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Muted Group
Theory
Cheris Kramarae
I.WhatisMutedGroupTheory?
II.MakeupofMutedGroups
III.Assumptionsof MutedGroupTheory
IV.TheProcessofSilencing
V.StrategiesofResistance
OUTLINE
 focuses on the power to name
experiences.
 variety of experiences of the creators
are named clearly in language, whereas
the experiences of other groups are not.
Due to their problems adapting to a
language they did not create, people
from other groups appear less articulate
than those from groups like the
creators. Sometimes these muted
groups create their own language to
compensate for their problems with the
dominant group’s language.
What is Muted
Group Theory?
Makeupof
MutedGroups
 Dominant group, or the group that holds the
power in the culture. Other groups that coexist
with the dominant group are generally
subordinate to it in that they do not have
access to as much power as do members of
the dominant group.
 Sex, biological category divided into male and
female
 Gender, social category consisting of the
learned behaviors that constitute masculinity
and femininity for a given culture
However, it is also the case that the terms sex
and gender are often blurred because women
are socialized to be feminine and men are
encouraged to be masculine.
1. Women perceive the world
differently than men because of
women’s and men’s different
experiences and activities rooted in
the division of labor ---- Gender-
Based Differences in Perception
 gender polarization - lens that
caused people to see women and
men as very different from each
other.
 second shift - where working
mothers put in eight hours at their
paid job and then come home to do
a second shift there.
Assumptions
of Muted
Group Theory
2. Because of their political
dominance, men’s system of
perception is dominant, impeding the
free expression of women’s alternative
models of the world. --- Male
Dominance
Assumptions
of Muted
Group
Theory
3. In order to participate in society,
women must transform their own
models in terms of the received male
system of expression. --- Women’s
Translation Processes
Assumptions
of Muted
Group Theory
The Process
of
Silencing
The Process
of Silencing
1. Ridicule
- points out that women’s
speech is trivialized.
The Process
of Silencing
2. Ritual
- Some people have pointed out
that many social rituals have the
effect of silencing women or
advocating that women are
subordinate to men.
The Process
of Silencing
3. Control
- Researchers have noted that
men control many decisions,
such as what goes into history
books, leaving women’s history
untapped.
The Process
of Silencing
4. Harassment
- noting that women do not
have free access to public
streets.
Strategiesof
Resistance
1.One strategy of resistance consists of
naming the strategies of silencing as
we have suggested. Through this
process, the silencing is made
accessible and a topic for discussion.
2.To reclaim, elevate, and celebrate
“trivial” discourse.
3.Women also are creating a new and
more representative language to
capture their experiences.
Muted Group Theory

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Muted group theory

  • 3.  focuses on the power to name experiences.  variety of experiences of the creators are named clearly in language, whereas the experiences of other groups are not. Due to their problems adapting to a language they did not create, people from other groups appear less articulate than those from groups like the creators. Sometimes these muted groups create their own language to compensate for their problems with the dominant group’s language. What is Muted Group Theory?
  • 4. Makeupof MutedGroups  Dominant group, or the group that holds the power in the culture. Other groups that coexist with the dominant group are generally subordinate to it in that they do not have access to as much power as do members of the dominant group.  Sex, biological category divided into male and female  Gender, social category consisting of the learned behaviors that constitute masculinity and femininity for a given culture However, it is also the case that the terms sex and gender are often blurred because women are socialized to be feminine and men are encouraged to be masculine.
  • 5. 1. Women perceive the world differently than men because of women’s and men’s different experiences and activities rooted in the division of labor ---- Gender- Based Differences in Perception  gender polarization - lens that caused people to see women and men as very different from each other.  second shift - where working mothers put in eight hours at their paid job and then come home to do a second shift there. Assumptions of Muted Group Theory
  • 6. 2. Because of their political dominance, men’s system of perception is dominant, impeding the free expression of women’s alternative models of the world. --- Male Dominance Assumptions of Muted Group Theory
  • 7. 3. In order to participate in society, women must transform their own models in terms of the received male system of expression. --- Women’s Translation Processes Assumptions of Muted Group Theory
  • 9. The Process of Silencing 1. Ridicule - points out that women’s speech is trivialized.
  • 10. The Process of Silencing 2. Ritual - Some people have pointed out that many social rituals have the effect of silencing women or advocating that women are subordinate to men.
  • 11. The Process of Silencing 3. Control - Researchers have noted that men control many decisions, such as what goes into history books, leaving women’s history untapped.
  • 12. The Process of Silencing 4. Harassment - noting that women do not have free access to public streets.
  • 13. Strategiesof Resistance 1.One strategy of resistance consists of naming the strategies of silencing as we have suggested. Through this process, the silencing is made accessible and a topic for discussion. 2.To reclaim, elevate, and celebrate “trivial” discourse. 3.Women also are creating a new and more representative language to capture their experiences.

Editor's Notes

  1. Inarticulate – not able to express ideas clearly and effectively in speech or writing ; incapable of speech especially under stress of emotion
  2. I.(after reading the first bullet) According to Martin & Nakayama, Thus, African Americans, gays and lesbians, the elderly, the lower class, disabled people, non-Christians, and Asian Americans, all can be members of muted groups, in the same way that women are. In fact, some researchers have suggested that men might be part of a muted group as well. Radhika Chopra (2001) examines the issue of muting for nurturing fathers. Although some Muted Group theorists might disagree that fathers are ever in a low-power position, Chopra concludes that giving voice to “father-care” is a critical process that will remove the category of caregiving from female ownership and in so doing transform the concept of gender identity completely. II. (after reading second bullet) Philip Smith (1985) observes that most people believe that sex is “an inherent and/or God-given attribute of individuality, an inalienable, incontrovertible fact of human existence”
  3. I. (after reading first bullet) This first assumption begins with the premise that the world is a different place for women and men and that their experiences differ. - The explanation lies in the division of labor that allocates work on the basis of sex, such that women are responsible for tasks in the home and men are responsible for work outside the home. The separation of the workplace from the home led to a recognition of the two as separate spheres. Or simply the conceptualization of public and private came about, and the family was classed as private life. - II. viewing men and women as polar opposites - “From birth it is clear that male and female babies are treated differently. . . . Male [infants] are more likely than female infants to be described as ‘strong,’ ‘solid,’ or ‘independent.’ Female infants, on the other hand, are often described as ‘loving,’ ‘cute,’ and ‘sweet”. III. Intro: We can see how males and females are treated differently and expected to do different activities. Even when women work outside the home, they are often still expected to take primary responsibility for the home and care for children or elderly parents as the need arises - the phenomenon of working women putting in eight hours on the job and another day’s work at home
  4. I. This assumption states that men are the dominant group, and their experiences are given preference over women’s - Specifically, men are in charge of naming and labeling social life, and women’s experiences are often unnamed as a result. Women then have difficulties talking about their experiences. For example, She would like him to share the dinner-making responsibilities but the job always falls upon her. Occasionally, he says, “I would be glad to make dinner. But you do it so much better than I.” She was pleased to receive this compliment but as she found herself in the kitchen each time she realized that he was using a verbal strategy for which she had no word and thus had more difficulty identifying and bringing to his awareness. In this example, the woman had difficulty naming her experience although she knew something was occurring that she wished to talk about. Muted Group Theory takes a different perspective, however, noting that these problems are not the result of women’s inadequacies but rather are caused by the unresponsiveness of the language women have to express themselves. MGT argues that any speaker would be inarticulate if there were no words to describe her or his thoughts.
  5. Intro: Before the 1970s, the term sexual harassment did not exist. Women who experienced what we now call sexual harassment had nothing to use for labeling their experiences. As Gloria Steinem has said, before the term was accepted into the vocabulary, women simply accepted harassment as part of life. For instance, Angie had a job in a library years ago, and her boss was a male who liked to comment on her figure and compare it to his wife’s. At the time, Angie could only say that she had a bad job with a horrible boss. This lack of terminology makes the experience individual and minimizes the inappropriateness of the behavior in the workplace. Labeling it sexual harassment places it in a category, suggests some coping strategies, and points to its seriousness. Furthermore, giving the experience a term, sexual harassment, allows us to see that it exists broadly and is supported at many levels of society. Social change is possible when we recognize the phenomenon with a label. Similarly, the terms date rape, marital rape, and stalking all name crimes that without the labels might simply be seen as individual problems and not be recognized as serious offenses. Without these words, women faced silence when they wanted to talk about their experiences, and they were at a loss for instituting social change.
  6. silence is accomplished through a social understanding of who holds the power and who does not
  7. “Men label women’s talk chattering, gossiping, nagging, whining, bitching (Cut the cackle!)” (p. 390). Men often say that women talk about meaningless things and claim that they cannot understand how women spend so much time on the phone talking to their girlfriends. Women themselves often refer to their own talk as gabbing or gossiping. Women are also told that they have no sense of humor, and this is an opportunity for ridicule. Also, women’s concerns are often trivialized by men as not being important enough to listen to, yet women are expected to be supportive listeners for men.
  8. One such ritual is the wedding ceremony. There are a number of aspects in the traditional ceremony that silence the bride. First, the groom stands at the front while the bride is “delivered” to him on the arm of her father. The father then “gives her away” to the groom. Furthermore, the groom stands at the right hand of the minister (or whoever officiates), and this is traditionally a place of higher status than the bride’s position, to the left. The groom says the vows first. The bride wears a veil and a white gown to indicate that she has been “preserved” for the groom. The groom is told at the end that he may kiss the bride. The couple is pronounced “man” and “wife,” and traditionally, the bride changes her name to the groom’s. In many services, the couple is introduced immediately after the vows as Mr. and Mrs. John Smith.
  9. Furthermore, many communication practices place men as central and women as eclipsed. For instance, men talk more than women in mixed-sex interactions despite conventional wisdom to the contrary. A communication behavior that keeps men in control is interruptions. When men interrupt women, the women often switch to talk about whatever topic the men raise. When women interrupt men, this is usually not the case. Men frequently go back to what they originally were talking about. They refuse to consider what the women are speaking about and shift the conversation to a topic of their preference
  10. Why is that? Men control public spaces in that women walking there may receive verbal threats (sometimes couched as compliments). When women who have experienced sexual harassment are labeled as hysterical, overly sensitive, or troublemakers, their concerns are dismissed and defined as unimportant.
  11. Intro: Muted Group Theory is a critical theory; as such, it goes beyond explaining a phenomenon—such as women’s muting—to advocating change in the status quo. 2. women are beginning to celebrate and study oral histories, diaries and journals, and the so-called alternative means of expression like sewing, weaving, and other handwork that is often done by women. Through examining these forums for expression, women are recognizing the “effectiveness, impact, and eloquence of women’s communicative experiences as well as men’s” 3. Elgin (1988) invented a whole language, which she calls Laadan, focusing on women’s experiences. Kramarae and Paula Treichler (1985) compiled a feminist dictionary to give woman-centered definitions to words of importance in women’s experiences
  12. Through naming strategies of silencing, reclaiming, elevating, and celebrating women’s discourse, and creating new language for uniquely gendered experiences, muting can be resisted. In short, there are many approaches to changing the situation that MGT delineates and explains.