Language & Gender

Many of the issues reviewed in this chapter have far-reaching implications in classrooms. Classrooms and schools are among society’s primary socializing institutions. In them, children come to understand their social identity relative to each other and relative to the institution. Although schools are certainly not responsible for teaching students their gender-differentiated social roles, they often reinforce the subordinate role of girls and women through curricular choices and classroom organizations that exclude, denigrate, and/or stereotype them.

However, as discussed earlier in this chapter, recent theoretical insights suggest that identity is not fixed, that language use is not static, and that it is possible to negotiate social identities through alternative language use. It follows, then, that schools are sites in which inequities (based on gender, race, ethnicity, language background, age, sexuality, etc.

) can be challenged and potentially transformed by selecting materials that represent identity groups more equally, by reorganizing classroom interaction so that all students have the opportunity to talk and demonstrate achievement, and by encouraging students to critically analyze the ways they use language in their everyday lives. Based on a review of 2 decades of research on gender and classroom interaction, Clarricoates concludes that interaction between teachers and students and among students themselves is “suffused with gender” (1983, p.

46; cited by Swann, 1993). Studies reviewed by Swann (1993) describe a range of ways in which gender differentiation is maintained in mainstream English-speaking classrooms, including the following: • While there are quiet pupils of both sexes, the more outspoken pupils tend to be boys. • Boys also tend to ‘stand out’ more than girls. Michelle Stanworth (1983) notes that in her study teachers initially found some girls ‘hard to place’. Boys also referred to a ‘faceless’ bunch of girls.

• Boys tend to be generally more assertive than girls. For instance, a US study of whole-class talk (Sadker and Sadker, 1985) found boys were eight times more likely than girls to call out. • Girls and boys tend to sit separately; in group work, pupils usually elect to work in single-sex rather than mixed-sex groups. • When they have the choice, girls and boys often discuss or write about gender-typed topics. • Boys are often openly disparaging towards girls. • In practical subjects, such as science, boys hog the resources.

• In practical subjects, girls ‘fetch and carry’ for boys, doing much of the cleaning up, and collecting books and so on. • Boys occupy, and are allowed to occupy, more space, both in class and outside—for example, in play areas. • Teachers often make distinctions between girls and boys – for disciplinary or administrative reasons or to motivate pupils to do things. • Teachers give more attention to boys than to girls. • Topics and materials for discussion are often chosen to maintain boys’ interests.

• Teachers tend not to perceive disparities between the numbers of contributions from girls and boys. Sadker and Sadker (1985) showed US teachers a video of classroom talk in which boys made three times as many contributions as girls — but teachers believed the girls had talked more. • Teachers accept certain behaviour (such as calling out) from boys but not from girls. • Female teachers may themselves be subject to harrassment from male pupils. • ‘Disaffected’ girls tend to opt out quietly at the back of the class, whereas disaffected boys make trouble. (Swann, 1993, pp.

51-52) A 10-year research project by Sadker and Sadker (1993; including participant observation, audio and video recordings, interviews with students and teachers, and large-scale surveys) in elementary, junior high, and high school, and in university classes in the United States, and the review of research on language and gender in the classroom by Sommers and Lawrence (1992), both support these general findings. It is interesting to note the parallel between research on girls and boys in schools on the one hand, and on minority and majority students in schools on the other.

Just as boys and men (generally with no attention to factors like race and ethnicity) seem to be advantaged at the expense of girls and women in mainstream schools in Britain, Australia, and the United States, white middle-class standard English speakers (generally with no attention to gender) seem to be advantaged at the expense of nonwhite middle-class standard English speakers (see Nieto, 1992, for further discussion). However, as Swann (1993) points out, these findings need to be interpreted with some caution. The differences between sexes are always average ones, and boys and girls behave differently in different contexts.

In other words, these are tendencies, not absolutes, that have been documented in mainstream English-speaking classes. It should be emphasized that there is considerable variation that can be exploited by teachers in their own classes. As discussed earlier, for the variation in how girls and boys use language to be understood, research needs to begin not with boys and girls as fixed categories that behave or are treated the same in all contexts, but with a particular community of practice, in this case a class or a school.

The analysis, then, needs to focus on the activity and on how boys’ and girls’ rights and obligations are constructed within that activity within that community of practice. Once the class and the activities to be analyzed have been identified, the teacher or researcher can begin by asking how girls and boys, women and men, are represented, for example, in the texts selected for use in the class as well as in the work that the students produce.

Researchers have found that women, like other minority groups, tend to be excluded, marginalized, or stereotyped within the mainstream curriculum content (see Nieto, 1992; Sadker & Sadker, 1993; Swann, 1993, for further discussion). Although we are not aware of any studies that have documented short-term and longer-term effects of mainstream curriculum content versus curriculum content that is gender balanced, Swann summarizes the concerns of teachers and researchers about gender imbalances in the curriculum as follows:

Teachers and researchers have been concerned about imbalances in children’s reading materials because of their potential immediate and local effects: they may affect the way pupils respond to a particular book and the subject with which it is associated; they may also affect the pupils’ performance on assessment tasks. There is further concern that, in the longer term, such imbalances may help to reinforce gender differences and inequalities: they

may influence children’s perceptions of what are appropriate attributes, activities, occupations, and so forth for males and females. Introducing alternative images may redress the balance, and also have a disruptive effect, causing pupils to question accepted views of girls and boys and women and men. (p. 113) Swann (pp. 190-197) provides a variety of checklists that teachers and researchers can use to investigate how girls and boys, women and men, are represented and evaluated in the texts they choose and the activities they organize within their classrooms.

When teachers find that their curricular choices are not balanced with respect to gender, for example, that the science text includes few contributions by women, that the literature anthology includes stories primarily by white males about white males, or that the women included in the texts are portrayed only in traditional roles, they can adopt texts that offer images of women and men in less traditional roles.

If the goal is to encourage students to question traditional notions, simply providing alternative images in the curriculum content may not be sufficient. Teachers may want to encourage students to talk about traditional and alternative images, perhaps by critically reading and responding to sexist materials, by emphasizing choice in women’s and men’s roles, and by challenging representations of women and men (and other groups) in the students’ own work. We will return to these points later in this chapter.

As has been discussed throughout this chapter, it is not only what is talked about, in this case through the curriculum content, that helps shape gender roles; equally or more important is an understanding of how girls and boys, women and men, position themselves and each other through their interactions. With respect to the organization of classroom interaction, research suggests that participation frameworks, or groupings of students and teachers for classroom activities (e.

g. , as individuals, in pairs, in small groups, or as a teacher-fronted classes), can strongly influence the students’ opportunities to talk and demonstrate achievement (see Erickson, this volume; Saville-Troike, this volume). For example, mainstream U. S. classrooms are generally characterized by the transmission model of teaching and learning (Cummins, 1989) and the initiation-response-evaluation (IRE) participation structure (Holmes, 1978). In these teacher-centered classes,

the teacher talks for most of the time as he or she transmits the curriculum content to the student population in a relatively competitive atmosphere, and initiates the students5 participation. The students are encouraged to bid for the opportunity to respond to what Cazden (1988) describes as the “known-answer55 question, and the teacher then evaluates the students’ responses as right or wrong. It is in this traditional competitive classroom that boys seem to be advantaged (Sadker &c Sadker, 1993; Tannen, 1992).

However, just as women participated more in more collaboratively organized meetings than in traditional hierarchically organized meetings (see earlier discussions of Edelsky, 1981; Goodwin, 1990), some research suggests that girls, as well as students from linguistically and culturally diverse backgrounds, participate more in cooperative learning organizations than in traditional teacher-centered classes (Kramarae & Treichler, 1990; Tannen, 1992; see also Kessler, 1990, for a general review of benefits of cooperative learning). However, the picture is much more complicated; simply organizing students into smaller groups is not the answer.

In fact, some research suggests that mixed-sex groupings can reproduce boys’ dominant role and girls’ supportive role. For example, in a study by Sommers and Lawrence (1992) of mixed-sex peer response groups of college students in writing classes, it was found that males took far more turns than females, produced greater quantities of talk, at times appropriated females’ ideas as their own, and tended to interrupt and/or silence their female counterparts. Females tended to wait, listen, acknowledge, and confirm other students’ contributions.

When Sommers and Lawrence compared male and female participation in the peer response groups with their participation in the teacher-fronted participation framework, they found that boys and girls tended to participate more or less equally in the teacher-fronted organization because the teachers could exert more control over how the participation opportunities were distributed. It is important to mention that the teachers in these teacher-fronted classes were Lawrence and Sommers themselves, and that they were aware of and concerned about equal participation opportunities for males and females in their classes.

In a study by Rennie and Parker (1987, cited by Swann, 1993) of primary school students in science classes in Australia, it was also found that boys tended to talk more in mixed-sex groupings, and girls tended to watch and listen. However, in single-sex groups, and in classes in which the teachers had participated in a “gender awareness” course, girls tended to participate more actively. Both these examples suggest that when teachers are aware of gender-differentiated language use, they can change the dynamics in their classes so that girls and women are not subordinated, at least in the short run.

Swann (1993) provides some useful suggestions for teachers and researchers who are interested in systematically observing and analyzing the dynamics within their own classes to understand how girls and boys are positioned relative to each other (Chap. 8), as well as suggestions for changing discriminatory practices (Chap. 9). The research discussed thus far has been concerned with genderdifferentiated language use in mainstream, white, standard Englishspeaking contexts in the United States, Britain, and Australia. Even in these relatively homogeneous contexts, it is evident that factors other than gender (e. g.

, participation framework and activity type) may affect the way people behave. Although there has been relatively little detailed research to date on the ways in which boys and girls from linguistically and culturally diverse backgrounds interact in the classroom, an area of particular concern to ESL and bilingual teachers, it is likely that factors such as culture, race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status interact with gender to shape students’ participation opportunities. For example, Swann (1993) discusses a series of analyses of gender and ethnic imbalances in classroom discussions in four nursery and primary schools in Ealing, England.

Swann points out that in the original analysis, Claire and Redpath (1989) found that boys averaged three times as many turns as girls, and that some boys were more talkative than others; this finding is consistent with much of the research on girls’ and boys’ participation in classes. Their follow-up analysis of the same data, however, suggests an interaction between gender and ethnic group. They found that the boys who dominated the discussion group were white and black Afro-Caribbean; the Asian boys participated much less frequently.

White and black Afro-Caribbean girls participated about equally; Asian girls participated the least of any group. They speculate that the topics of discussion and teachers’ attitudes and behaviors in the lesson might contribute to these classroom dynamics (see Swann, 1993, p. 65, for further discussion). Consistent with Claire and Redpath’s first analysis, research by Sadker and Sadker (1993) found no systematic differences between black and white students, students from different age groups, or students from different socioeconomic backgrounds.

Much more work is needed on the interaction between gender and other social factors such as ethnicity, race, and class in the classroom, as well as on how different curricular choices and classroom organizations affect students’ opportunities to participate and demonstrate their achievement. In the meantime, some strategies can be offered to teachers of linguistically and culturally diverse student populations who want to address some of these gaps and to help their language students develop their communicative competences at the same time.

It was mentioned earlier that feminist linguists often begin their inquiry by identifying and investigating stereotypes about the language use and social roles of men and women. Their subsequent empirical studies have often refuted these stereotypes, encouraged the development of sociopolitical explanations for gender-differentiated language use, and/or suggested areas to target for change. Teachers might consider following the same procedure with their students.

Students can be encouraged to make explicit some of the stereotypes they hold about women and men from different cultural groups, to look for alternative representations, and to discuss the implications of such stereotypes for student behavior. For example, Claire and Redpath’s study (1989), discussed earlier, provided an example of the manifestation of a commonly held stereotype that Asians are quiet and passive. It is important to emphasize that Asian, like girl or boy, woman or man, is not a homogeneous, static category.

There is considerable variation in what it means to be Asian, and stereotypical attitudes can influence behavior. To begin to understand some of this variation, teachers can turn to literary works currently being produced by women in minority communities as well as to literary criticisms of these works, and then they can discuss and challenge such stereotypes with their students. For instance, Sau-ling Cynthia Wong (1993) explores the complexities of the term Asian-American, and King-kok Cheung’s analysis (1993) of three woman writers (one Japanese-American, one

Chinese-American, one Japanese-Canadian) points out how the silence stereotypically associated with Asian-American speakers is often understood as timidity, shrewdness, and femininity, in ways that has important implications for the understanding of Asian-American men and women (see Aguilar-San Juan, 1994, pp. 17-18, for further discussion of these works). Students might be encouraged to compare representations of Asians or Asian-Americans in a variety of texts and to critically evaluate their responses to these texts together (see Fairclough, 1989, pp. 233—247, 1992, Chaps.

3 and 5, for examples of how teachers have encouraged their students to critically analyze discourse and to recognize and challenge discriminatory representations). A stated goal of all communicative language teaching is students’ development of communicative competence. Gee (1991) provides the following description of what is involved in a “successful” social practice. Note that it parallels Eckert’s and McConnell-Ginet’s notion of a community of practice discussed earlier. He also makes it easy to see the link between recent theoretical insights in language and gender and communicative language teaching and learning approaches.

Gee writes: What is important [in a ‘successful5 social practice] is not language, and surely not grammar, but saying-(writing)-doing-being-valuing-believing combinations in the “right” places at the “right” times with the “right” people and the “right” props {dress and objects), p. 7; (emphasis in original) This statement also reflects trends in second language pedagogy away from the traditional teaching of grammar to the communicative approach, which in practice tends to emphasize sociolinguistic appropriateness.

There are currently several unresolved problems with teaching students to be sociolinguistically appropriate. One problem is simply the question of what we can teach. As Cohen (this volume) points out, to date we do not have enough empirical data to know which speech acts are used by whom in what ways and in which contexts, although research does suggest that when we have this information, students can learn it — at least in the short term (Billmyer, 1990). The field of ethnography of communication has great potential to fill this gap in information, although, as Saville-Troike (this volume) mentions:

Such potential instructional applications of the ethnography of communication have been proposed for communicative approaches to language teaching since early in the history of the field (e. g. , see Paulston, 1974), but implementation has fallen well short of potential in both second and foreign language contexts. In part, this is because commercial concerns in publishing language texts require assumptions about the homogeneity of students’ second/foreign language opportunities and needs which are quite unrealistic. Application to instruction in English for specific purposes (ESP) has been more viable (e.

g. , Munby, 1978), but the ethnography of communication may be a domain in which the methods of analysis are even more applicable than its product, (emphasis in original) Saville-Troike’s suggestion, that teacher-researchers themselves determine which communicative situations are relevant for student experiences and needs, and that teacher-researchers then analyze typical events in those situations as a basis for curriculum content and assessment, is one way that teachers can use ethnography of communication methods themselves.

Another possibility for LI students or for more advanced L2 students in a second language context is to have the students conduct their own ethnography of communication studies in the communities of practice in which they participate or are preparing to participate. This suggestion could simultaneously fulfill several goals. First of all, teaching students to incorporate methodologies from the ethnography of communication themselves would enable the students to learn firsthand what an individual needs to know about language use to be a functional member of the community in which they need to participate.

Beginning with a community of practice in which they participate or are preparing to participate, students could investigate many of the issues raised throughout this chapter. For example, they could investigate stereotypes that members of the community hold about men and women and then conduct empirical studies to explain and/or refute them. They could investigate how men and women are named and represented in the texts used in the community, how men and women talk to each other, and how issues of dominance and resistance play out in situated activities throughout the community.

But perhaps more important than providing the student with information about how to be communicatively competent in a particular community of practice, the experience of learning how to conduct an ethnography of communication study would help students develop strategic competence, an aspect of Canale’s and Swain’s (1980) nowclassic model of communicative competence that has been relatively neglected in L2 pedagogy.

If students learn how to look, how to ask questions, and how to listen in order to account for when, where, by whom, to whom, in what manner, and in what particular circumstances particular speech acts are used (Saville-Troike, this volume) in one context, they can transfer those strategies to other interactional contexts in which they will participate at other times. In addition, the L2 classroom itself can provide a forum for critical discourse analysis in which students can question issues of language and power that they observe through their ethnography of communication studies.

Fairclough (1992) has argued that language teachers need to adopt a more critical stance toward traditional sociolinguistic studies which tend to describe what happens in a particular speech community as appropriate. As an example, he critiques the unquestioned acceptance of standard English as the goal of ESL/EFL instruction. Returning to issues of language and gender, suppose the students observed a particular context, say, a traditionally organized meeting such as the one Edelsky (1981) described, in which the men dominate and the women rarely contribute.

The classroom can provide a forum for students and teachers together to question such practices, to discuss strategies for resisting practices that, for example, position women in a voiceless role. They could suggest creative alternatives and discuss the implications of their choices (cf. Chick, this volume). In brief, having students conduct ethnography of communication studies and discuss their findings from a critical discourse perspective could teach students firsthand about the power of our language choices to shape particular contexts, our notions of ourselves, and our relationships with each other in those contexts.

Students learning language can simultaneously learn to challenge and to construct alternative notions of what gender is and should be. Suggestions for further reading Cameron, Deborah (1992). Feminism and linguistic theory (2nd ed. ). New York: St. Martin’s. A critical review of studies of gender in empirical sociolinguistics, of feminist efforts at linguistic reform of sexist language, and of approaches to language in French feminism (J. Kristeva, L. Irigaray). Focuses on epistemological assumptions. Coates, Jennifer (1993). Women, men and language. London: Longman.

A comprehensive review of studies of language and gender done in dialectology, variationist (a. k. a. Labovian) sociolinguistics, language acquisition, and discourse analysis. A solid introduction to the topic, often used as a textbook for undergraduates. The final chapter considers the social consequences of linguistic sex differences, with particular attention to educational applications in British classrooms. Eckert, Penelope, &C McConnell-Ginet, Sally (1992). Think practically and look locally: Language and gender as community-based practice. Annual Review of Anthropology, 21, 461-490.

A comprehensive and critical review of language and gender research by two linguists. Rapidly becoming one of the most widely cited articles in language and gender scholarship. Gal, Susan (1991). Between speech and silence: The problematics of research on language and gender. In Micaela DiLeonardo (Ed. ), Gender at the crossroads of knowledge: Feminist anthropology in the postmodern era (pp. 175—203). Berkeley: University of California Press. A comprehensive and critical review of language and gender research, with a focus on what constitutes power, oppression, resistance, and domination.

Goodwin, Marjorie Harness (1990). He-said-she-said: Talk as social organization among black children. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Investigates similarities and differences in the use of directives (commands), arguments, gossip activities, and stories by African-American boys and girls in Philadelphia. Although the analysis may contain details that are not necessarily relevant to nonspecialists, this remains the only published book-length ethnographic study of language and gender available.

It may therefore serve as a model for students on how to conduct a comprehensive ethnography of communicative events in one’s own social world. Hall, Kira, Bucholtz, Mary, &; Moonwomon, Birch (Eds. ). (1993). Locating power: Proceedings of the second Berkeley women and language Conference. (2 Vols. ). Berkeley: Berkeley Women and Language Group, Department of Linguistics, University of California at Berkeley. collection of fifty-six articles that show the depth and breadth of current studies of language and gender.

Includes contributions by many scholars currently working on language and gender. Hume, Elizabeth, & McElhinny, Bonnie (Eds. ). (1993). The Committee on the Status of Women in Linguistics (COSWL) Language and Gender Syllabus Project. Washington, DC: Linguistic Society of America. This collection is an invaluable resource for those teaching undergraduate or graduate courses on language and gender. It contains twenty-seven syllabi for courses on language and gender taught in an array of departments (linguistics, anthropology, folklore, English, education, French, German).

Special features of the collection include syllabi for undergraduate and graduate courses, ideas for paper topics, examples of exam questions, instructions for fieldwork exercises in gathering and/or analyzing gender differences in language use, bibliographies of work on language and gender, and comments from instructors about particularly successful techniques for teaching that have been implemented in the course. For information on ordering hard copies, write to COSWL Language and Gender

Syllabus Project, Linguistic Society of America, 1325 18th Street NW, Suite 211, Washington D. C. 20036 Philips, Susan, Steele, Susan, & Tanz, Christine (Eds. ). (1986). Language, gender and sex in comparative perspective. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Contains chapters investigating language and gender in Japan, Western Samoa, Mexico, Panama, and the United States. Some chapters consider whether there are biological effects on linguistic aptitudes of boys and girls. Swann, Joan (1993). Girls, boys and language. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. An excellent resource for teachers.

In very accessible language, this book summarizes issues relating to language, gender, and education, and provides teachers with a variety of ways to investigate and reform as necessary their curricular choices and classroom practices. Thorne, Barrie, Kramerae, Cheris, &C Henley, Nancy (Eds. ) (1983). Language, gender and society. Cambridge: Newbury House. A collection of classic essays that represent a variety of topics and approaches to the study of language and gender, as well as an extensive annotated bibliography of the literature to that date. References

Aguilar-San Juan, Karin (1994). [Review of Reading Asian American literature: From necessity to extravagance, by Sau-ling Cynthia Wong, and Articulate silences: Hisaye Yamamoto, Maxine Hong Kingston, Joy Kogawa, by King-kok Cheung. ] Women’s Review of Books, 11{7), 17-18. Bern, Sandra, 8c Bern, Daryl (1973). Does sex-biased job advertising “aid and abet” sex discrimination? Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 3(1), 6-18. Billmyer, Kristine (1990). “I really like your lifestyle”: ESL learners learning how to compliment. Penn Working Papers in Educational Linguistics, 6(2), 31-48.

Borker, Ruth, &C Maltz, Daniel (1989). Anthropological perspectives on gender and language. In S. Morgan (Ed. ), Gender and anthropology (pp. 411— 437). Washington, DC: American Anthropology Association. Brown, Penelope (1980). How and why are women more polite: Some evidence from a Mayan community. In Sally McConnell-Ginet, Ruth Borker, &c Nelly Furman (Eds. ), Women and language in literature and society (pp. 111-149). New York: Praeger. Brown, Penelope (1993). Gender, politeness and confrontation in Tenejapa. In Deborah Tannen (Ed. ), Gender and conversational interaction (pp.

144- 164). Oxford: Oxford University Press. Brown, Penelope, &c Stephen Levinson (1983). Politeness: Some universals in language usage. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, (original work published 1979) Bucholtz, Mary (1993). The mixed discourse genre as a social resource for participants. In Joshua Guenter, Barbara Kaiser, & Cheryl Zoll (Eds. ). Proceedings of the nineteenth annual meeting of the Berkeley Linguistics Society, (pp. 40-51) Berkeley, CA: Department of Linguistics. Bucholtz, Mary (1994). Theorizing African-American women s linguistic practices.

Unpublished manuscript. Butler, Judith (1990). Gender trouble: feminism and the subversion of identity. New York: Routledge. Butler, Judith (1992). Contingent foundations: Feminism and the question of ‘postmodernism’. In Judith Butler &c Joan Scott (Eds. ), Feminists theorize the political (pp. 3-21). New York: Routledge. Cameron, Deborah (1990). The feminist critique of language: A reader. New York: Routledge. Cameron, Deborah (1992). Feminism a