He said, she saidpart 2 Gender differences in language
dominance Negative evaluation of women’s position related to the relative positions of men and women The dominance of men is reflected in the way men linguistically dominant They dominant the ‘social airwaves’, arguably speaking more often and longer than women, interrupting more frequently and the semantic downgrading of terms that refer to women. Men’s language active and assertive Women’s language passive
power and the dominance explanation: views Power is assumed to be the key theme Power is fought over through language Men’s language is the important, public language about decision, competition, power – the language of objectivity, science Women’s language is about nuturance, caring responsiveness Women’s communicative genres are trivialised as gossip, power achieved through cattiness and bitchiness. (making the assumption men don’t gossip)
the difference model “Men mistakenly expect women to think, communicate, and react the way men do; women mistakenly expect men to feel, communicate and respond the way women do. We have forgotten that men and women are supposed to be different. As a result our relationships are filled with unnecessary conflict. Clearly recognising and respecting these differences dramatically reduce the confusion when dealing with the opposite sex. When you remember that men are from _______________ everything can be explained.” Self help writer, John Gray
Difference Gray’s metaphor takes the difference explanation to an extreme conclusion A milder version - men and women socialised into gender roles, learnt to speak in gendered ways two genders are brought up in separate gendered worlds –there are 2 genderlects, cannot help but communicate differently Suggests that Lakoff’s dichotomy - Male public powerful, competitive Female- private, nurturing, responsive - is learnt. The self-hope approach seeks to ‘translate’ across the gender border
Deborah Tannen on difference Linguist and popular author You just don’t understand and others People really believe in the difference between men and women’s communication styles “denying real difference can only compound confusion’ In most self-help advice, women are expected to change communicative behaviour or learn to translate men’s communication patterns (women buy self-help books) Problem 1: women who speak like men can be judged very harshly Problem 2: approach makes the differences even more real
Tannen’s differences Advice versus understanding Men give advice where women are seeking understanding “When my mother tells my father she doesn't feel well, he invariably offers to take her to the doctor. Invariably, she is disappointed with his reaction. Like many men, he is focused on what he can do, whereas she wants sympathy.”
Tannen’s information vs feeling Rapport talk Women Talk too much Speak in private contexts Build relationships Speak symmetrically (no power relationships) Overlap Report talk Men Get more airtime Speak in public Negotiate status/avoid failure Speak asymmetrically Interrupt
Who’s interrupting? Folk beliefs about interruption Research into interruption Zimmerman and West (1975) one of the first serious studies Found men interrupted more than women Quite a few studies found similar results Quite a few studies found women interrupt more Quite a few studies found no gender difference
Why? Zimmerman and West suggest that interruption is a tool of control Fits into the dominance model – men dominate in soceity and dominate in conversation What counts as an interruption? Back channel or supportive talk , mm, yes, oh, Only an interruption if the speaker gives up their message? Zimmerman and West worked on the assumption that there should be smooth transitions between speakers’ turns? Is this true?
More than just gender A meta-analysis of interruption data suggests that the genders react differently to different aspects of the interaction Group size Topic Task Familiarity with other speakers
Tannen’s understandings of interruptions - rapport vs report Rapport allows for interruption -> overlapping talk High-involvement and high-considerateness speakers High-involvement listeners more concerned to show they are listening, supportive, interested – simultaneous talk High consideration listeners– concerned not to impose on turns or conversation Tannen suggests high involvement listeners are also high-involvement speakers and will tolerate overlap
The dynamic model men and women share a set of variables in language use that have social meanings that index ‘gender’ speakers deploy these meaningfully at certain moments where they want to foreground their gender That is we do not just have a gender Language is just one resource that we have that helps us ‘DO gender’
The value of dynamism This means we can still say that some of the previous findings have meaning But that individuals have some agency in how they use language as a component of their gender presentation For example, women can deploy more precise colour terms, where appropriate (not all the time) or where there is some kind of communicative effect in doing so Gender now is something we construct and deconstruct and reconstruct out of shared resources that have identifiable associations and meanings
How should we approach researching language and gender? With a new understanding of gender How can we research gender? What does this mean for variationist accounts of language and gender?
Janet Holmes describes a set of hypotheses that should be explored for their veracity and universality a) women and men develop different patterns of language use b) women tend to focus on the affective functions of language more than men do c) women tend to use the linguistic devices that stress solidarity more often than men d) Women tend to interact in ways to maintain solidarity, where men might be more interested in hierarchy e) Women use more standard forms than men of the same social class f) women are more stylistically flexible than men
Sally McConnell-Ginet and Penepole Eckert’s views Ask those working in language and gender fields to a. recognise that gender is not fixed and pre-existing b. consider how gender interacts with other identity features c. challenge small scale studies on a few middle class white women d. share research with other gender researchers in other disciplines e. think locally
Gender is not an independent variable Who are these women? Who are these men? Does the list subsume all women in this category? What about class factors? Ethnicity? How do we judge women’s class? Same as husbands? Same as father’s? Are non-White women are included? Are they more powerless than White women?
Black women’s view of white women’s language Mary: Well I think White women they try to be polite or you know, it doesn’t have anything behind it. It’s like you know, ((lower volume, higher pitch)) “How are you dedededede”, it’s nothing. But with Black women it’s like a message, it’s like Girl hey what’s up? It’s like friendliness, Girl, what’s up? how you doing?
Why local? McConnell-Ginet and Eckert argue that Labovian style interest in single variants only correlations not explanations detailed ethnographic observation looking at how speakers interact with each other not researchers as well as analysis of phonetic detail gives a better picture of gender in action
what about males? While the advice of McConnell and Ginet and the understanding of gender as a kind of performance rather than a fixed pre-existing category has been taken up by theorists trying to understand how the category women and the phenomenon language are related it is only lately in the last 5-6 years that male use of language and the category male has been scrutinised
Masculinity is a performance too Some masculine styles are valued more than others Are some men (at times) dominated by other men just as women are? ‘The poor communicator model’ needs to be understood
Conclusion Gender and language is a complex area Having a sounder understanding of what gender is should underpin research Should focus on both men and women In interaction, In conjunction with the other variables, ethnicity and sexuality But also Lakoffian style lists are still useful as these stereotypes are the basis of many people’s understanding