Body Language…what are you saying?


This will sound awfully out-of-place, especially for someone so young as myself, but over the years you begin to realize how many things you take for granted. Clearly, this isn’t the first time I’ve thought about this, because otherwise this blog would not have gotten off the ground. There are perspectives, social practices, and human behaviors that you just flat-out forget about while going through the motions of daily life. Recently, I have been taking a communication class that has placed significant emphasis on body language, and it made me realize how dependent we are on this facet of human communication.

By dependence, I don’t mean it in a negative way at all. Communication is enriched by face-to-face interaction with people, and body language adds a depth of understanding and dynamism to each conversation that people have with one another. There are simply a great number of factors that play a part in how humans communicate with each other on a regular basis. I find body language so interesting because it is generally unconscious behavior and we don’t realize how much our body language complements the type of relationship we feel with the people around us.

See, even dogs have body language!

See, even dogs have body language!

I happened across this TED talk by Amy Cuddy, a social psychologist who speaks about the impact of body language on our daily lives and how we end up feeling about ourselves. Not only does our body language work externally, but it also expresses itself internally, altering our own beliefs about our personality and self-worth. Specifically, there are “power poses” that anyone can assume to feel more control and power in any situation. The Wonder Woman pose, the “I’m too cool for this meeting” pose, and other space-filling positions give a person an increased sense of empowerment.

Amy Cuddy's high and low power poses

Amy Cuddy’s high and low power poses

I feel that this element of empowerment and body language is especially important for women to learn about because there are many times when we have been socialized into minimizing our presence in a social situation and lose a significant amount of power and self-confidence. As a girl growing, I remember times when I was scolded for being too loud or standing out because of how I was sitting or standing. While I would not be surprised that I was being childish and brash, I also have a very intense memory of disliking these adjustments because they encouraged a type of behavior that did not make me feel confident, powerful, or included.


Jezebel does an admirable job of expressing the association of powerful poses with masculinity and how this makes it difficult for women to maintain any power in social or work situations. Combined, these videos are only the tip of the body language iceberg. I hope that those of us that find this information informative can use it to feel more powerful, more confident, and more certain that your body is saying what you want it to say. Not only does it affect your relationships with others, it also affects the relationship you have with yourself.


One thought on “Body Language…what are you saying?

  1. I think that body language relates to performance very closely, especially in gender as you mention, but also in race, class ect…

    A lot feminists deal with the perception of women as needing to be closed and less occupying, and I think your post gets to these questions very well. This is partly why I liked your anecdote about being told not to be so standing out, which seems to be getting at a way in which women are brought down.

    Interestingly, these submissive body language performances still require some form of cooperation in regards to the body in question. In one of my readings, philosopher Judith Butler kind of argues that being female is a performance, rather than some innate quality, and that working within the way women perform in itself is a way to undermine the subjugating qualities of these performances.

    If you happen to remember, I think you could squeeze some of the things Susan Oyama talked about in her paper that we read last year into your question of body image, having to do with how we can reconfigure the nature/nurture cliche into something that doesn’t overtly imply a sexist view of human nature…

    “One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman.” – Simone de Beauvoir

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