Discourse Ks – Gonzaga Debate Institute 14

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Gendered Language

Notes from Eric B.

1: Don't Use Gendered Language in the First Place, If you know that you use it often in your vocabulary focus on eliminating it entirely or at least in any achedemic activity.

2: If you use Gendered Language Correct yourself (or your partner): if you accidentally call someone by the wrong gender pronoun or refer to a group of both genders as “Guys” than fix it. The first step toward eliminating this language is fixing it and constantly correcting yourself or others.

3: Apologize: If someone reads a gender language argument against you or your partner the first thing to do is apologizing for your discourse. This apology should be sincere and should acknowledge that Gendered Language is bad: this is an important step to not seem like a sexist or an ignorant person. Explain how you acknowledge your discourse and will change it but, that the ballot isn’t a helpful way to create change.

4: Go for the policing argument: One of the strongest and most legitimate arguments to combat a ballot against you is to argue that punishment or policing of language is bad. There are a lot of legitimate reasons this is true and there is a debate to be had.

5: Learn from your mistakes: the first thing you should learn if you are dropped on Gendered language is that you need to fix you discourse. If you don't personally believe calling people by the wrong gender pronoun is wrong than at least acknowledge that you cannot do it in debate and that it is offensive.


Masculine generics perpetuate sexism and exclusion

Weatherall, Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Wellington ‘02

(Ann, Gender, Language and Discourse, P. 13-14, ESB)

One way in which language can be considered sexist is that, at a symbolic level, it makes women seem invisible. One aspect of the invisibility of women in language is their absence as the subjects of stories or topics of articles. Some empirical evidence of women's absence was provided by Caldas-Coulthard (1995), who analysed the content of a sample of American newspapers. Caldas-Coulthard found that news items were more likely to be written by men than women and were also more likely to be about men. Furthermore, Caldas-Coulthard found that men were more often quoted as saying things than women and were more often attributed as being the agents of action than women. Hence, in news reports women are not only ignored by not being the writers and subjects of stories, but are also marginalised by being denied the role of active agents. Religion has long been criticised for effectively undermining women's existence through language style choices. For example, Miller and Swift (1976) criticised major Western religions for their patriarchal world view which, they argued, gets maintained by the use of metaphors and symbols that are male-oriented. Referring to God with words such as father and king evokes the image of a god that is male ± a myth that is attacked in feminist humour (e.g. when God created man she was only joking) and by those directly involved in religious organisations (see Gross, 1996). Feminist activists such as Dale Spender have responded to women's exclusion. The response has included writing books that recover and publicise stories about and by women ± stories that have, for a number of different reasons, been hidden and forgotten. In her book Man-made language Spender (1980) argued that just because women, historically, have not been the in ̄uential thinkers and have not had the opportunities to in ̄uence language does not mean that women have not had great thoughts or held important theories of language. Rather the knowledge that women have produced and the meanings they have generated have not always entered the public arena like those produced by men. The reason for women's relative invisibility in the public arena is that women have not always had straightforward access to the technologies and institutions that transmit information from one generation to another. A well-documented aspect of women being ignored in language is the use of masculine forms, such as `chairman', `mankind', `guys', `helmsman' and `®reman', when referring to people in general or a person whose gender is unknown or unspeci®ed. Conventionally these forms, called masculine generics, are the grammatically correct way to generally refer to an unspeci®ed person or to a group of people. But of course such words are also masculine-speci®c terms and can be interpreted as excluding women. Arguably, terms such as `chairperson', `humans' and `helm' are more neutral than their masculine generic equivalents because they have no gender marking.

As a speech communication community we have a special obligation to reject gendered language

West and Pagano 92

(Terry L. and Laura A., “Gender-Specific Language in Intercollegiate Debate: A Preliminary Investigation”, Oct, Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Speech Communication Association (78th, Chicago, IL, October 29-November 1, http://www.eric.ed.gov/ERICDocs/data/ericdocs2sql/content_storage_01/0000019b/80/13/81/b2.pdf

As academic debate professionals within the field of speech communication, this imprecision alone is ample justification to examine the pedagogical needs which exist in our community regarding gender exclusive language. Sprague (1975) contends that the speech communication discipline is uniquely suited to focus upon issues of language, arguing that "avoidance of the question on the grounds that 'it's trivial to quibble over words' is so antithetical to the traditional stance of our discipline that it raises the suspicion that self-interest may be overriding scientific inquiry" (p. 41). Randall (1985) further supports this call to duty, noting our discipline's particular concern about "clarity, objectivity, and precision," as justifying action against sexist language (p. 131-132).

Additional rationale supports examination of the impact of gender exclusive language in academic debate. Specifically, research indicates that gender exclusive language is harmful to women in particular and society in general. Martyna (1978) presents empirical evidence that use of masculine generic referents results in predominantly male images among college students (p. 137). Henley (1987) reviewed literature from numerous studies including Martyna's and found that gender exclusive usage detrimentally affects women's self-esteem and general beliefs about women's ability to perform certain jobs. Memory and comprehension, clearly significant to any pedagogy of learning, were also found to be adversely affected by the masculine generic form, and achievement levels of female students were directly enhanced by use of female-inclusive language (p. 7). The importance of these exclusionary effects is also felt in a larger societal context. Linguist Deborah Cameron (1985) contends that feminists must explore the role of language in supporting patriarchy so that they may overcome oppression (p. 3). She specifically analyzes the development of masculine generics, and concludes that they have prevailed because of their sexist nature, reinforcing and reinforced by the patriarchy (pp. 63-66). Randall (1985), after examining Bodine's article detailed earlier in this essay, concludes that "the use of masculine pronouns to refer to both sexes . . . is blatantly sexist, since it asks us to change widespread, long-lived spoken and written habits, to shift from a true generic [the singular "they") to one that eliminates females",(p. 131). Given the above analysis it is hardly surprising that Blaubergs concludes, "sexist language by its existence reinforces and socializes sexist thinking and practices" (Gastil, 1990, p. 630).

Further evidence of the negative impact of gender exclusive language abounds. Gastil (1990) showed that "for both men and women he produces mostly male images with a few mixed images, scant female images, and few images of themselves" (p. 638). Gastil further relates what has become known as the "Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis"--our grammar shapes our thought (p. 630). Performing a statistical analysis of variance to analyze the effect of generic pronoun usage on perception, he concludes that the generic "he" indeed contains a male bias, and that the deterministic hypothesis is plausible (p. 639). We find more support for linguistic determinism from Richmond and Gorham (1988), who claim that while "linguists disagree on how, and how much, words affect perception, . . . most agree they do" (p. 142). The consensus in favor of the deterministic hypothesis is an important one. While gender-specific language may affect society by direct discrimination as described above, determinism has a more subtle effect upon each individual. The importance of this effect is developed by Sprague (1975), when she writes "much of the task of education is to encourage each student to develop a positive and viable self-concept" (p. 41). If linguistic determinism is true, and if the numerous examples of empirical research showing the sexism inherent in gender-specific language are to be believed, we are bound once again to incorporate the pedagogical justifications explained by Sprague and others in abolishing use of the masculine generic. Only then can we work toward a system of language which does not "determine" that men are important, and women are not.

Link: He, Him, His

Generic use reinforces male as norm

Goueffic Linguistic Analyst ‘96

(Louise, BA graduate studies in France. Breaking the patriarchal code. Pg. 13-14: 1996. Accessed 7/4/14, ESB)

From the I 960s until today, such-questioning has involved a shift from looking at gender bias in language as an abstract system, to looking at bias in language use and at potentially sexist discourses, which may be obvious, or subtle, or even unarticulated. We will deal with the latter in Chapter 3, and in the rest of this book. There are a number of areas that have been highlighted regarding the former, i.e. gender bias in language as an abstract system. One of them is the problematic use of pronouns, particularly the (arguably) generic use of 'he', 'him', 'his' to refer to both men and women. Feminists such as Spender (1990) believe that language is man- made, with male forms being seen as the norm and female ones seen as deviant. Some have claimed that the use of generics 'he'/,him'/,his', as well as 'man'/'mankind' and expressions like 'the man in the street', to refer to both men and women, reinforces this binary understanding of norm and deviance, promotes male imagery, and makes women invisible. These claims exemplify the 'dominance approach' (see Chapter 2), in that the use of generic expressions is seen to be preventing women from expressing and raising consciousness about their own experience, and perpetuating men's domi- nance and exploitative behaviour. In addition to the male being treated as the norm or unmarked term and to women being hidden behind such terminology, feminists have objected to the use of generic expressions such as 'man', saying that they are not true generics (Graddol and Swann, 1989). Spender illustrated this with an example that is acceptable in English: 'Man is the only primate that commits rape'; and an example that is not: 'man being a mam- mal that breastfeeds his young'. Another example where it becomes obvious that 'man' is not a true generic is the sentence 'Man has difficulty in childbirth' (Hekman, j 990). In addition to criticisms regarding the restriction and exclusion of women, the use of generics can be misleading and confusing. For a detailed discussion and a number of examples in this area, which has been the subject of much controversy, see Graddol and Swann (1989). For a thorough investigation into gender-variable pronouns and gender marking in languages other than English, see Hellinger and Hadumod (2001). Other areas of bias in the English language as an abstract system include the fol- lowing: sex specification in the language (e.g. the now outdated 'authoress', or the use of 'she' to refer to countries, boats, motor cars); gratuitous modifiers (Miller and Swift, 1981) that diminish a person's prestige, drawing attention to their sex (e.g. 'woman doctor' /'lady doctor') - and while historically the focus for those opposing sexism has been on discrimination against women rather than men, another example of a modifier would be the phrase 'male nurse'; lexical gaps or under-lexicalization, for example having many more terms for promiscuous women than for men (Stanley, 1977) and no female equivalents of terms such as 'henpeck', 'virility', 'penetration'; semantic derogation (Schulz, 1975), where a term describing a woman initially has neutral connotations, but gradually acquires negative connotations, and becomes abusive or ends up as a sexual slur (e.g. 'lady', 'madam', 'mistress', 'queen '); relatedly, there are many more negative terms for women than for men, particularly pertaining to sexual behaviour and denoting women as sexual prey (Cowie and Lees, 1987; Cameron, 1992); asymmetrically gendered language items, i.e. single words used to describe women, for which there is no equivalent for men, and vice versa. For example, the use of 'fireman'/'policeman'/'chairman' (prior to linguistic intervention, see next section); the use of 'Mrs ' to label only women, thus arguably reinforcing a patriarchal order; and the difference in status between lexical items such as 'master', 'bachelor', 'governor', 'god', 'wizard', and their female equivalents; connotations of language items, such as 'girl' (which may sometimes indicate immaturity, dependence, triviality, e.g. compare 'weatherman' to 'weathergirl'); 'lady' and 'woman', both of which are often used euphemistically for decorum or to obscure 'negative' associations with sexuality and reproduction; and the nurturing connotations of 'mothering', compared to those of the term 'fathering' . As will become evident later, bias in the language does not necessarily entail bias in language use, and as we will also see in Chapter 3, sexist discourses mayor may not draw on sexist language items. Words have more than one meaning, and language users' intentions are obscure and unpredictable.

Link—You guys/man

Calling everyone you guys is extremely sexist and demeaning

The Writing Center 2010 (The Writing Center, University of North Carolina. “Gender-Sensitive Language.” February 11, 2010. http://writingcenter.unc.edu/handouts/gender-sensitive-language/, Accessed 7/4/14, ESB)
Like gendered pronouns, gendered nouns can also provide a stumbling block for the gender-savvy writer. The best way to avoid implications these words can carry is simply to be aware of how we tend to use them in speech and writing. Because gendered nouns are so commonly used and accepted by English writers and speakers, we often don't notice them or the implications they bring with them. Once you've recognized that a gender distinction is being made by such a word, though, conversion of the gendered noun into a gender-savvy one is usually very simple. "Man" and words ending in "-man" are the most commonly used gendered nouns, so avoiding the confusion they bring can be as simple as watching out for these words and replacing them with words that convey your meaning more effectively. For example, if the founders of America had been gender-savvy writers, they might have written " . . . all people are created equal" instead of " . . . all men are created equal . . .." Another common gendered expression, particularly in informal speech and writing, is "you guys." This expression is used to refer to groups of men, groups of women, and groups that include both men and women. Although most people mean to be inclusive when they use "you guys," this phrase wouldn't make sense if it didn't subsume women under the category "guys." To see why "you guys" is gendered male, consider that "a guy" (singular) is definitely a man, not a woman, and that most men would not feel included in the expression "you gals" or "you girls." Another example of gendered language is the way the words "Mr.," "Miss," and "Mrs." are used. "Mr." can refer to any man, regardless of whether he is single or married—but women are defined by their relationship to men (by whether they are married or not). A way around this is to use "Ms." (which doesn't indicate marital status) to refer to women. Sometimes we modify nouns that refer to jobs or positions to denote the sex of the person holding that position. This often done if the sex of the person holding the position goes against conventional expectations. To get a sense of these expectations, think about what sex you would instinctively assume the subject of each of these sentences to be: The doctor walked into the room. The nurse walked into the room. Many people assume that doctors are men and that nurses are women. Because of such assumptions, someone might write sentences like "The female doctor walked into the room" or "The male nurse walked into the room." Using "female" and "male" in this way reinforces the assumption that most or all doctors are male and most or all nurses are female. Unless the sex of the nurse or doctor is important to the meaning of the sentence, it can be omitted. As you work on becoming a gender-savvy writer, you may find it helpful to watch out for the following gendered nouns and replace them with one of the alternatives listed below. Check a thesaurus for alternatives to gendered nouns not included in this list.

Link—you guys

Changing language is the first step to break down male based generics

Kleinman Professor of sociology 07

(Sherryl, Professor in Department of Sociology at the University of North Carolina, “Why Sexist Language Matters.” March 12, 2007. http://www.alternet.org/story/48856/, Accessed 7/4/14, ESB)

Gendered words and phrases like "you guys" may seem small compared to issues like violence against women, but changing our language is an easy way to begin overcoming gender inequality. For years I've been up inches of space in the newsletter of a rape crisis center? Because male-based generics are another indicator -- and more importantly, a reinforcer -- of a system in which "man" in the abstract and men in the flesh are privileged over women. Some say that language merely reflects reality and so we should ignore our words and work on changing the unequal gender arrangements that are reflected in our language. Well, yes, in part. Link—noun, pronoun

Impact – Women in Debate

Bjork and, Ouding former debaters, ‘01

(Rebecca S., and Jenni,“Women in Debate: Reflections on the Ongoing Struggle”, http://web.archive.org/web/20011012220529/members.aol.com/womynindebate/article3.htm, Accessed 7/5/14, ESB)

Throughout my years of high school and intercollegiate debate, I have repeatedly heard accounts of discrimination against women, sexual harassment, and unnecessary gossip. I have no doubt that most of the debaters and coaches reading this article have heard about or experienced such incidents. The intent behind this compilation is not to inform the debate community that sexism exists, but rather to present a wide variety of personal views and experiences related to the issue of women in debate. My hope is that upon reading the following essays, men and women alike will take the time to think about the issues presented and perhaps even discuss them with other debaters. The following accounts offer insight into the matter of sexism in debate-what "sexism" really means and why it has become an issue well as suggestions as to how the entire debate community can begin to deal with the frustration many women feel as they struggle to excel competitively.---Jenni Ouding, University of Michigan

REBECCA S. BJORK While reflecting on my experiences as a woman in academic debate in preparation for this essay, I realized that I have been involved in debate for more than half of my life. I debated for four years in high school, for four years in college, and I have been coaching intercollegiate debate for nine years. Not surprisingly, much of my identity as an individual has been shaped by these experiences in debate. I am a person who strongly believes that debate empowers people to be committed and involved individuals in the communities in which they live. I am a person who thrives on the intellectual stimulation involved in teaching and traveling with the brightest students on my campus. I am a person who looks forward to the opportunities for active engagement of ideas with debaters and coaches from around the country. I am also, however, a college professor, a "feminist," and a peace activist who is increasingly frustrated and disturbed by some of the practices I see being perpetuated and rewarded in academic debate. I find that I can no longer separate my involvement in debate from the rest of who I am as an individual .Northwestern I remember listening to a lecture a few years ago given by Tom Goodnight at the University summer debate camp. Goodnight lamented what he saw as the debate community's participation in, and unthinking perpetuation of what he termed the "death culture." He argued that the embracing of "big impact" arguments--nuclear war, environmental destruction, genocide, famine, and the like-by debaters and coaches signals a morbid and detached fascination with such events, one that views these real human tragedies as part of a "game" in which so-called "objective and neutral" advocates actively seek to find in their research the "impact to outweigh all other impacts"--the round-winning argument that will carry them to their goal of winning tournament X, Y, or Z. He concluded that our "use" of such events in this way is tantamount to a celebration of them; our detached, rational discussions reinforce a detached, rational viewpoint, when emotional and moral outrage may be a more appropriate response. In the last few years, my

academic research has led me to be persuaded by Goodnight's unspoken assumption;

language is not merely some transparent tool used to transmit information, but rather is an

incredibly powerful medium, the use of which inevitably has real political and material

consequences. Given this assumption, I believe that it is important for us to examine the

"discourse of debate practice:" that is, the language, discourses, and meanings that we, as a

community of debaters and coaches, unthinkingly employ in academic debate. If it is the

case that the language we use has real implications for how we view the world, how we

view others, and how we act in the world, then it is imperative that we critically examine

our own discourse practices with an eye to how our language does violence to others. I am

shocked and surprised when I hear myself saying things like, "we killed them," or "take no

prisoners," or "let's blow them out of the water." I am tired of the "ideal" debater being

defined as one who has mastered the art of verbal assault to the point where accusing

opponents of lying, cheating, or being deliberately misleading is a sign of strength.But what

I am most tired of is how women debaters are marginalized and rendered voiceless in such

a discourse community. Women who verbally assault their opponents are labeled "bitches"because it is not socially acceptable for women to be verbally aggressive. Women who get angry and storm out of a room when a disappointing decision is rendered are labeled "hysterical" because, as we all know, women are more emotional then men. I am tired of hearing comments like, "those 'girls' from school X aren't really interested in debate; they just want to meet men." We can all point to examples (although only a few) of women

who have succeeded at the top levels of debate. But I find myself wondering how many

more women gave up because they were tired of negotiating the mine field of

discrimination, sexual harassment, and isolation they found in the debate community. As

members of this community, however, we have great freedom to define it in whatever

ways we see fit. After all, what is debate except a collection of shared understandings and

explicit or implicit rules for interaction? What I am calling for is a critical examination of

how we, as individual members of this community, characterize our activity, ourselves, and

our interactions with others through language. We must become aware of the ways in

which our mostly hidden and unspoken assumptions about what "good" debate is function

to exclude not only women, but ethnic minorities from the amazing intellectual

opportunities that training in debate provides. Our nation and indeed, our planet, faces

incredibly difficult challenges in the years ahead. I believe that it is not acceptable anymore

for us to go along as we always have, assuming that things will straighten themselves out.

Impact – Exclusion

Using masculine generics excludes women and makes men feel superior

Weatherall, Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Wellington ‘02

(Ann, Gender, Language and Discourse, P. 27-28, ESB)

An explanation that has been put forward to account for sex differences in the interpretation and recall of information written using masculine generic forms is that the meaning associated with masculine generics is different for men and women (Spender, 1980). For men, words marked as masculine are always inclusive of them, regardless of whether they are being used in a gender-speci®c or generic way. So, masculine words tend to make men think of themselves, and men will tend to use masculine forms in a gender-speci®c way. Women are more likely to use masculine terms in a more truly generic way because that is the only way that they may include themselves in the reference group. Consistent with this expla- nation, sex differences have been found in the interpretation and use of masculine generics. Moulton, Robinson and Elias (1978) found that women used fewer masculine generic forms and more true generics than men. Martyna (1980b) found that women were more likely to draw a generic interpretation from `he' and `man' than were men. Nevertheless in Martyna's study masculine generic forms were interpreted more often as sex-speci®c than gender-inclusive.¶ Some social psychological research suggests that girls may be personally as well as cognitively disadvantaged by the use of masculine generic forms. Henley, Gruber and Lerner (1988) measured self-esteem among school children who had read stories using masculine or neutral pronouns. They found that boys had more positive change in self-esteem in the masculine pronoun condition, while girls had more positive self-esteem change in the neutral pronoun condition. Consistent with Henley et al.'s ®ndings were those of McArthur and Eisen (1976) who found that pre-school boys' achievement and perseverance were increased by hearing a story about male accomplishment, and girls' achievement was increased by hearing a story about female accomplishment. These kinds of research highlight the importance of language in the development of children's understanding of themselves as gendered in a patriarchal society.¶ Another line of research on masculine generics has investigated how speakers are evaluated. For example, Johnson and DowlingGuyer (1996) found that participants in their study expressed less willingness to see counsellors who used masculine generic forms and rated them as more sexist than counsellors who used more neutral terms. In addition, Johnson and DowlingGuyer found that the impact was most evident with women and feminist participants, who expressed even less con®dence in coun- sellors using masculine generic forms than in those using more inclusive language. Interestingly, no such negative evaluation was found for speakers using masculine generics in the context of religious sermons (Greene and Rubin, 1991)!¶ The effectiveness of communication in some contexts seems to be in ̄uenced by the use of masculine generic forms. In a study of persuasion, Falk and Mills (1996) found that the use of masculine generic forms inhibited the persuasion of women and not men. Women respondents did not consider appeals using masculine pronouns as being directed towards them. McConnell and Fazio (1996) found that participants' beliefs about sex roles, rather than their own sex, in ̄uenced how persuasive participants found a message. Those with more traditional gender-role beliefs were more in ̄uenced by language using masculine generic forms than parti- cipants with more liberal beliefs. The main message from work on masculine generics is that, when used, they tend to exclude women and they promote an androcentric view of the world. Virtually every published study on the topic has shown that mas- culine generics tend to be interpreted as masculine-speci®c (Falk and Mills, 1996). The consequences are far-reaching ± the use of masculine generic forms may impact on women's ability to recall material (e.g. Crawford and English, 1984) and even have a negative effect on girls' self-esteem (e.g. Henley, Gruber and Lerner, 1988). Thus, the social psychological research forms a useful body of evidence to support feminist calls for language change.

Gender Discourse empowers strong social exclusion of non-male bodies

Weatherall, Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Wellington ‘02

(Ann, Gender, Language and Discourse, P. 76,77, ESB)

The term discourse is variously used in the gender and language ®eld. It may be used in a linguistic sense to refer to language beyond that of words. Or it may be used in a poststructural sense to refer to broad systems of meaning. The different uses of the term discourse embrace two senses of gender as a social construction. On the one hand, gender is constructed in the ways it is described in talk and texts. On the other hand, gender as a concept is itself constructed ± a social meaning system that structures the way we see and understand the world.¶ Research has moved from language to discourse (in the ®rst sense of the term mentioned above) by considering how language in use re ̄ects and perpetuates gender stereotypes. So while early gender and language work documented how individual words could be considered sexist (see Chapter 1), later work examined how texts were constructed in sexist ways. A wide range of different areas of language use has been examined for sexism, including comic strips (Thaler, 1987), children's literature (Cooper, 1987), birthday cards (Brabandt and Mooney, 1989), Japanese women's maga- zines (Hayashi, 1997), American popular songs (Butruille and Taylor, 1987) and political speeches (Jansen and Sabo, 1994). The constructionist lesson to be gleaned from this research is that sexist language is not just a matter of negative words for women, but of how language, in a variety of everyday contexts, constructs gender in stereotyped ways that ultimately disadvantage or demean women.¶ A context where sexist discourse is rife is in linguistic representations of women in the media. Studies of sports and wildlife programmes have analysed those genres and found evidence of explicit sexism. For example, an American study by Messner, Duncan and Jansen (1993) analysed the verbal context of televised coverage of women's and men's athletic events. They found that female athletes and Black American male athletes were more often referred to by their ®rst names than white male athletes. All female athletes and Black American male athletes were referred to as girls and boys respectively. In addition, the achievements of female athletes were interpreted in terms of luck more than the achievement of males.

Impact – Patriarchy

Language can be used as a tool to empower patriarchy

Weatherall, Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Wellington ‘02

(Ann, Gender, Language and Discourse, P. 2-4, ESB)

Feminist language researchers established that men's power was mani- fested in language in a number of complex ways. Spender (1980) identi®ed one of these when she argued that in the past men have had control over language (as philosophers, orators, politicians, grammarians, linguists, lexicographers and so on), so they encoded sexism into language to con- solidate their claims of male supremacy. Spender's work highlighted an important avenue for feminist action: to ensure that women are involved in all facets of language and communication. Recording women's views and disseminating accounts of their experiences are important strategies for ensuring equitable and accurate representation of women in texts. The importance of being involved with developments in language and com- munication was discussed in Spender's (1995) more recent work on gender issues and the internet. Spender argued that women must be involved as users and innovators of the world wide web; otherwise it will develop to serve and promote men's interests over women's.¶ Spender's (1980) work attended to the powerfulness of those who can exercise some degree of control over language. People with public speaking rights, those who record and communicate ideas, and the information-rich are all in a position to exercise some power over language ± to use the power of language and communication to promote particular social and cultural beliefs and suppress others. However, language is not just a tool for manipulating meaning, nor merely a vessel for the containment of ideas. Another source of power is how language is used by speakers when communicating with each other.¶ The idea that there is power in language use was an important part of early research on gender differences in speech styles. For example, one suggestion was that men used interruption as a way of wielding their power over women in conversation (Zimmerman and West, 1975). Another way in which power may be expressed in language use is in the way people address each other. Conventionally in English it is more formal and respectful to refer to another using a real name rather than a nickname. However, those in positions of power are more able to ignore convention. Men, on the whole, are more likely to challenge norms of language and communication because they are generally in more powerful positions than women. For example, bosses (probably male) may refer to workers, using their nicknames or terms of endearment, but not the reverse. Men are more likely to break a social norm of inattention between strangers by making street remarks or wolf whistling, because they have more power. Lakoff (1973, 1975) strongly endorsed the idea that language re ̄ected women's secondary status in society. According to this mirror model, the few words that refer to strong, intelligent, sexually active, independent women and the plethora of negative and sexual terms just re ̄ected nega- tive attitudes towards women in society (Stanley, 1977). More frequent comments about how women look and what men do are a form of power because they set up the desired attributes expected of each gender (Miller and Swift, 1976).¶ Early feminist language research ®rmly established that patterns of lan- guage and communication re ̄ected gender differences in social power and the different cultural values associated with women and men. However, many feminists wanted to argue that language not only re ̄ects men's power but actively establishes and maintains negative attitudes towards women and their secondary social status. Thus an early debate was about the signi®cance of sexist language and gender differences in speech. The issue was whether language just re ̄ected men's power or whether it also perpetuated it.

AT: Discourse Doesn’t Create Reality

Language has power and material consequences especially with gendered language

Weatherall, Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Wellington ‘02

(Ann, Gender, Language and Discourse, P. 77,78 , ESB)

Some discourse analytic work not only examines linguistic constructions of gender but also considers how they operate to reproduce the dominant social order. For example, Lees (1983) discussed how the threat of remarks works to control women's behaviour. Lees found that young British women were very careful of how they behaved towards young men for fear of being labelled a slag. Referring to verbal sexual abuse, Lees (1997) argued:

Therefore language (or the discourse of female reputation in par- ticular) acts as a material discourse with its own determinate effects, acting as a form of control over their emotions and passions and steering girls into subordinate relationships with men.

(Lees, 1997, p. 4) The idea that discourses about gender have material consequences is key to understanding why the notion of gender differences tends to function practically to disadvantage women. The use of the term discourse in this sense acknowledges the power in language to shape thoughts and guide behaviour. Lees refers to the discourse of female reputation having material effects on girls. The following section introduces the idea that gender differences in language are not so much a description of how women and men speak but more a discourse that has material consequences.

Discourse isn’t representative it is the concept of gender itself

Weatherall, Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Wellington ‘02

(Ann, Gender, Language and Discourse, P. 80, ESB)

An aspect of the discursive turn is that it moves away from the idea of language as simply a system of representation, towards the notion of language as discourse, where discourse is used in a constructionist sense: the categories in language don't re ̄ect the world but constitute it. Thus gender is not just re ̄ected in language but the concept of gender is itself constituted by the language used to refer to it. In this section the concepts of sex and gender are re-examined in order to consider in what sense they can be understood as constructed rather than natural concepts. Since around the 1960s an important distinction has been drawn between sex as biological and gender as social. This distinction was, and continues to be, important in challenging arguments that use biology to rationalise and police people's lives. For example, men's `natural' ration- ality and women's natural emotionality can (and have) been used to justify their relative roles ± for example, in public and private life. From the perspective of biological determinism, any man or woman defying the natural order of things is deviant or just plain mad. However, when roles such as housewife or breadwinner are viewed as the result of social learning rather than biology, there are more possibilities for change. Women can be engineers, doctors and politicians; men can be nurses, secretaries and homemakers. It is not biology but social learning that limits what women and men think they can do. Thus gender has been construed as the social `trimmings' of sex and it has been assumed that the social is more malleable and less foundational than the biological. A social constructionist sense of gender as discourse offers a radical critique not only of biological determinism but also of the sex/gender distinction. Instead of viewing sex as primary and biological while gender is secondary and social, the order is reversed and the boundaries made less distinct. A constructionist view is that social and cultural beliefs are primary and cannot be separated from biological `knowledge'. The mean- ings associated with the two gender categories unavoidably cloud every aspect of thought, perception and behaviour.

AT: Not Our Intent

Words are tools that can be used to demean people

Mastrine, is a writer and PR professional based in PA, 2013

[Julie, August 13, “Dude, Man Up: An Exploration of Gendered Language.” Thought Catalog. from http://thoughtcatalog.com/julie-mastrine/2013/08/dude-man-up-an-exploration-of-gendered-language/, Retrieved July 5, 2014, WZ]

Walking down the street often takes a lot out of me. Sometimes, the conversations I overhear are enough to make me cringe and want to run away to the dark safety of my bed and maybe a box of cookies.

Too often, leaving my house and interacting with society means being subjected to subtle verbal cues that the speaker in question does not, in fact, view me (or anyone else who isn’t a heterosexual cisgender white male) as a fully functioning human being capable of complex thoughts.

My friends and I recently met a few guys at the bar and went back to their place for more drinks. When we heard them routinely referring to each other as “faggots,” we asked them to kindly stop demeaning each other’s masculinity by using words that have historically been used to justify discrimination. Their reply was standard:

“Aw, we don’t really mean it though. I swear I don’t have a problem with gay people, it doesn’t affect me at all. I don’t care if someone’s gay.”

This response makes me fume. No matter how much people want to deny it, words are powerful and have real meaning. When people use “faggot” as an insult and insist they “don’t really mean anything” by it, they’re attempting to rid themselves of responsibility by denying years and years of oppression and hate crimes.

What’s more: it’s also insulting to anyone with a feminine gender identity. Consider that homophobia may be closely linked to (or even rooted in) misogyny. Sure, maybe dudes don’t care about dudes having sex with other dudes. But they are threatened by men acting feminine — it directly disrupts the gender dichotomies they’ve been programmed to accept. Underneath that “casual” and “harmless” insult, they’re expressing that they see femininity as a weak trait — something over which to hold power. Something to suppress and contain.

Internalized misogyny is a helluva drug.

And demeaning language isn’t limited to gay individuals — it extends to all of us who claim space as gender fluid or feminine. Whether in the classroom, in a bar, or walking down the streets of my town, I’ve heard women and men alike refer to other women as “sluts,” I’ve heard classmates taut art and fashion as “girly shit,” I’ve heard coaches tell their players not to “throw like a girl,” I’ve heard friends tell each other to “man up” or “grow some balls.” It’s tiring and insulting, because pegging femininity and feminine words as negatives have a real impact on how we see individuals who identify that way.

People don’t have a hard time believing the usage of words like “slut” and “whore” can be directly linked to violence against women, but what about the more subtle ways in which we reinforce inequalities through gendered language? What often goes unnoticed is the pervasive use of “men” as the default all throughout the English language. When we talk about people’s professions, we default to the man doing the job — postman, fireman, congressman, freshman, chairman. And because the English language lacks a plural “you,” those of us who aren’t prone to referring to groups of people by saying “ya’ll” (or “yins,” if you’re from Pittsburgh) will generally default to “you guys.” I’ve done it. My friends do it. Most people I know do this, and it isn’t respective to my corner of the universe — English speakers use these male generics the world over. Heck, even the word woman is included under the generic term man.

For centuries, grammar books, teachers, and professors have told writers and students to use the referential pronoun “he” when referring to a person in general. Studies have shown that people default to he nearly automatically when referring to people in high-status occupations like a doctor or lawyer, and shift to “she” when talking about secretaries, clerks, or nurses. Feminine terms are often infantilized and trivialized — the term “boys” is rarely used to describe grown men. They don’t have “a boys’ night” or indulge in “boy talk.” The term “girls,” on the other hand, can be used to describe women of all ages — heck, HBO’s Girls is the prime example, but women of all ages can fit in some “girl talk” at the office or “go out for drinks with the girls.”

Words aren’t just meaningless sounds we emit. When we place male-centric words as the default or norm, we peg maleness as the dominant group, effectively “other”-izing groups who don’t fit that standard. This is a subtle yet effective way to invisibilize the struggles of marginalized groups, struggles that are directly related to power structures manifested across economical, political, and societal stages dominated by men. And when we demean or trivialize a group’s experiences, it makes it that much easier for the group in power — the default — to justify violence or other harm against that group. They are reduced to the “Other,” the subhuman.

Gendered language constructs are so deeply imbedded, plenty of people want to know just what the big deal is — why should we care about subtly gendered language when there are bigger problems in the world, like the wage gap, violence, or rape? Yes, these problems deserve equal and perhaps even more pertinent attention, but these are problems that won’t be solved overnight. Something we can solve overnight is changing the way we refer to one another, and shunning language constructs that place women, LGBTQ individuals, and other marginalized groups at the bottom rung of the social ladder.

I know it isn’t easy to eradicate harmful patterns from our vernacular. But I’ve met plenty of people who have admitted to making a concerted effort to eradicating insulting words from everyday use. Among them, the term “retarded,” which, while not linked to gender, is still a hugely prevalent, ableist insult. One of my friends has her roommate make her pay a quarter as a reminder to stop each time she refers to something she dislikes as “retarded.”

So is it really so much trouble to make a conscious effort to think critically about the words coming out of our mouths and the political implications behind them? No more of this “they’re just words. It doesn’t mean anything.” Words are symbols of meaning — that is literally their evolutionary purpose. Words convey our prejudices, our fears, our anxieties.

When we look at gender patterns in language, we can begin to see the harmful ideas forming a fabric — a blanket of oppression that extends to all English speakers.

The good news is that blanket is something we can lift right now. The power is literally at the tip of our tongues

AT: No Alternative

Alternative  There are several other ways you can address people using neutral terms

The Writing Center, University of North Carolina, 13

[The Writing Center (n.d.).” “Gender-Sensitive Language”, The Writing Center, from http://writingcenter.unc.edu/handouts/gender-sensitive-language/, Retrieved July 6, 2014, WZ]

A pronoun is a word that substitutes for a noun. The English language provides pronoun options for references to masculine nouns (for example, “he” can substitute for “Tom”), feminine nouns (“she” can replace “Lucy”), and neutral/non-human nouns (“it” stands in for “a tree”), but no choice for sex-neutral third-person singular nouns (“the writer,” “a student,” or “someone”). Although most of us learned in elementary school that masculine pronouns (he, his, him) should be used as the “default” in situations where the referent (that is, the person or thing to which you’re referring) could be either male or female, that usage is generally considered unacceptable now. So what should you do when you’re faced with one of those gender-neutral or gender-ambiguous situations? Well, you’ve got a few options . . .

1. Use “they”

This option is currently much debated by grammar experts, but most agree that it works well in at least several kinds of situations. In order to use “they” to express accurately gender relationships, you’ll need to understand that “they” is traditionally used only to refer to a plural noun. For example,

Sojourner Truth and Elizabeth Cady Stanton were famous “first-wave” American feminists. They were also both involved in the Abolitionist movement.

In speech, though, we early twenty-first century Americans commonly use “they” to refer to a singular referent. According to many grammar experts, that usage is incorrect, but here’s an example of how it sounds in our everyday speech:

If a student wants to learn more about gender inequality, they should take Intro to Women’s Studies.

Note that in this example, “a student” is singular, but it is replaced in the second sentence by “they,” a plural pronoun. In speech, we often don’t notice such substitutions of the plural for the singular, but in writing, some will find such substitutions awkward or incorrect. Some people argue that “they” should become the default gender-neutral pronoun for English writing, but since that usage can still sound awkward to many readers, it’s best to use “they” only in plural situations. Thus, one other option the gender-savvy writer may choose to employ is to make her/his sentence plural. Here’s one way that can work:

A student’s beliefs about feminism may be based on what he has heard in the popular media.

can become

Students’ beliefs about feminism may be based on what they have heard in the popular media.

2. Use she or he or she/he.

There is another, simpler option the gender-savvy writer can use to deal with situations where a pronoun needs to refer to a person whose gender isn’t known: write out both pronoun options as “she or he” or “she/he.” For example,

Each student who majors in Women’s Studies major must take a course in Feminist Theory. She or he may also get course credit for completing an internship at a local organization that benefits women.


Each student who majors in Women’s Studies major must take a course in Feminist Theory. She/he may also get course credit for completing an internship at a local organization that benefits women.

3. Alternate genders and pronouns

You may also choose to alternate gendered pronouns. This option will work only in certain situations, though—usually hypothetical situations in which the referent is equally likely to be a male or a female. For example, both male and female students use the Writing Center’s services, so the author of our staff manual chose to alternate between masculine and feminine pronouns when writing the following tutoring guidelines:

Respond as a reader, explaining what and how you were/are thinking as you read her texts so that she can discover where a reader might struggle with her writing.

Ask him to outline the draft to reveal the organization of the paper.

Ask her to describe her purpose and audience and show how she has taken them into account in her writing.

Explain a recurring pattern and let him locate repeated instances of it.

Of course, this author could also have included both pronouns in each sentence by writing “her/his” or “her/him,” but in this case, alternating “he” and “she” conveys the same sense of gender variability and is likely a little easier on the reader, who won’t have to pause to process several different options every time a gendered pronoun is needed in the sentence. This example also provides a useful demonstration of how gender-savvy writers can take advantage of the many different options available by choosing the one that best suits the unique requirements of each piece of writing they produce.

4. Eliminate the pronoun altogether

Finally, you can also simply eliminate the pronoun. For example,

Allan Johnson is a contemporary feminist theorist. This writer and professor gave a speech at UNC in the fall of 2007.

Note how the sentence used “this writer and professor” rather than “he.”

Many people accept the negative stereotype that if a person is a feminist, she must hate men.

could become

Many people accept the negative stereotype that feminist beliefs are based on hatred of men.

Note how the second version of the sentence talks about the beliefs. By avoiding using the pronoun “she,” it leaves open the possibility that men may be feminists.

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