be strong, brave and emotionally detached whilst women almost the bipolar opposite one can understand how miscommunication becomes an issue.
This emphasises why understanding that everyone will interpret messages differently as each person has different values and history is important. Thus all genders need to work towards understanding that people will speak or react towards ‘images’ in different ways and realise that miscommunication only narrows the possibility of working towards a fairer and more equal future.
So the next time your S/O or parents misinterpret what you mean, rather than getting frustrated and angry, you should breath, try to understand their perspective and be able to have an open minded perspective when talking to those who may not understand your view.
Thus gender and language studies can be intertwined with the notion of semiotics in helping us understand individualism in society, and rather than attacking misunderstandings I urge you to try to work towards accepting everyone’s different interpretations.