Men & Women: Communication & Social Constructions of Gender - Essay Sample

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  7
Wordcount:  1810 Words
Date:  2023-02-26


The notion that "men are from Mars, women are from Venus" applies even to how people of the opposite genders and sexes communicate. Notably, the differences between males and females emanate from biological constituents that are usually embedded by social constructions. The social constructions of gender are reflected in how people communicate as they are significantly depended for identity purposes. Importantly, perception and knowledge regarding gender is bias since it mostly affects the women as they are considered lesser beings. As a result, men and women end up formulating different language patterns that lead to miscommunications, as depicted in the short story, Hills like White Elephants. This paper, therefore, presents an analysis of this literal work to establish how gender and sex differences cause conflict in communication.

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Hills Like White Elephants was written by Ernest Hemingway in 1927. Its plot centers an American Man and a girl who are having a conversation at a restaurant while waiting for a train to Madrid at the Spanish Railway Station (Smiley, 2). The duo seems to be lovers, and the man is convincing the woman to take up operation, which is later revealed toward the end of the story to be an abortion. Even though the woman is hesitant about the "operation," she seems to agree as her decisions are influenced mainly by the man's desires and needs. Indeed, the central theme portrayed by Hemingway, in this story, is the gender differences expressed by the man and the woman during their conversation (Justice, 18).

The first conflicting aspect of the conversation of the man and the woman concerns with emotion. Women are considered to lesser beings and vulnerable; thus, they are termed as emotional (Chand, 500). They are unable to separate feelings from factuality; therefore, in most cases, their reasoning is blinded by the emotions. According to Smiley (3), women are emotional beings due to their biological constructions. For instance, they experience a lot of hormonal production than men, which, in turn, makes them sensitive (Chand, 501). On the other side, men are considered to be lesser emotional but rational beings (Atewologun & Sealy. 425). They do not reason based on how they feel but rather on how they think.

Notably, the woman, throughout the whole conversation, is emotional. First, her emotions are depicted when she starts to fantasize about the mountains that look like white elephants. Smiley (9) analyses this fantasy and interprets it to be a sign of inviting the man into her thoughts. She probably believes that by doing so, the man would understand her inner feelings and fears regarding the issue they have, which is pregnancy. Another moving part is featured in the dialogue where the man is asking Jig not to do the abortion if she does not want to, and she asks, "And you really want to?" (Hemingway). This question illustrates how desperate she feels and dependent on the man's opinion.

Another irrationality demonstrated by the woman is indicated towards the end of the conversation. She finally agreed with the man's opinion to undergo the "operation." However, she says, "And if I do it you'll be happy and things will be like they were and you'll love me?" (Hemingway). This response indicates that she is not deciding convincingly since her reasoning is blinded by the love she feels for her man. For instance, Justice (19) argues that she is not concerned about the implication of having an abortion. Instead, she is compromising her health to please her man and not lose him.

The man, on the contrary, argues with reasons which he thinks are factual. He is advocating for abortion and presents his ideas without showing emotion (Smiley, 10). For instance, towards the end, while explaining the reason why he is convinced that abortion is the only option, he courageously says, "Of course it does. But I don't want anybody but you. I don't want anyone else. And I know it's perfectly simple" (Hemingway). These words denotatively indicated that he cares about his lover, but deep in his heart, he doesn't. He thinks these words as a way to convince Jig to opt for an abortion.

Another aspect that is causing miscommunication between the two is the dominance of men over women. In this case, the men control or decide on what activities should be done. Notably, the man seems to be in charge of the whole conversation, which, in turn, makes the woman lack a choice of her own (Justice, 15). Jig, the woman, shows that she is unable to express herself, depicting the perceived weakness of women by society. For instance, at the beginning of their discussion, the moment they arrive at the restaurant, she asks the man, "What should we drink?" (Hemingway). The author begins with this question, which also marks the genesis of their conversation, to give a hint that the man will be in charge of the chat (Justice, 15). The woman will have no other choice other than to abide by what the man will have to decide. This question signifies her weakness since she cannot even decide on what drink she will have and have to rely on the man to choose for her.

Also, the part in which Jig notices the mountains like white elephants illustrates some inferiority. He exclaims how the hills are white and beautiful. The man claims that he has never seen them. However, when Jig agrees with him and replies, "No, you wouldn't have," he becomes a bit annoyed (Hemingway). He ends up rudely answering her back, "Just because you say I wouldn't have doesn't prove anything" (Hemingway). This statement shows his insecurity concerning his position and dominance over the woman (Justice, 18). He felt undermined by the woman when she said she agrees that he had never seen the White Mountains. Therefore, he thought it was prudent to "putt the woman on her" place by being rude to demonstrate his purported power (Smiley, 9). Here, the author shows that the mentality of this character convinces him that he is superior; thus, he is all-knowing and should not let his woman know his "weakness."

Again, the man feels comfortable when he is the one that introduces new topics for discussion. He does not let the woman contribute something; instead, he ends up feeling undermined, which makes him veer off the matter. For instance, after the tension about the man defending himself that he has seen the White Mountains, the woman tries to re-bring the issue. She looks across the hills, saying, "They really don't look like white elephants. I just meant the coloring of their skin through the trees" (Hemingway). Notably, these comments by the woman indicated that she wanted to ease the tension that had begun (Smiley, 8). However, the man brushes her efforts off and replies, "should we have another drink?" (Hemingway). Here, he disregards the woman's point of concern because he feels that he should be the only one making such a contribution.

Similarly, when he introduces the topic of abortion, the woman is expected to abide in the conversation even if she feels uncomfortable. When the man first introduces the subject, Hemingway writes, "The girl looked at the ground table legs rested on," to indicate the girl's negative attitude towards "the operation" (Hemingway). Besides, the act of the girl looking down shows her weakness even when expressing herself; thus, supporting the male dominance aspect (Justice, 15). Also, when the man continues with his convincing, the woman becomes silent (Hemingway). Her silence demonstrates the fear by women to act against their men whom society asserts that they should be subjected to.

Importantly, women's likes are different from those of the men, which, in turn, brews a conflict in their communication. Generally, the primary purpose of communicating is to express oneself through relay messages. In a gender-based setting, every individual tends to communicate in a way that advocates for his/her desires regarding gender and sex constructions (Menegatti & Rubini, 100). Well, this aspect is evident in the short story Hills like White Elephants. Jigs' desires are homely; thus, they are feminine (Chand, 499). She wants to keep the baby, which is against her man's wishes. She dislikes the idea of having an abortion, but, at the same time, she is scared of losing her lover. The delicate part of her makes her want to keep the baby and have a completely normal family (Menegatti & Rubini, 100). In the part where she says, "Then I'll do it. Because I don't care about me" shows how concerns she is about her true feelings (Hemingway). This claim demonstrates that she knows very well that she will neither be happy nor okay once she aborts.

On the other hand, the man's desires are not family-based. The community norms assert that homely aspects are strongly related to women, whereas men are expected to deal with other things (Atewologun & Sealy, 430). The man in Hills like White Elephants sees the baby as a burden to his perfect life. He says, "That's the only thing that bothers us. It's the only thing that's made us unhappy" (Hemingway). This statement illustrates how differently he perceives life and happiness from the woman. To him, the pregnancy will probably be a hindrance to pursue excellence in his life; that's why he opts to eliminate it from the picture.


In conclusion, the gender differences between the man and the girl in Hills like White Elephants affect the effectiveness of their communication. They are unable to reach a viable solution at the end of their conversation as they both get irritated in the middle of it. Notably, gender differences regarding psychological and physical interactivity constitute people's personalities. These differences make it almost impossible for people of different sexes to communicate well without conflicting.

Works Cited

Atewologun, D. and Sealy, R. Experiencing Privilege at Ethnic, gender, and Senior Intersections. Journal of Managerial Psychology. 2014, p423-439.

Chand V. "Gender and Communication: Communication Strategies for Athletes." Current Anthropology. 2005: vol. 46, No 4. 499- 520. Retrieve from

Hemingway E. "Hills like White Elephants." Liternet. Retrieved from

Justice, H. K. "Well, well, well": Cross-Gendered Autobiography and the Manuscript of "Hills like White Elephants." Hemingway Review, 1998: vol. 18, No 1, 17-32. Retrieved from

Menegatti, M., and M. Rubini. "Gender Bias and Sexism in Language." Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Communication, 2017, doi:10.1093/acrefore/9780190228613.013.470.

Smiley, Pamela. "Gender-Linked Miscommunication in "Hills like White Elephants." New Critical Approaches to the Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway,1988: pp. 2-12.

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Men & Women: Communication & Social Constructions of Gender - Essay Sample. (2023, Feb 26). Retrieved from

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