Posted by: gehr83 | September 15, 2016

How Language and Communication affect Dialogue

“Girls use more mitigating language than boys,” (Eckes & Trautner 2006). In class we discussed how women are less assertive than men and that when they use more assertive language that they are less likely to be listened to. Women’s social roles are enforced at the preschool level, and through their interactions they are much more submissive in conversation. While Children interact very differently depending on the context, girls still remain less dominant in social groups with other girls. The fact that hedging language is a technique many women adopt to be less aggressive in their statements is quite interesting. The expectations that leaders should openly be more dependent upon their expertise in a topic makes it hard to believe women should have to fall back on hedging language to be heard by others and have their statements accepted. This is very unfortunate but ultimately there is a bigger problem than simply women using specific wording to be heard, it is the language itself.

Humans have used language for thousands of years to communicate and spread ideas. Many languages have different conjugations for whom you are talking to and this may possibly be the route of the problem. In English, we use pronouns to identify the gender. This can be seen as a problem because we have examined that often times women are valued less, and if society developed total equality the language would probably have to become gender neutral. When you examine the word King people automatically think of a powerful man that can command armies and sway the opinion of the public. The word Queen on the other hand is less significant and might only be defined as the king’s wife. While there are definite exceptions to my analysis it is hard to argue that the connotation for the two words is still wrong according to society. The gender neutral term would be ruler, which establishes a perception of power and does not identify gender.

Finally, other languages are even more extreme than English, and in many romantic languages words are associated with either being masculine or feminine. This plays even more into the fact that their is a disadvantage for women to break out of societal standards and become leaders. While in many countries there have been women leaders, there is also more distaste for them if they are not as successful as their male counterpart. In Pakistan, their first woman Prime Minister was eventually killed at a rally for her campaign because of small groups of radicals who thought that women had no place in politics. What do you all think, does language create more inequality? Is there anyway to change Language to grant more power for women?

Source: Eckes, T., & Trautner, H. M. (2006). The Developemental Social Psychology of Gender. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Eavebaum Assoc.

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Responses

  1. I do see where you are coming from here, I don’t see language itself as damaging to women. In your example of King vs Queen, the problem is not that there are different words. In that situation the problem is that there are misinformed ideas that women leaders may not be as strong as male leaders. Changing the word will not get rid of the real problem. Also, I don’t find masculine and feminine gendered nouns to be damaging to women either. I would need more examples of that. In french at least, words like strength and assertiveness are actually gendered feminine.

  2. This is such an interesting question. While yes, language creates inequality, I think the inequality comes from how the language is used. These examples of monarchical language has obvious connotations to them that conjure up images that are gender-based. Where the danger lies is in the connotations that follow in terms of a queen’s reign versus a king’s reign. That is where beliefs about their competencies are formed. I’m not sure how to separate the connotations from certain words without simply changing the way there used. I do believe, though, that with an evolution of how women leadership terms are used, leadership in general can become less genderized and simply discussed in terms of who is the most capable, competent, and suited, regardless of the leader’s biological gender.

  3. Language as an entity, I would argue, does not diminish the role of women in society. It would be the use of language that does so. Even so, not all women use hedging language, and there are some men who do use it as well. There are also plenty of women who are assertive and have dominant personalities, but are still very capable of not offending their audience. And it can be done without hedging language. There are many ways to take charge of a situation and assert control without being bossy. Men AND women can both do this. We have to break out of these bubbles where we constantly decide that women do this or women do that and come to terms with the fact that everyone is different. The more we move away from gendering the use of language, the less damaging it will be to female leaders who are scrutinized for it.


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