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Gender and identity • Discourse analysis approaches the issue of gender in various ways. The fall broadly into four types of approach: • The way language itself is gendered – or has become gendered; e. g. the way male pronouns can be used to refer to either males or females; • The way women and men, girls and boys are stereotypically represented in discourse; • the way men and women interact in discourse and whether or not there are differences in their style of talk; • The way language is used by males or females in specific discourse.
Discourse and gender • Gender is inescapably a biological construct. Each of us is born with his or her gender. • “However, institutions still play an important part in establishing the nature of that gendered identity, even if they do not establish the identity itself. It is not so much biology that leads to gender stereotypes as the differential behaviour and personality traits that are associated with each gender by cultural history” M. Bloor and T. Bloor, 2005.
Discourse and gender identity construction analysis • Focuses on the way “social expectations of the relative roles of women and men, carried intertextually, hamper progress towards more egalitarian structures.
Identity as constructed discursively This aspect of identity theory stresses that identity is not essential but constructed, modified and consolidated through discourse. By discourse we mean: “…the sort of language used to construct some aspect of reality from a particular perspective…” Chouliaraki and Fairclough, 1999)
Gender Identities ‘Femininity is articulated in and through commercial and mass media discourses, especially in the magazine industry and in the fashion industry of clothing and cosmetics. But most of all it is articulated on women’s bodies by women themselves. ’ (Talbot 1998: 71)
Dominant readings • Benwell defines ‘dominant readings’ as the position that the reader unconsciously assumes in a given historical moment, basing him/herself on a range of ideological positions available and which make the text understandable.
Resistant Readings • Resistant readings are rejections of the dominant ones and are assumed by reading texts critically. • What are the linguistic resources for reading texts critically?
Theories of gender-based differences in discourse • A number of linguists maintain that there are broad genderbased differences of communicative style in the discourse of men and women. These researchers have sought to identify ‘gendered discourse styles’, in other words, ways of speaking that signal masculinity or femininity by characteristic combinations of linguistic features. • These researchers often presume that “linguistic markers of men’s style and women’s style would be functionally linked to the traits and roles of men and women” Cameron 2006.
Models of gendered discourse styles • • These theories can be summarised as: Dominancemodels; Deficit models; Difference models.
The dominance model This model is typified by scholars like Dale Spender. Man Made Language (1980) presents language itself as a the embodiment of a patriarchal society. “The English language has been literally man made, and […] is still primarily under male control”.
• As evidence of this Sarah Mills in Femminist Stylistics(1998) refers to: • The use of ‘he’ as a generic pronoun; • The sexual bias of ‘man’ nouns : postman; chairman; seaman; etc. • Different terms to distinguish between female and male versions, often with negative connotations for the latter: bachelor/spister; master/mistress; courtier/cortesan; • Terms without a male equivalent: single mother; working mother; career woman; unmarried mother; • Offensive terms for unattractive women: cow; bag; crone; frump. Etc.
The deficit model • The most influential voice on this model is that of Robin Lakoff. • Her theories are most famously set out in Language and Woman’s Place (1975), in which she proposed that certain grammatical and lexical patterns typified women’s speech and expressed weakness and insecurity:
Lakoff and the construction of femininity (from Mc. Loughlin 100) Lakoff claims that the following linguistic features are characteristic of the construction of femininity: • • • Topic: woman’s work Hypercorrectness of grammar Vagueness (empty adjective); Emotional as opposed to intellectual evaluation; Intensifiers; Diminutives; Qualifiers, Politeness super polite forms ; Hedging
Difference models • Stress the differences between the language used in male and female discourse and hence used to construct female and male gender identity. • A linguist like Talbot stresses that from a young age boys and girls tend to grow in separate groups based on their sex and in the course of this they devolop constrasting linguistic habits that underlie subsequent miscommunication between them.
• Marjorie Goodwin (1980) stressed that groups of girls do not tend to be hierarchical; decisions are taken in common, with use of suggestion structures, the inclusive ‘we’ and epistemic modality. • Boys are seen as socialising in gangs which are hierarchical in which competition is present.
• On the basis of Goodwin’s observations, Daniela Maltz and Ruth Borker theorised that men and women socialise in different cultures and this division is expressed in different ways of interacting. • Male interactions are characterised by displays of power; female communication by displays of solidarity.
Report -Rapport • Deborah Tannen (1991) took these observations a step further, elaborating two binary styles of male-female discourse: • male female • Report rapport • Problem-solving sympathy • Lecturing listening • Public private • Status connection • Oppositional supportive • Independence intimacy
• In Tannen’s view male discourse has the role of transmitting information in such a way as to communicate competence; • This competence in turn serves to maintain prestige; • Men tend to listen less and are inclined to impose their opions, showing that they are more competent in presenting an argument. • Moreover, as Coates points out, they “ avoid selfdisclosure and prefer to talk about impersonal subjects”.
Binary interpretation • The linguist Talbot sees a similarity between rapport and report and affective and referential language as defined by Janet Holmes (1984). • Holmes, for instance, noted that a device like the tag question, which can be used referentially and to express doubt, and this is the form most commonly used by men. Tag questions can also be used affectively wth a facilitative or a softening function, and this, according to Holmes, is the form preferred by women.
1935 construction of femininity Many girls can knit such nice wooly jumpers for dolls, and it is just as easy to make them for small dogs who will be so grateful when the icy winds blow.
Of course some small dogs have thick hairy coats of their own and don’t need anything more, but there are several little fellows with very thin ones who feel the cold very much and to buy them proper cloth coats costs quite a lot of of money.
Then there is always the chance that one day Little Fido will take it into his head to have a good roll in the mud and his beautiful coat with his smart braid will be a sad sight. But if he wears a a woolly jumper you can just tell him what you think of his naughty ways, pop the jumper in the wash tub and out it comes as good as new.
Semantic Field and assumption • Many girls (group) can knit (traditional feminine activity) dolls (traditional feminine toys (+the whole semantic field of knitting: knit, needle, stitches, purl drop, stocking stitch, cast off etc. , extends the assumption, i. e. the implication is that the text interpreter knows how to do all this ) hence the reader’s type of femininity is constructed as someone to whom knitting and washing comes naturally and is expected to do it. • You can always pop the jumper in the wash tub • Fellow, he, his (male dogs) beneficiaries of the action • Even if you have not done much knitting (but some, yes, the assumption of a minimal knowledge)
Let the jumper over cover his ribs, but do not let it get in his way underneath and make him uncomfortable. A little Lady dog can have more length left under her tummy.
Contemporary sexual identity contstruction: Kiss this! • This conveys an apparently a diametrically opposed femminine identity; • Apparently a more symmetrical relationship between TP and TI. • The text producer uses the language of the Text Interpreter community – slang, informal language.
Classic ‘womens’’ language • vagueness; • Naughty, not quite nibbles But apart from this the text would appear to encourage a much less traditionally feminine and more assertive kind of femmininity on the part of text interpreters.
Mc. Gloughlin, however, warns against complacency (101) Why? Firstly, The text is characterised by imperatives, which firmly tell the text interpreters what to do (for whose benefit is not clear) in order to embody a particular kind of femininity.
Typically of the ambiguous discourse found in magazines, this recommendation to do only what ‘you’ are happy with contrasts with the overall discourse of the text, which suggest that it is by using the ‘snogging’ techniques it lists it is likely to make the ‘you’, that is the text interpreter, happy, precisely because it is likely to please ‘the lad’.
Construction of ambivalent femmininity The kind of femininity achieved would seem to depend on the ability to provide pleasure. Interestingly all the processes mentioned are processes material , in which ‘the lad’ is the beneficiary. There are few processes mental in this is version of femininity (the text interpreter is invited to be an actor), which are normally used to register emotional or physical pleasure for the Senser.
Further ambivalence Another example of this ambivalent discourse is to be found in the ‘nose’ section, where the reader is advised to spray some perfume on. This is followed by the concession that your own personal smell can be quite alluring, though we see that this not a personal smell, but it is a product – baby powder or a Boots roll on, so the personal smell is subtly associated with cheap products. One wonders if there was a feature on perfumes in the same issue.
Dominant/resistant readings “[…] discourse encourages dominant readings, while acknowledging the potential for resistant readings and textual ambiguity. I will attempt to point to the potential for ambiguous or multiple readings, and even examples where ambiguity is an effect which serves the dominant ideology of the magazine. ” Bethan Benwell 2002.