AO2 is all about…
Discuss/Debate Alternative Views/Theories:
- identify and challenge standpoints
- evaluate all views – those expressed, alternative views, those of theorists, and your own
- eschew any narrow-minded attitudes (Section B texts are “eminently challengeable”)
- demonstrate a conceptualised overview of theories and research
- employ an exploratory/original/evaluative approach – have your own ideas
- show understanding of social and cultural contexts affecting attitudes.
- debate issues about gendered language
- evaluate research findings
- evaluate specific instances / examples (have your own prepared for each of the four strands)
AS you annotate texts / tables, be on the look-out for any contestable points, as well as anywhere assumptions are made: where can you introduce your own examples, knowledge of theorists, or initiate a debate?
A Text from a Section A question on Political Correctness
Schulz, Muriel R. “The Semantic Derogation of Woman” from The Feminist Critique of Language: A Reader. Ed. Deborah Cameron. 1990.
In “The Semantic Derogation of Woman” Muriel Schulz presents an interesting observation and critique of the almost ritual debasement of words which refer to women. She claims that this shows the attitudes and fears that men hold about women. Schultz explains the path that words descend and expounds on several theories of why one can predict with near certainty that words, once neutral or positive, denoting women acquire negative and often sexual connotations.
Schulz points out that while we can not tell how much language effects the culture that we live in, we do know that language reflects the culture that constructs that language. For this reason, Schulz contends, by examining language regarding women we can learn a great deal about the fears and prejudices men have about women. Historically men have made language for many reasons. Mainly men have created language because they were the primary creators of most cultures. So, when Schultz examines biases she is asserting that these are male biases that have been handed down through the generations.
The least offensive form of degradation is what Schultz calls ” democratic leveling” (135). This is the method where titles that where once only applicable to those of high rank, but become applicable to those of common standing as well. This form of deterioration may not be abusive or insulting, yet it still helps to assert that women are not fit to hold high office or positions of power.
The largest portion of this reading is devoted to tracing various kinds of words that have gradually come to mean prostitute or sexually promiscuous woman. Words that designate women family often degenerate to equate prostitute or mistress. Work which women historically performed often by women becomes synonymous with “the oldest profession”. Strangely enough even terms of endearment for women frequently collate to the word prostitute as well. Schulz notes that it is interesting that terms of endearment, which are meant to stress those things men appreciate, often become acquainted with a degraded, shameful profession.
Schulz does assert that sometimes negative words describing women are not sexual, but that these usually apply to overweight or dirty women. Words which refer to older women have undesirable connotations which imply that older women are unattractive and a bad temper. Schulz states that, furthermore, women who are overweight seem to garner words which refer to old, worn out, and useless animals such as horses and cows.
The final part of the article is devoted to exploring differences in how words are applied to men and women and some possible explanations why this happens. She ends by stating that language is circular, that language reflects culture and then passes the cultures fears and prejudices on. For this reason Schulz feels that it is justified to become aware of the path of degradation words relating to women follow.
Political Correctness Theory to apply:
- Edward Sapir’s Principle of Linguistic Relativity – 1924
- Strong Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis – Determinism
- Weak Sapir Whorf Hypothesis – Reflectionism
- Sexist Language Debate – The Origins of Political Correctness
- George Orwell – The Principals of Newspeak
- George Orwell – Politics & The English Language
- Dr. David Bourland – E-Prime
- Guy Deutscher – Through The Language Glass – 2010
- The “Boas-Jakobson Principle”
- The non-egocentric coordinates of the Guugu Yimithirr tribe of North Eastern Australia
- Sex & Syntax in French, German & Spanish
- Russian Blue
- The Matses tribe of the Amazon
- Dwight Bolinger – Language The Loaded Weapon by (1980)
- Deborah Cameron – Language & Political Correctness in Verbal Hygiene (1995)
- Dale Spender – Man Made Language – (1980)
- Kate Burridge – Political correctness: euphemism with attitude
So, what can I take issue with?
the almost ritual debasement of words which refer to women
– “he” as the norm, “her” as different
the attitudes and fears that men hold about women
– does sexist language make us sexist or does sexist attitudes generate sexist language?
that words, once neutral or positive, denoting women acquire negative and often sexual connotations.
– how does this happen? Do we control it? Can we control it? If not, surely the original goals behind political correctness cannot be met – i.e. making a fairer society through making a fairer language
we can not tell how much language effects the culture that we live in
– Strong Vs Weak Sapir Whorf Hypothesis?
we do know that language reflects the culture that constructs that language
– Linguistic Relativism? Do foreign languages reflect the culture? (Or does it determine the culture – i.e. the thinking of those native to that language?
– What does Guy Deutscher argue?
by examining language regarding women we can learn a great deal about the fears and prejudices men have about women.
– What does Orwell reveal about the prejudices of people through their “abuse” of the English Language?
Historically men have made language for many reasons.
– Dale Spender – “Man Made Langugae”
various kinds of words that have gradually come to mean prostitute or sexually promiscuous woman.
– Dwight Bollinger – “Language the Loaded Weapon”
even terms of endearment for women frequently collate to the word prostitute as well.
Schulz does assert that sometimes negative words describing women are not sexual, but that these usually apply to overweight or dirty women.
Words which refer to older women have undesirable connotations which imply that older women are unattractive and a bad temper.
– Kate Burridge – “Political correctness: euphemism with attitude”
women who are overweight seem to garner words which refer to old, worn out, and useless animals such as horses and cows.
– How does Deborah Cameron in “Language & Political Correctness in Verbal Hygiene” take issue with such tendencies?
differences in how words are applied to men and women
language is circular …language reflects culture and then passes the cultures fears and prejudices on.
– Does Orwell contend, in his notes on Newspeak, that people’s fears, hopes, and aspirations, as well as aspirations, can be manipulated by changing the language they speak
The same can be done for Section A type texts in the same (Political Correctness) strand such as:
In defence of political correctness
Hugh Muir guardian.co.uk, 21 December 2009
Well the first thing to be grateful for is that everything is obviously ticking over very nicely in Shipley, west Yorkshire. True, unemployment is 31% higher than it was in 1997, according to the local MP. And sitting close to Bradford, it has its fair share of urban social problems.
But none of this is too much cause for worry, for as the Guardian disclosed on Friday, Philip Davies, the local MP, has found time, after playing his full part in the Commons and dealing with the whole gamut of issues raised by his constituents, to wage a one-man letter-writing campaign against the evil of political correctness. Freedom of information requests reveal that he has written on 19 occasions in 20 months to the Equality and Human Rights Commission to learn more on pressing issues such as is it OK for white actors to black up, why can’t white people join the Black Police Association (er, they can), and why is the Orange award for fiction restricted to women.
A seeker of context and truths? Well, not exactly. Hyperactive, as he seemingly is, Davies also finds time to spearhead the parliamentary activities of the Campaign Against Political Correctness. He also plays a vigorous organising role in another rightwing pressure group, the Tory-linked Taxpayers Alliance. He sent his letters as a form of ideological badger baiting and it was all great fun when the hounding was being done on the quiet. Doesn’t look half as clever now that his inquiries have seen the light of day and he is revealed as a bit of a twerp.
But for all that, he is mining a rich seam for we have got ourselves into a sorry mess over so-called political correctness. “In our relationships we are bedevilled by the cult of political correctness,” complained the author PD James last year. “This whole political correctness thing bugs me like mad,” laments Cliff Richard. Everywhere you go, people are angry. “Political correctness has now become the dominant ideology of the west,” said a report produced for the thinktank Civitas. “We all rage against political correctness,” said David Cameron.
Well the first thing I’d like to know – and maybe I should write to Davies – is how we now define political correctness. Because it does seem to me that a lot of permanently aggrieved people, mainly on the right but not exclusively so, merely use it as a catch-all phrase to describe anything that irks them. The ones who complain most audibly about the inability of the majority to speak without fear of upsetting minorities seem to be the ones being quite rude about minorities anyway. Some have newspaper columns or act as pundits. What would they be like without a handbrake?
And many who complain of PC meaning that other religions are accorded more respect than Christianity show little sign themselves of any Christian charity. Certainly, few show any obvious inclination to get themselves to a church.
The fact is that political correctness has become the complaint of choice for those who don’t like their world; for men who fear their positions are being eroded by women, white people who fear too much attention is being paid to non-white people, minorities jealous of other minorities, non-disabled folk who can’t see why buses should have wheelchair ramps, tall people who fear short people. It embraces everything. It means nothing. The term, as bandied about these days, is valueless.
In a society as fast-changing as ours, there is a debate to be had about relationships. How much do we assimilate? How do we interact? How do we acknowledge difference? And human nature being as it is, that will be a spiky debate. We shouldn’t run from that.
But covering all of this in the cloak of grievance now called political correctness just makes things more difficult. Let’s agree at the outset that it is a good thing to have respect, to be civil, to be inclusive, to avoid unnecessary offence, to try to act to give the various sections of society equal opportunities. For these, it seems to me, are really the concepts at the heart of what critics such as Davies carelessly deride as political correctness. As ideas, they seem laudable. Shame to see them sullied by those for whom whinging has become a way of life.
Or indeed for texts from any other strand such as Gender & Interaction:
…what issues could you raise / ideas debate in the places indicated?
What language barrier? – Deborah Cameron The Guardian, Oct ’07
Do men and women speak the same language? Can they ever really communicate?* These questions are not new, but since the early 1990s there has been a new surge of interest in them. Countless self-help and popular psychology books have been written portraying men and women as alien beings, and conversation between them as a catalogue of misunderstandings.
The most successful exponents of this formula, such as Deborah Tannen, author of You Just Don’t Understand, and John Gray, author of Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus, have topped the bestseller lists on both sides of the Atlantic. Advice on how to bridge the communication gulf* between the sexes has grown into a flourishing multimedia industry. Gray’s official website, for instance, promotes not only his various Mars and Venus books, but also seminars, residential retreats, a telephone helpline and a dating service.
Readers who prefer something a little harder-edged* can turn to a genre of popular science books with titles such as Brain Sex, Sex on the Brain, The Essential Difference, and Why Men Don’t Iron. These explain that the gulf between men and women is a product of nature, not nurture. The sexes communicate differently (and women do it better) because of the way their brains are wired. The female brain excels in verbal tasks whereas the male brain is better adapted to visual-spatial and mathematical tasks. Women like to talk; men prefer action to words.*
Writers in this vein are fond of presenting themselves as latter-day Galileos, braving the wrath of the political correctness lobby by daring to challenge the feminist orthodoxy that denies that men and women are by nature profoundly different*. Simon Baron-Cohen, the author of The Essential Difference, explains in his introduction that he put the book aside for several years because “the topic was just too politically sensitive”. In the chapter on male-female differences in his book about human nature, The Blank Slate, Steven Pinker congratulates himself on having the courage to say what has long been “unsayable in polite company”. Both writers stress that they have no political axe to grind: they are simply following the evidence where it leads, and trying to put scientific facts in place of politically correct dogma*.
Yet before we applaud, we should perhaps pause to ask ourselves: since when has silence reigned about the differences between men and women? Certainly not since the early 1990s, when the previous steady trickle of books began to develop into a raging torrent*. By now, a writer who announces that sex-differences are natural is not “saying the unsayable”: he or she is stating the obvious. The proposition that men and women communicate differently is particularly uncontroversial, with cliches such as “men never listen”* and “women find it easier to talk about their feelings”* referenced constantly in everything from women’s magazines to humorous greeting cards.
The idea that men and women “speak different languages” has itself become a dogma, treated not as a hypothesis to be investigated* or as a claim to be adjudicated, but as an unquestioned article of faith. Our faith in it is misplaced. Like the scientists I have mentioned, I believe in following the evidence where it leads. But in this case, the evidence does not lead where most people think it does. If we examine the findings of more than 30 years of research on language, communication and the sexes, we will discover that they tell a different, and more complicated, story*.
Theory to apply:
– Robin Lakoff – Predictions in Language and Woman’s place (1975) – The Deference or Deficit Model
– Zimmerman & West – Sex Roles, Interruptions and Silences (1975) – The Dominance Model
– Dubois & Crouch – 1976 – men using more tag questions in their research.
– Pamela Fishman – Conversational Insecurity (1980) –Women’s use of repeated tag questions are an effective way to gain conversational power as opposed to a marker of any lack of power.
– Helena Leet-Pellegrini – Conversational Dominance (1980) – Looking at both gender and expertise as variables in conversations
– Janet Holmes – (1984) – Tag Questions can be either Modal or Affective
– Cameron, McAlinden & O’Leary 1989 – men and women using the same number of tag questions in their research
– O’Barr & Atkins – Women’s Language or Powerless Language (1980) – “Women’s Language” is Powerless Language
– Dale Spender – 1980 – Man Made Language – the assumptions behind the research into “female language” biases the results, that there is such a thing as “women’s language” and the research was set up in order to delineate its aspects.
– Deborah Tannen – You Just Don’t Understand (1990) –Rapport Talk & Report Talk, Cooperative Overlaps Vs Uncooperative Overlaps & The Androcentric Principle: women are seen as “lames”.
– Victoria DeFrancisco – How Men Silence Women (1991) – Topic Acceptance – “Conversational Shitwork”.
– John Gray – Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus (1992) –Gray writes almost exclusively about differences.
– Deborah Cameron – The Myth of Mars & Venus (2007) – Differences between men’s and women’s speech style are actively sought, promoted by academia and the popular press, frame our perceptions, bias our understanding of the issue, reinforce the purported styles, and render a scientific exploration of the issue very difficult indeed.