Cross cultural communications is very crucial nowadays. This is mainly because people from different countries and cultures see, interpret and assess various events differently. More so, various classes of people view things differently. Often, the more powerful have a stronger stand while the marginalized sector’s views seem weaker (Pawlowski, p. 70).
In this paper, the standpoint theoretical approach in communications is discussed. This theory is very crucial in understanding and contextualizing cross cultural communications. Most often, people are not conscious of others' views and cultural upbringing (p. 70). By exploring how standpoint theory forms an individual’s perceptions of their benefits and limitations in society, we learn from each other and contextualize each other.
This theory is very relevant for exploring cross cultural communications. This paper will access the said theory to impress the major dimensions of the various cultural interpretations and the consequences will be evaluated to bring light to the greater need for cross cultural management in organizations and in general life. The author is credible in researching from three major sources to better explore the said theory. Ultimately, this paper will provide a powerful illustration of the standpoint theory and how they can very much help in understanding others and in resolving miscommunications.
This topic must be studied by many communications students so that diversity and open communications are promoted. Some clear underpinnings on the standpoint theory must be explained to many students of communications. This communication theory is a powerful tool to use in class. It shall help the students to realize how people "see" individuals in the social realms (p. 71). It is also a good feminist theory which should be promoted. By being able to situate the role and functions of women through their communication patterns, many strong views to further develop their status in society can be formulated.
In general, the standpoint theory of communication was originally formulated to explain the power structures among social positions to distinguish dominance and oppression (Griffin, Ledbetter, Sparks, p. 29). This theory is used as a means of challenging the status quo and to learn more about the different cultural views in our society, including women, poor women/men, nonwhite women/men, ethnic minority or religious groups (Pawlowski, p. 70). Hence, the standpoint theory is used to identify and evaluate several types of knowledge, power, and structure in the present day world.
I. Standpoint theory is a post modern approach to communications.
The standpoint theory is a postmodern theory of communications on individual’s views (Griffin, Ledbetter, Sparks, p. 53). It shows how the everyday experience changes or influences an individual’s views. Basically, a standpoint emerges when individuals emphasize the importance of power that forms various categories of people inside the society. The standpoint theory centers on the perception of gender and is actually focused on the feminist orientations (Hallstein & O’Brien, p. 2).
Harding and Hartsock created the standpoint theory by the printed material called “The feminist stand point: Developing ground for a specifically feminist historical materialism” (p. 2). Their ideas were generally influenced by the concepts of Friedrich Hegel, the popular German thinker who analyzed the different people’s standpoints according to their own socio-economic levels (p. 3). Hence, the standpoint theory has come from the initial feminist theory which centers on the economic and social positions of women in society. It is also commonly called the “feminist standpoint theory” (p. 3).
It is basically post modern since it criticizes the status of the opinions of men in society. According to Griffin, Ledbetter, & Sparks:
“Different locations with the social hierarchy affect what is seen. The standpoint of marginalized people provides less false views of the world than do the privileged perspectives of the powerful. Strong objectivity requires that scientific research start from the lives of women, the poor, gays and lesbians, and racial minorities” (p. 18).
The standpoint theory is generally considered as postmodern since it incorporates diversity and integrates ethics which is not found in the general views and philosophies of various disciplines. It critiques the dominant conventional epistemologies in the social and natural sciences (Pawlowski, p. 70). Feminists believe that women's marginalization in society is universal. They also believe that gender is not neutral and that the personal is political. In short, the post modernism of the standpoint theory is carried out by the statement that “women are not a homogeneous group and a variety of feminist theories should challenge this status quo (p. 71).”
II. Standpoint as a demographic and geographic differentiation.
The standpoint theory is centered on the various levels of individuals’ perceptions (Hallstein & O’Brien, p. 1). To exemplify, people have the same opinions given their similar circumstance, specifically their geography and demography. The most influential element which defines an individual’s perception is by experience (p. 1). Other major indicators are traditions and cultures. These can also strongly form an individual’s perception to a specific respect (Griffin, Ledbetter, Sparks, p. 29).
One of the basic elements in the changing views of an individual pertains to his/her socio-economic position (p. 30). The geographical locations, the socio-economic position in the society, the type of a person’s work, the fundamental difference in their sexual orientations all produce different perspectives. A married women’s view from the urban community is very different from a lower class woman’s view from the rural area. She may view rearing of children as providing for the children’s education and basic needs while a lower class woman’s point of view may include domestic actions which are not familiar with the usual activities of married women in the richer environment.
According to Pawlowski (p. 70), the fundamental concepts of the standpoint theory are to understand the perspective of the marginalized society, specifically the women. The theory differs from an individual to another but the group perspective can be understood in special groups where they share common environments. Hence, the views can be fundamentally objective and subjective.
For instance, the individual from a higher position in society often sees the issues in a perspective which varies greatly from the individuals from the society’s middle or the lower class. The latter usually considers the issues from a practical standpoint (p. 71). The reason for this is due to the varying contexts or circumstances they have in life. It also relies on their personal experiences.
III. Women, as a marginalized segment of society, tend to accept the more powerful sector.
In view of the women as a marginalized sector in society, it follows that they usually tend to accept the viewpoints of the powerful sectors (such as the upper class or the men). Hence, their perspective is formed by their status in the greater society (p. 31). To wit, women from our history were marginalized. They tended to follow the perspectives or views of men. Hence, if the men in the society were convinced that women should not vote, then, the woemn also believed in this false conviction. Apparently, they had no voice and they shared no power in the wider society.
However, as more and more women began to understand their place in society and to hear their own voices from a distinct perspective, they began to work on their individual rights. Hence, the group of marginalized women asserted themselves in society and these aided them in fulfilling greater roles for themselves in the society (Hallstein & O’Brien, p. 1). They started to advocate for the women in their own standpoint or perspective.
In this regard, the standpoint theory can be very well applied in the developing countries. It can spur more consciousness of the marginalized sector of the society – the women. Individuals who instantly follow the most common views can assess and understand themselves and to fight for their rights and to help meaningfully to the equal development of their society (Pawlowski, p. 70).
Another important percept of the standpoint theory is that the elite or the ruling class defines the main standpoint from which various views are understood and accepted (p. 71). For instance, the views of the ruling class can be detrimental to the lower classes or the marginalized classes (like women). In truth, the views of the ruling class can actually harm those of the subordinate groups such as those of the women.
For example, if the ruling class thinks that women should not vote or study and the marginalized groups think the opposite, hence, the latter’s views are considered subversive or radical. Their views are considered dangerous to the society and these views are discouraged. Another important example is when the ruling or elite class thinks that for instance, breastfeeding is a hassle to women. Hence, the marginalized group may oppose this idea but then they are discouraged to express their resistance as the social norms discourage them to express their opinions as is. If the social venues are not equipped with breastfeeding corners, then, it indirectly states how the elite’s views are far superior or being followed compared to their own views.
Many problems in cross cultural communications happen every day, especially when the receiver of the message contextualizes the messages as a different meaning or when he/she does not get the contextual aids to direct his/her proper understanding of the original thought or the sender’s message/s). This connotes that the receivers must be wary of stereotyping, misperceiving and misinterpreting certain ideas from the sender. There are many communication theories that bridge the gap and work towards greater and more effective communications.
One of the best and very timely theories that are discussed in communications is the standpoint theory. It is a very effective means of overcoming the culture and communications barrier between individuals. It simplifies the contextual differences by pointing to gender and socio economic factors as very well meaning indicators of the barriers. As more individuals become conscious of the gender and socio economic barriers, they find it better to grasp the messages being sent to them. Likewise, they are strongly motivated to go beyond prior misconceptions to deeper contextual understanding.
The most important thing to remember about standpoint theory is that male and female voices are different. Secondly, the voices of the poor and the marginalized (or disfranchised) are far weaker than the voices or the views of the elite or the ruling groups. This is where miscommunications happen and this is a very good guiding post in understanding others, especially women. It also reflects the general conditions or status of women in the greater society.
The geographical locations, the socio-economic position in the society, the type of a person’s work, the fundamental difference in their sexual orientations all produce different standpoints or views for people. Considering women as a marginalized sector in society, it follows that they usually tend to accept the perceptions of the powerful groups (such as the upper class or the men). Hence, their perspective is formed by their lower status in the greater society. In short, the ruling class defines the main standpoint from which various views are understood and accepted. In a post modern world, this discrepancy is revealed and addressed through the standpoint theory of communications.
As such, the basic tenet of the standpoint theory is to attempt to comprehend the perspective of the marginalized society, specifically the women. This communication theory is a powerful tool to use anywhere. It helps people to realize how each individual differently "see" scenarios and intentions in various lights. The standpoint theory is also a good feminist theory which should be advocated. By being able to situate the role and functions of women through their communication patterns, many strong views to further develop their status in society can be formulated.
Griffin, Em, Ledbetter, Andrew, & Sparks, Glenn. A First Look at Communication Theory, 8th Edition. London: McGraw-Hill Higher Education. 2015.
Hallstein, D. & O’Brien, Lynn. Where Standpoint Stands Now: An introduction and Commentary. Women’s Studies in Communication, 23 (1). Winter 2000. Web. 09 December 2014 < https://www.questia.com/library/journal/1G1-119510217/where-standpoint-stands-now-an-introduction-and-commentary>.
Pawlowski, Donna. Who Am I and Where Do I Stand? Communication Teacher, 20 (3), p. 69 – 73. July 2006. Web. 9 December 2014. < http://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ888815>.