Monday, March 6, 2017

Gendered Language

Before Mr. Robertson's discussion and the reading about gendered language, I had never really thought about it before. I had thought about some things that stem from it, like women being taught to be more passive and polite, but I had never really connected it to how we're taught to speak as children. We talked about how language is used and reacted to by different genders. For example: we discussed swearing. When a girl swears, she is told, "that's not very ladylike" or "that's not attractive" or something along those lines, whereas when a boy swears, he is basically only told, "hey, don't say that." Robin Lakoff emphasized that from a young age, girls are taught that they can't speak strongly and that they are not allowed to assert their will as much as boys.

The idea of women not being allowed to be assertive came up many times throughout the discussion; we talked about how women say, "like" more often than men, a word which softens phrases and makes them less assertive. Women also avoid saying direct statements and turn them into questions to seem less assertive. We also talked about a study that was done by Stanford about business performance review differences between men and women. In many of the assessments, women are criticized for communicating directly and aggressively, something that men are praised for. Also, in the study, it was noticed that women were praised more on group and collaborative work rather than being praised on specific, individual business outcomes like men were. The conclusion of this study suggests that the way women are taught and expected to speak is what is keeping them from rising up as high as men in the business world, which I think is accurate.

We also talked about the article written by Sheila McAuliffe, which talks about how genderlects are established at a very young age. In the article, it talks about how boys' writing is much more focused on contest, power, physicality, and honor, whereas girls' focused more on community, conflict resolution, social awareness, and cooperation. We discussed with Mr. Robertson how boys aren't taught to be as attentive to detail as girls, and how girls are taught to be more descriptive and "use your words" more than boys. This reminded me of Chimamanda Adichie's verse in Flawless by Beyonce, she says, "We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller. We say to girls, 'you can have ambition, but not too much...'" She basically calls out the fact that women are taught to be passive and to not assert ourselves as much as men.

I think that genderlects and the fact that girls and boys are taught to think of themselves in different ways from each other when they are young can be dangerous. Girls are taught to not be assertive and, essentially, to not be ambitious, which can result in low self-esteem, and the feeling that they are not as good as men. Boys, on the other hand, are taught to be strong and tough, they are told not to cry and to feel ashamed when they show emotion, which leads to pent up anger and sadness and can lead to depression and other mental illnesses in the future. I understand that genderlects are unlikely to go away, but I think that it is important to at least try to make them less prominent and to teach all girls and boys the same basic ideas and values when they are young, in order to make them more equal when they grow up, which will give them similar viewpoints and future generations after them will be taught equally as well.

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