Gendered Verbal Communication

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Gendered Verbal
Communication
Chapter 5
Expresses Cultural
Views of Gender
Language is most complex
symbol system
 Language reflects and reinforces
cultural views and values

Male Generic
Language
Male generic language erases
women
 Research shows generic language
leads many to assume only males
included

Male Generic
Language
Evidence male language not
perceived as generic
 Major dictionaries and
newspapers now avoid it
 Writing manuals caution against
its use

Male Generic
Language

For tips on how to use inclusive
language:
◦ http://www.marquette.edu/wac/
neutral/NeutralInclusiveLanguag
e.shtml
Male Generic
Language

Discourage spotlighting
◦ Highlighting a person’s sex
 Lady doctor
Language Defines
Men & Women
Differently
Women defined by appearance or
relationship with others
 Men defined by activities or
positions

Language Defines
Men & Women
Differently
Coverage of women’s sports
◦ Focuses more on women’s
appearance than skill
 Coverage of rape or abuse
◦ Irrelevant descriptions of
victims

Language Defines
Men & Women
Differently

Language reflects social views of
women as passive and men as
active in terms of sexual activity
◦ Men expected to initiate
 Language makes that seem
acceptable
Language Defines
Men & Women
Differently

Language reflects view women
defined by relationship with others
◦ News includes personal
information about women
◦ On TV, women depicted in
interpersonal contexts
Language Defines
Men & Women
Differently
In past, American unmarried
women called spinsters or old
maids
 In Mexico – me vale madre
 In Japan - leftover, underdog,
parasite single

Language Defines
Men & Women
Differently

Alternatives to traditional ways of
naming ourselves:
◦ Some women choose to retain
birth name when marry
◦ Some men and women adopt
hyphenated names
Language Defines
Men & Women
Differently

Alternatives to traditional ways of
naming ourselves:
◦ Some countries use both
mother’s and father’s family
names
Language Defines
Men & Women
Differently

Alternatives to traditional ways of
naming ourselves:
◦ Renaming to reflect matriarchal
lineage
 Still reflects male lineage –
mother’s father
Language Shapes
Awareness
Naming is important
 Previously sexual harassment not
named
◦ Not visible, making difficult to
stop
◦ When coined public recognized
as unwanted behavior

Language Shapes
Awareness

Women raped on date had no
way of naming
◦ Now, with date rape, women
have language to deal with
violation
Language Shapes
Awareness
Language not static
 Change language to change
understandings
◦ We reject terms
◦ We create new ones
 As modify language, we change
our world

Language Organizes
Perceptions
Stereotype is generalization
about entire class of phenomena
 Relying on stereotypes lead us to
overlook important qualities of
people

Language Organizes
Perceptions
Women:
emotional and
weak
 Men: rational
and strong

Language Organizes
Perceptions
Women who use assertive speech
described as rude
 Men who employ emotional
language described as wimps

Language Organizes
Perceptions
English language encourages
polarized thinking
◦ Conceiving of things as absolute
opposites
 Queer performative theory
challenges polarized language

Language Evaluates
Gender
Language reflects cultural values
 Powerful influence on perceptions

Language Evaluates
Gender

Language devalues females by
trivializing women:
◦ Immature, juvenile
◦ Equate with food, animals
◦ Diminutive suffixes
Language Evaluates
Gender

Language devalues females by
trivializing women:
◦ Calling women girls
◦ Sexually active called
derogatory names
Language Allows
Self-Reflection
Name and evaluate ourselves
 Reflect on ourselves from
society’s perspective
◦ Live in a celebrity culture
 Tempting to compare ourselves

Language Allows
Self-Reflection
Alternative to sex-typing is
androgyny
 Androgynous people possess
masculine and feminine qualities

Language Allows
Self-Reflection

Androgynous people:
◦ Communicate in range of ways
– flexible
◦ Higher self-esteem – better
adjusted
◦ More effective in workplace
◦ Happier marriages
Gendered Styles of
Verbal Comm.
Language - primary means to
express gendered identities
 Gendered styles, not sex-based
styles
 Some perform genders other than
two conventionally recognized

Gendered Speech
Communities
Langer – culture possible only to
extent people share symbol
system
 Consistent with symbolic
interactionist and cultural
theories

Gendered Speech
Communities
Labov – speech community =
group of people who share
communication norms
 Less apparent when use language
in different ways

Gendered Speech
Communities
Males and females socialized into
different speech communities
 Discussing general differences
and not absolute ones

The Lessons of
Children’s Play

Sex-segregated
groups remain
norm for
children in U.S.
The Lessons of
Children’s Play

Children as young as 2-3 show
preference for same-sex
playmates
The Lessons of
Children’s Play

Boys’ games:
◦ Large groups
◦ Competitive
◦ Clear goals
◦ Rough play
◦ Organized by rules and roles
The Lessons of
Children’s Play

Boys’ communication rules:
◦ Use communication to assert
ideas
◦ Use talk to achieve something
◦ Use communication to attract
attention
◦ Use communication to compete
for talk stage
The Lessons of
Children’s Play

Girls’ games:
◦ Pairs or small groups
◦ No preset goals and roles
◦ Not highly structured
◦ Spend more time talking
The Lessons of
Children’s Play

Girls’ communication rules:
◦ Use communication to create
relationships
◦ Use communication to establish
egalitarian relationships
The Lessons of
Children’s Play

Girls’ communication rules:
◦ Use communication to include
others
◦ Use communication to show
sensitivity
The Lessons of
Children’s Play
Girls engage in more cooperative
play
 Boys engage in more instrumental
and competitive play
 Communication rules for men and
women versions of those learned
in childhood

Feminine Speech
People socialized in feminine
speech communities use
language to foster connections
 Establishing equality important
◦ Match experiences for
symmetry
◦ Interactive pattern

Feminine Speech

Support for others
◦ Express emotion
◦ Attention to relationship level
◦ Intensive adverbs
◦ Questions probe for
understanding
Feminine Speech

Conversational maintenance work
◦ Efforts to sustain conversation
◦ Maintains interaction
◦ Opens door to others
Feminine Speech
Responsiveness
◦ Eye contact, nod, tell me more
◦ Affirms other person
 Encourages elaboration

Feminine Speech

Personal, concrete style
◦ Details
◦ Personal disclosures
◦ Anecdotes
◦ Concrete reasoning
◦ Cultivate personal tone
Feminine Speech
Tentativeness
◦ Verbal hedges
◦ Qualify statements
◦ Tag questions
 Seen as representing
powerlessness
 However, reflect desire to keep
conversation open

Masculine Speech

Masculine speech communities
regard talk as way to:
◦ Accomplish concrete goals
◦ Exert control
◦ Preserve independence
◦ Entertain
◦ Enhance status
Masculine Speech

Effort to establish status and
control
◦ Asserting ideas and authority
◦ Telling jokes
◦ Challenging others
◦ More I-references
◦ Avoid disclosing information
◦ Give advice
Masculine Speech

Instrumentality
◦ Problem-solving efforts
 Women feel men don’t care
about feelings
 Men think supporting woman
by suggesting solution
Masculine Speech

Conversational command
◦ Talk more often – greater length
◦ Reroute conversations
◦ Interrupt more frequently
Masculine Speech

Direct and assertive
◦ More forceful and authoritative
◦ Tentative forms used less
frequently
Masculine Speech

More abstract
◦ General terms
◦ Distanced from personal feelings
Masculine Speech

Less emotionally responsive
◦ Minimal response cues
 May be perceived as lack of
involvement
◦ Lack of self-disclosure,
expressed sympathy
 May be seen as vulnerable
Gender-Based
Misinterpretations
Showing support
 Troubles talk

Gender-Based
Misinterpretations
The point of the story
 Relationship talk
 Public speaking

Gender-Based
Misinterpretations
Many can improve relationships
by understanding and using both
feminine and masculine
communication styles
 Less likely to misread motives

Gender-Based
Misinterpretations
Become more gratifying
conversational partners
 Enhance quality of relationships

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