Gender and Communication

Dr. Marcia D. Dixson

Building Bridges Between the Sexes

through Understanding of our Differences and Similarities



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Chapter 4: Choosing and Using Gendered Language

Before you read the Chapter, which statements below are sexist and which are not?

1. The waitress took our order.
2. Anne is a woman doctor.
3. Edward babysat his son while his wife was away on business.
4. The partners in the law firm are Mr. Thompson, Mr. Flagler, Mr. Winstead, and Emily.

Questions over the chapter

1. Explain the statement on page 143: "The language we choose to use reveals to others who we are."

2. What is the Sapir-Whorf hypotheses? How does it fit with social construction theory?

3. What is sexist language?

4. So, do you think sexist language and practices still exist? If so, do they matter? Why or why not?

5. What is your experience with men doing report-talk and women doing rapport talk?

6. Are there gender differences in communication styles? If so,what can we do to "just get along"?

7. Check out muted group theory through either of the following: Hilbert College or excerpt from Constructing Co-Cultural Theory (pp. 21-23) or, if you really want some depth, try: this short article from the European Journal of Women's Studies! Now that you understand the theory, come up with an example when you were "muted" (even if you are not from a normally muted group) i.e., could not speak the lanaguage needed to be heard and recognized.

8. Any changes to your answers about the four statements?

Suggestions for mini-projects on sexist language

1. Choose a context and investigate one or two of the forms of sexist language: manmade language; antimale bias; pronoun problems; marking; feminine suffixes; animal, food, and plant terms; sexually objectifying terms (p 170).

2. Choose a context and investigate one or two of the sexist linguistic practices: women adopting men's names upon marriage; euphemisms or metaphors for man/woman; faulty parallel gender structure; titles and salutations.

3. Do men and women really speak differently: choose a particular aspect to investigate in a specific context: report vs. rapport; tentativeness, interruptions?