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HEARING MANY VOICES
THE HAMPTON PRESS COMMUNICATION SERIES
Transforming Visions: Feminist Critiques in Communication Studies
Sheryl Perlmutter Bowen and Nancy Wyatt (eds.)
Black and White Women as Friends: Building Cross-Race Friendships
Mary W. McCullough
Hearing Many Voices
M.J. Hardman and Anita Taylor (eds.)
HEARING MANY VOICES
M. J. HARDMAN
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
GEORGE MASON UNIVERSITY
SHAMPTON PRESS, INC.
CRESSKILL, NEW JERSEY
Copyright 2000 by Hampton Press, Inc.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced,
stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means,
electronic, mechanical, photocopying, microfilming, recording, or
otherwise, without permission of the publisher.
Printed in the United States of America
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Hearing many voices / edited by M. J. Hardman, Anita Taylor.
p. cm. -- (The Hampton Press communication series)
Includes bibliographic references and index.
ISBN 1-57273-237-7. -- ISBN 1-58273-238-5
1. Women--Language. 2. Language and sex. I. Hardman,
Martha James. II. Taylor, Anita, 1935-. III. Series.
Hampton Press, Inc.
Cresskill, NJ 07626
Introduction: The Meaning of Voice
Anita Taylor and M. J. Hardman 1
Language Notes 29
PART I: SOFTENED VOICES
Some Suggestions for a (Relatively) New Model
of Conversation Analysis
Sylvia L. Ashwell 33
2. Women and Men in Egyptian Obituaries:
Language, Gender, and Identity
Mushira Eid 41
3. The Power of Women's Voices in the Practice of Chismeando
Joan Kelly Hall 59
4. Gender/Language Subtexts as Found in Literature Anthologies:
Mixed Messages, Stereotypes, Silence, Erasure
Mary R. Harmon 75
5. I Never Told Anybody and I Desperately
Need Someone to Talk To: Problem Pages for Girls-
Research on Italian Teen Magazines
Paola Traverso 87
6. Romancing the Earth:
Feminized Nature and Maternal/Erotic Metaphors
in Recent Eco-Environmental Literature
Lenora A. Timm 105
7. Hit or Myth:
The Perpetration of Popular Japanese Stereotypes
in Japan-Published English Textbooks
Deborah Foreman-Takano 119
8. Age, Sex, and Linguistic Judgments:
Politeness and "Femininity" in Japanese
Naoko Ogawa 133
9. Female-Male Inequality in Japanese Writing
Yasuko Hio 157
PART II: SILENCED/ALTERED VOICES
10. Sexism in Japanese Society: Not What We Think It Is
Chieko Koyama 175
11. The Identity of Kannadigas Women:
A Study of Kinship and Addressal Systems
Susan K. Shear 185
12. Who Speaks for North African Women in France?
Patricia Geesey 193
13. Homeless Women's Inner Voices: Friends or Foes?
Dominique M. Gendrin 203
14. Cherokee Generative Metaphors
Lisa R. Perry 221
15. Sexual Harassment and Cat Calls in the Black Community
LaTasha LaJourn Farmer 233
16. The Stifling of Women's Voices:
Men's Messages from Men's Movement Books
David Natharius 239
17. Magical Voices
Leilani Cook 253
18. The Patriarchal Code:
Works Against the Common Good of All Individuals
Louise Gouiffic 263
Author Index 271
Subject Index 277
We have stated in the introduction much that ordinarily would be
included in a book preface. We edited this book (and planned the
conference from which it grew) to give wider audience to a variety of
women's voices that are too rarely heard. While in no case could we
claim to have presented voices of all the women who should be heard,
this book in its own small way does more of that than has other
mainstream Western publishing. Our remaining hope is that what we
have done will inspire or provoke more such publications and that we
will encourage others to "listen" to the many voices that speak of
women's experience, whether or not they are honored voices.
One matter relevant to the issues of hierarchical thinking that
we discuss in the first chapter is the order in which editors' names are
listed. Those of us who think in English incline to think the first listed
name is the most important, the very principle that led us to write (and
ask our authors to write) women and men, or she and he, whenever
such constructions appear in our text. In our own work we try, not
always successfully, to avoid implementing such a ranking principle.
While each of us as editor (or author) has brought different strengths to
this project, we have rarely worked in a situation in which a more
balanced, equal, and egalitarian relationship existed. Truly, this book
could not exist as it does without both of us. Thus, neither of us wishes
to convey by the way our names appear that one of us has been more
important to this book, or the introduction, than the other. Yet we know
our English readers. For that reason, we are listed as editors with
Hardman first, and as writers of the introduction with Taylor first.
Finally we want to state publicly our gratitude to those who
have made this work possible. We thank especially our patient authors
who endured delays and seemingly endless revisions and editing
suggestions; Hampton Press publisher Barbara Bernstein; our series
editor Brenda Dervin; and Dimas Bautista Iturrizaga, who did much to
sustain body, mind, and soul as we struggled through the editing
Sylvia L. Ashwell earned her master's degree in applied linguistics at
the University of Florida in Gainesville. Her current research interests
include cross-cultural communication, neurolinguistics, and autism,
leading her to pursue a Ph.D. in psycholinguistics.
Leilani Cook completed her Ph.D. in 1995 and currently lives and works
in Gainesville, Florida, where she writes about magical language and
other sociolinguistic issues.
Mushira Eid is a professor in the Department of Languages and
Literature and the Middle East Center at the University of Utah in Salt
Lake City. Her research and teaching interests include Arabic linguistics,
language and gender and code-switching.
LaTasha LaJourn Farmer was a student at the University of Florida
when she prepared this paper.
Deborah Foreman-Takano, associate professor of English at Doshisha
University, Kyoto, has been teaching English in Japan for 26 years. Her
research concerns the cultural impact on various aspects of spoken
Patricia Geesey is associate professor of French and foreign cultures at
the University of North Florida in Jacksonville. Her research interests
include French-language fiction from North Africa, and Islam and North
African immigration in France.
Dominique M. Gendrin is an Adjunct Faculty in Liberal Arts and
Management Studies as the Culinary Institute of America in
Poughkeepsie, NY. Her research focuses on cognition processes in
various social groups.
Louise Gouifffic is executive director of Language Reform International
(formerly, The Language Abuse Institute). She has recently published
Breaking the Patriarchal Code (Manchester, CT: KIT, Knowledge, Ideas
and Trends, Inc.).
Joan Kelly Hall is an associate professor in the Department of Language
Education and a member of the Interdisciplinary Linguistics Program at
the University of Georgia. Her research interests include the study of
face-to-face second language learning contexts and intercultural
M. J. Hardman is an professor of Linguistic Anthropology and a
member of the Women's Studies Faculty at the University of Florida.
She has specialized in the Aymara languages and in gender as it
manifests itself in languages and cultures.
Mary R. Harmon is an associate professor of English at Saginaw Valley
State University where she chairs the English Department. Her research
interests include sociolinguistics and classroom discourse.
Yasuko Hio is a professor of English at the Shikoku Gakuin University
in Zentsuji, Kagawa, Japan, where she has conducted research into
gender patterns in Japanese.
Chieko Koyama is a Japanese student who completed a master's degree
in anthropology at the University of Florida. She has been in the United
States since 1994, and is interested in transformation of ethnic identity
among Japanese-Brazilians who work as guest-workers in Japan.
David Natharius is a professor of communication and humanities at
California State University, Fresno. His current research in gender issues
includes examining role portrayals and archetypal images in film and
Naoko Ogawa is an assistant professor of English at Kyoto Bunkyo
College in Uji, Kyoto, Japan. She is also a Ph.D. candidate in linguistic
anthropology at the University of California-Davis, currently working
on her dissertation about gender indexing and gay male speech in Japan.
Lisa R. Perry was a student at the University of Florida when she
prepared this paper.
Susan K. Shear is a graduate student in the Linguistic Program at the
University of Florida. She specializes in the study of the Kannada
language, Karnatak culture, and Lingayatism/Veerashaivism. She
promotes understanding of this language, culture and philosophy
through the development of websites sponsored by the Kogalur-Shear
Anita Taylor is a professor of communication and member of the
women's studies faculty at George Mason University, Fairfax, VA. Her
research and teaching focus on communication ethics, persuasion, and
gender in communication.
Lenora A. Timm is a professor of linguistics at the University of
California, Davis, and director of the major program in nature and
culture. Her research and teaching interests include bilingualism,
minority languages, and language and gender.
Paola Traverso is currently working in Italy as a teacher trainer,
specializing in young learners. She graduated in psychology at the
Italian University of Padua and earned a Master's in speech
communication from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
THE MEANING OF VOICE
M. J. HARDMAN
I am a femel not a female
I am a fer not a woman
I am a sapien not a human
I can name my self, therefore, I am a namer, and therefore, I must be a
critical thinker in the making of names, as well as in any other field of
thought. It is my right as a namer to name myself; no one else can
pretend to do so for me. To name me is to take my right of being a
thinker away from me.
-Louise Goueffic (this volume)
As man under fear of eternal damnation surrendered to the
irresponsible power of church and state, so woman yielded to that
power which closed every external avenue of knowledge to her under
pretext of her sinfulness.
1The terms feme and fern are historical words and were borrowed into Middle
English from French.
Taylor and Hardman
But woman is learning for herself that not self-sacrifice, but self-
development, is her first duty in life; and this, not primarily for the sake
of others but that she may become fully herself...
-Matilde Joslyn Gage, suffragist
Woman, Church & State (1893; cited in Wagner, 1980, p. 239)
Voices of women. How are they heard? Consider suffragist Matilde
Joslyn Gage. Described in 1888 as one whose name, linked with
Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony "will ever hold a grateful
place in the hearts of posterity" (cited in Wagner, 1980, p. xv), by 1980
she merited eight "passing mentions," in four standard suffrage
dictionaries, four with incorrect information (p. xxxviii). In contrast,
Wagner found Anthony mentioned 168 times and Stanton 148 times.
For a long time, the story of the 19th-century women's rights
movement was not taught in history books. By the late 1990s, that
omission had been largely corrected, but the names that most people
learn are those of Stanton and Anthony. Gage is known by few. Her
voice has been almost entirely silenced.
Matilda Joslyn Gage was left by the wayside of history at least in
part because she argued against the prevailing ideological system. She
talked with the Iroquois, and could see that Native American women
had what she did not. She described the position of Iroquois women as
far superior to that of women in non-Indian nations:
The famous Iroquois Indians, or Six Nations ... showed alike in form of
government, and in social life... women's superiority in power.... No
sale of lands was valid without the consent of the squaws and the
Council of Matrons, to which all disputed questions were referred for
final adjudication The women also possessed the veto power on
questions of war. (Gage, 1893, p. 10)
Gage received the name of Ka-ron-ien-ha-wi or "She who holds the sky"
when she was made an honorary member of the Iroquois wolf clan in
1893. She spoke out against the "oppression of Indians" and the
breaking of treaties. She also concluded that the modern world was
indebted to the Iroquois "for its first conception of inherent rights,
natural equality of condition, and the establishment of a civilized
government upon this basis" (Gage, 1893/1980, p. 10) because the
constitution of the United States reflected that of the Six Nations
Confederacy. Gage could envision a nation with such rights for all
women, propounding these "radical" ideas at a time when movement
leaders had turned in a more conservative direction, worrying about the
"contamination" of their quest for the vote both by immigrants and
Blacks. She became persona non grata among the women of the
Introduction: The Meaning of Voice
movement with her voice nearly completely lost to succeeding
Consider as well Zora Neal Hurston. An anthropologist in the
early part of the 20th century, she accomplished extraordinary feats
considering how few women, and especially Black women, achieved
any level of academic recognition during those years. Widely praised for
her work by some of her contemporaries, Hurston persisted in working
with language communities of poor and Black people. And she persisted
in writing novels as well as "scholarship." The not surprising result is
that she was unknown to succeeding generations as well until very
recently (Washington, 1990).
What happened to those voices? How is it that we come to the
end of the 20th century, after 30 years or more of feminist scholarship
and activism and many well-educated people have heard of neither of
these women, nor know anything of their work if they know the names?
Why were Gage and Hurston, and many like them not heard, or if
heard, not remembered?
The metaphor of voice and its recovery has been powerful in the
20th-century women's movement. Coming to realize we had voices that
count and struggling to exercise those voices is in many ways "THE"
story of this modem women's movement. We intend this book to serve
as part of that struggle because it is motivated by the effort to hear a
variety of women's voices. Our goal is to hear, record, and help others
hear some of the breadth and strength of the voices of women often not
In this introduction, we discuss the origins of the book, placing
the work within the development of recent feminist scholarship in
language, linguistics, and communication. We summarize the chapters
included, attempting to show their relation to each other and to current
scholarship. Finally, because we argue that it is important to understand
the perspectives from which our own voices derive in order to be able to
hear the voices of others, we end the introduction suggesting a variety of
ways to "hear" these chapters despite the framing provided by our own
Prior to Second Wave Feminism, the absence of women's voices
pervaded our academic worlds. In the study of communication and
speech, if one were to read the collections of "great" speeches, prior to
1960, one would think that no women gave speeches. And, listening to
radio or watching television, it was well into the 1960s before women
were heard in positive and active roles other than as entertainers. In
linguistics, the study of language proceeded largely through study of
the speech of men. When women's "register" was remarked on, it was to
denigrate it by noting how weakly women talk and how trivial were the
Taylor and Hardman
subjects to which they devoted attention. There was much study of the
weighty talk of men, and only derision of the frivolous gossip of
women, when they were not ignored entirely.
Our own areas of study were not alone in the dismissal of
women, however. The 20th century has been described as the century in
which the dominant religion changed from the church to that of
psychology (Bellah, Madsen, Sullivan, Sidler, & Tipton, 1985). And in
that change, we turned from a religion dominated by a male
supernatural god to a discipline whose secular god (Freud) was at least
as unkind to women. It was a long and difficult struggle, not finished
yet, to rescue women from Freud and his disciples. Other areas of
scholarship were little more welcoming to women. Before the 1960s,
anthropology was almost exclusively the study of man and "his"
cultures; sociology was the study of men in groups and social structures.
Economics, which builds theories on which governments built policies,
operated on the premise of the rational "man" who competes for scarce
resources. As Tickner (1992) said, "Rational economic man is assumed to
be motivated by the laws of profit maximization. He is highly
individualistic, pursuing his own economic goals in the market without
any social obligation to the community of which he is a part" (p. 72).
History consisted largely of tales about governments, their armies,
battles, treaties, laws, and efforts to control a populace. Few of those
doing the governing were women; few women fought (or wanted to
fight) in the armies; few negotiated the treaties or made the laws. There
were some women in prominent places in business or government, but
they were few and often achieved their position by inheriting a role or a
business from a father or a politician husband who died in office. Even
more rarely were their deeds chronicled to become part of history. In
these circumstances, women understandably felt silenced.
Women were rarely in any roles of prominence anywhere in the
public world. Many women worked outside the home, contrary to a
widespread myth of today. But they worked in roles in which they were
largely overlooked and in positions of relatively low influence. Women
were domestics, cleaning staff, clerical workers, retail salespersons,
garment workers, migrant laborers, nurses, nurses aides, elementary
school teachers, and the like. They held positions that commanded low
wages and equal amounts of respect.
Introduction: The Meaning of Voice
DEVELOPMENT OF MODERN FEMINIST STUDY
ABOUT WOMEN AND LANGUAGE
Against this backdrop, the late 20th-century feminist movement of the
United States rose out of the 20th-century civil rights movement and set
itself to the task of putting women into roles of influence. Hearing the
eloquent voices of the African-American struggle for freedom, we set
out to reclaim our own voices-and to have them heard.
It was not long, however, before an incredible irony surfaced.
We discovered our feminist movement itself guilty of silencing women's
voices. Even women who spoke of alternate ways in which women's
lives were being lived elsewhere were silenced, as though only the
experience of one class of one race of women were relevant. This was the
experience of one of the editors of this book, a feminist from the time she
knew the word, but with no place in the movement until recently,
because her work questioned early feminist orthodoxy.2
Perhaps the first to call themselves to our attention were African
Americans. Using the words of Sojourner Truth, Ain't I a Woman, hooks
(1981) wrote of being silenced in her classrooms at Stanford, but she was
far from the only Black person who experienced the phenomenon or
wrote about it (Davis, 1981; Hull, Scott, & Smith, 1982). And more than
African Americans were involved. Only 3 years after being created, the
National Organization for Women (NOW) nearly foundered over
visibility of support for lesbians. Lesbians were welcome, indeed in
many places were the backbone of women's groups, but they were
urged to remain silent and invisible "for the good of the whole." During
the first years of the movement, concerns of the poor seldom received
high priority from women's groups. In both theory and practice, the
1960s and early 1970s women's "liberation" movement worked for goals
the achievement of which would have little direct effect in improving
the lot of the poor. Other minorities, whose interests often coincided
with those of the poor, also found little benefit from the mainstream
women's movement. Accurately accused of being primarily a White,
middle-class movement, many of its members not only did not hear
voices different from their own, but did not particularly want to hear
2As an example, much of the ethnographic data in Hardman (1994) was
gathered some 20 or 30 years before the publication, and then only in 1994 did
The Organization for the Study of Communication Language and Gender make
publication of it possible. Contributions have been rejected even from feminist
publications/conferences because the information I provided about the Jaqi
women did not fit the canon. One article (Hardman, 1978) was delayed by
several years in its publication for the same reason. Many others have yet to
come into the public eye.
Taylor and Hardman
those voices. The accusations never accurately described all early 20th-
century feminists; the description of the results was largely accurate.
Voices of African-American women or Latinas or Native Americans, or
those descended from Asian or Pacific Islanders were rarely heard.
When the concerns of poor women were addressed, it was usually by
someone speaking for them; we rarely heard them speak for themselves;
we rarely made such forums available. The international voices heard
were Anglo and European. Intellectual feminism was heard, but it was
English and European.
Moreover, our work suffered from a distressing tendency to
essentialize the idea of woman. All too often, we assumed that all (or at
least most) women had common interests, common attitudes, common
traits and dispositions. We talked and wrote as if what we knew about
relatively small groups of white women was, therefore, true of other
women. We behaved as if what we had in the English-speaking world,
especially Canada, England, and the United States, was what everyone
else would obviously look up to and want. When we were not ignoring
them altogether, we were often patronizing when talking about or
interacting with non-Western women.
Fortunately, our feminism was sufficiently deep that we did at
last listen when others said, "Wait, you do not speak for me!" Beginning
with the 1980s and increasingly in the late 1990s, feminism matured and
developed until, in 1998, it included a wide variety of voices and
resisted the overgeneralizing of the 1960s. We have a long way to go.
Just as in the late 1990s, too few women's voices of any kind were heard
in the public sphere, so too were too few not White, not privileged
women's voices heard within the feminist movement. Not in our theory,
our organizations, or our scholarship do we sufficiently represent the
vast diversity of women's experiences and interests. But at least we
realize that we do not. And it was just such a realization that led, first to
a conference, and then to this book.
M. J. Hardman conceived the idea for the conference, "Our Own
and Others' Voices" as a forum for many voices, out of her frustrating
experiences finding a place in which persons other than White men
could be heard. As conference director, she sought widely for a variety
of participants, dispersed geographically as well as by cultural group
and interests.3 Growing from the conference, at which were heard many
voices unfamiliar to the ears of English speakers with often surprising
messages, was the idea that these should have a wider audience. These
3The two voices mentioned, of Matilde Joslyn Gage and Zora Neale Hurston
were heard at the conference through the medium of monodrama performances
by Sally Roesch Wagner and Phyllis McEwen Taylor, thereby breaking their
silence, at least in part, and giving us voices across time as well as geography.
Introduction: The Meaning of Voice
voices often question our assumptions about the nature of human
"nature," and they require us to think again about our assumptions
We invited many of those who presented at the conference to
submit their papers for this volume and have interacted with the
authors in an extensive editing process. Reconstructing our assumptions
about the nature of human "nature," and rethinking our assumptions
about diversity is a difficult process. Those of us who believed in the
1960s that we could build a nonracist and nonsexist society by deciding
to do so never imagined how much time it would take. Therefore, even
though it seems a long time since these chapters were first written, little
in the book is susceptible to becoming dated. Most of what is here is
timeless in that it gives the reader an idea of the variety of women's
voices that can be heard. No one volume could ever include all possible
voices. However, we have achieved some degree of diversity in the
voices to include. Geographically, the contributions speak to some
aspect of women and language in Japan, southern India, Santa
Domingo, Italy, France, and Egypt, as well as Canada and the United
States. In terms of language, we hear the voices of Cherokee, Kannada,
Japanese, Spanish, Arabic, Black English, Italian, and French among
Having gathered a rich variety of contributions, we then faced
the task of framing. We have chosen a format that, as far as we are able,
provides a forum for the voices such that we the editors do not speak for
the authors, and that the chosen authors do not speak for women not
chosen from within their own cultures. All of us have tried to remain
alert to avoid speaking for women in cultures not represented. We hope,
through our framing, to help readers make sense of the whole. We have
tried to do this, as mentioned, by utilizing the metaphor of voice. Later,
we discuss groupings by the geography of the subjects, whether persons
or language; and we also suggest alternative perspectives for viewing
THE VOICES IN THIS BOOK
Anytime one combines seventeen chapters representing almost as many
diverse cultural viewpoints, any category system used to relate the
pieces to each other and the whole includes elements that are artificial.
Categories are created by the categorizer. So we here need to share why
we arrange these chapters as we do.
We have built this book around the hearing of women's voices.
Among the most productive uses of this metaphor of voice was when
8 Taylor and Hardman
Kramarae (1981) and Spender (1980) applied the muted group theory to
women (E. Ardener, 1975; S. Ardener, 1975). Muted group theory, as
developed by the Ardeners, describes what happens when dominant
groups coexist in a society or culture with dominated groups. The
dominant group, having the power, makes all the rules and enforces
them, thus "muting" the subordinate group voices. The subordinate
group has little influence (voice) in deciding what the rules will be or to
whom they will be applied, and so on. The group and its voice are
Kramarae (1974, 1981) and Spender (1980) pointed out that in
patriarchal cultures, men are the dominant group, women the
dominated. Men, having positions of public power, make the cultural
rules and establish the means of enforcement. Kramarae and Spender
extended the argument to communication. They claimed that, by and
large, men created languages. This, Spender argued, is especially true of
English because it was formalized by clerics and academics (and often
these were the same person as clerics were the professors) who
established rules for using English. Since women were not involved in
formalizing the language, and were dominated in the culture that
created it, Kramarae hypothesized, it does not serve them well. English
does not name concepts important to women but to men (e.g., one can
have a "seminal" idea; but was one ever described as ovularr"?). English
also devalues concepts important to women but not to men (again, the
"seminal" idea is an example; if one nurtured or incubated an idea it
would have quite a different feeling, as would ovulating it). English uses
male referents and terms (e.g., the "generic" he and the conclusion that
number is more important than gender for the third-person indefinite
pronoun). And there are, of course, many other examples that can be
given to illustrate how the English language serves men and men's
interests better than women (see Hill, 1986; Miller & Swift, 1976;
Penelope, 1990). Thus, Kramarae concluded, to describe English as
"muting" women is appropriate.
Elgin, following up on Kramarae's muted group theory, as a
thought experiment constructed the fictional language Laadan to
express women's perceptions more adequately than existing human
languages as far as she and the theorists then knew. She wrote a science
fiction novel, Native Tongue (1984), in which a group of linguist women
constructed LAadan, and began using it so that it could become the
native tongue for the children. One of the characters was especially
talented in the construction of "lexicalizations"-the invention of terms
for expressing concepts. An example of these terms is radama "to
nontouch; to actively refrain from touching" and a word derived from
that one, radamalh which means the same, but with evil intent (with the
Introduction: The Meaning of Voice
suffix "lh"). Laadan has 11 roots that translate to "love" in English, for
example, ab means "love for one liked but not respected"; ad is "love for
one respected but not liked"; geme "love for one neither liked nor
respected"; ashon is "love for one not related by blood, but kin of the
heart"; azh means "love for one sexually desired now"; and so on
through as many varieties as eventual native speakers of LAadan may
feel needed. Native Tongue and its sequels Judas Rose (1987) and
Earthsong (1994) deal with the effects of such language use on perception
and living. Other cultures could also be considered (e.g., Brantenberg,
1985). Some of these are represented in this book in terms of how
language and women's status interact.
Russ (1983), also a science fiction author whose work is gender
bending, shows How to Suppress a Woman's Writing, a set of discourse
patterns that effectively deny women agency. In the last part of this
chapter, we use Russ's set of discourse strategies for muting women's
voices to discuss the chapters in this book.
Muted group theory is introduced here because the chapters in
this volume are framed in terms of muting. The metaphor works
because voices are muted in a variety of ways. Mute can mean to silence
completely, as with the remote control for a television set or in the case
of an autistic child. Mute can mean to soften the voice, as does the pedal
on a piano. And mute can mean to change (distort) the sound, as does
the hat used by a jazz trombonist or trumpeter. We see those kinds of
muting in the groups to which some of our authors give voice, or in the
authors' voices themselves.
We use the muting metaphor to place the contributions to this
volume into two groups. In the first section, "Softened Voices," are two
kinds of chapters: those whose authors themselves are saying messages
likely to be softened, and second, contributions about women whose
voices have been softened. The research reported by the first of these
types of chapters makes small but useful additions to an existing canon.
They do not resist the dominant paradigm or canon of the research;
rather they extend it. But in that some extensions challenge previously
drawn conclusions, the findings risk being toned down or belittled if not
overlooked altogether. Several chapters in this section deal with the
mechanisms by which voices are muted, both directly and by teaching
others to ignore all but a small segment of voices. The second section,
"Silenced/Altered Voices," includes a wide variety of voices. Some tell
stories or speak a woman's truth previously, or currently, muted. Voices
such as these often overlap with those that have been distorted or those
that large numbers of people refuse to hear or honor. These speakers in
some cases express messages so distant from an existing canon they are
rejected even without a hearing. In other cases, they defy legitimized
Taylor and Hardman
ways of knowing. And in still others, the message is rejected because the
messenger is not respected. We return shortly to this discussion of why
voices have not been heard.
Nine chapters comprise the first section of the book. Sylvia L.
Ashwell, in "Aizuchi: Suggestions for a (Relatively) New Model of
Conversation Analysis," discusses the Japanese practice of aizuchi, called
backchanneling by U. S. scholars. She notes its frequent use by Japanese
speakers compared to English speakers and shows the importance of
understanding its association with powerlessness in English (because of
its association with women) because it does not have such an association
in Japanese. Without such an awareness, we cannot effectively teach
English speakers to speak Japanese or Japanese speakers to speak
English. Ashwell's argument is an excellent example of the small
addition to existing knowledge that can be made if scholars will listen to
previously unheard voices, something possible only if our own customs
of communication and language do not lead us to hear alternative
patterns or voices as we would hear our own. In "Women and Men in
Egyptian Obituaries: Language, Gender, and Identity," Mushira Eid
examines changes in how women and men are identified in Egyptian
obituaries over a span of 50 years from 1938 to 1988. She reports that
identification of women by name has increased greatly over that period
of time, although differences remain between Muslim and Christian
groups in amount and type of identification. These first two chapters are
overtly comparative in the sense that the writers directly compare
English patterns to a different language or communication system.
Joan Kelly Hall's chapter, "The Power of Women's Voices in the
Practice of Chismeando," reports listening to the voices of women in San
Christ6bal, Santo Domingo as they engage in chismeando (gossip). From
the women's talk, she draws two contributions to existing knowledge.
First, she notes how the women use chismeando to identify, enforce, and
relate to the social code. Second, and importantly, she shows that the
intonation patterns of the phrase-final rise and fall cannot be interpreted
to have universal meanings. As with Ashwell's chapter, Hall's analysis
of chismeando shows how hearing previously discounted (muted) voices
can modify conclusions based on previous scholarship.
Three contributions in this section pay attention to one
mechanism by which voices are muted, both directly and in teaching
others to ignore all but a small segment of voices. One of these,
"Gender/Language Subtexts as Found in Literature Anthologies: Mixed
Messages, Stereotypes, Silence, Erasure," by Mary R. Harmon uncovers
the gender subtexts in five widely used anthologies of U.S. literature, all
with copyright dates after 1989, four after 1990. She demonstrates that as
these books propose literature to be taught in high schools, women's
Introduction: The Meaning of Voice 11
voices are to be small, in no case to exceed one third of the pages, in
most cases to include less than one in four of the authors or pages. Her
work confirms the continuing validity of Russ' arguments. Paola
Traverso's chapter, "I Never Told Anybody and I Desperately Need
Someone to Talk to: Problem Pages for Girls in Italian Teen Magazines,"
reports an analysis of the advice columns in three Italian teen
magazines. She found that the magazines continue to present
relationships with boys and achieving appropriate femininity as
important concerns for teenaged girls while ignoring most of the social
issues of note during the period of the analysis. She also finds, however,
that the girls themselves are not merely passive recipients of advice.
Traverso shows that the message of the teen magazine to girls suggests
their voices are important in attracting men and demonstrating
appropriately feminine role behavior, thus subtilely saying to the girls,
"You need not talk about the serious issues."
Lenora A. Timm's, "Romancing the Earth: Feminized Nature
and Maternal/Erotic Metaphors in Recent Eco-Environmental
Literature," presents a message itself susceptible to softening, if not
silencing or distortion. She develops an unpopular thesis, arguing that
we court danger with the maternal metaphors widely used for the earth,
popular in eco-environmental literature, and in much feminist writing.
Challenging a popular orthodoxy invites muting.
Deborah Foreman-Takano's chapter, "Hit or Myth: The
Perpetration of Popular Japanese Stereotypes in Japan-published
English Textbooks," is the third contribution in this section that exposes
a mechanism by which voices are silenced. She introduces a group of
papers bounded by geography, in that they relate to women and
language in Japan. Foreman-Takano examines writing used to teach
English in Japan and shows how stereotypical attitudes about both
Japan and "the West" distort depictions of both in writings used to teach
English in Japan. Continuing the focus on Japanese, Naoko Ogawa's,
"Age, Sex, and Linguistic Judgments: Politeness and 'Femininity'" is
another contribution that can extend the canon if not muted. She reports
ratings of politeness and femininity or masculinity, ratings done by a
wide age range of Japanese speakers. The ratings challenge previously
believed scholarly and popular conclusions that politeness and
femininity are not correlated in Japanese speech. Rather, Ogawa's data
show, politeness is Japanese, and not correlated with femininity. It is
rudeness and masculinity that correlate. In "Female-Male Inequality in
Japanese Writing," Yasuko Hio examines gender stereotypes as she
discusses the distorting effect of importing Chinese characters as the
basis for the writing system for Japanese.
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The second part of the book includes voices muted by silencing
or altering. Many of these authors are women who write in their own
voice and relate insights they had as they sought to hear women's voices
from earlier in their own cultural history. Or they write of their insights
as they made sense of their own experiences of hearing muted voices
within a different and dominant culture. The first chapter in this group,
"Sexism in Japanese Society: Not What We Think It Is," by Chieko
Koyama, continues the geographic/language grouping of
Japan/Japanese. Koyama, whose work was motivated by her effort to
make sense of her encounters with sexism in the United States, writes of
the women of ancient Japan, women whose voices are softened in the
Japan of the 1990s, and about whom almost nothing is heard outside
that country. She expresses her own hope for recovery of those ancient
voices in modern Japan. The chapter, "The Identity of Kannadigas
Women: Study of Kinship and Address Systems," by Susan Shear,
changes geographic focus to India. Shear writes about address systems
in Kannada, the language of the Kannadigas, a Dravidian people of the
southern part of India. She demonstrates a treatment of women in the
language and marital customs that belies widely held beliefs about
India. Hence, she shows the muted voice of Kannada within India and
of the failure to hear this particular voice outside the Indian
subcontinent. The next contribution, "Who Speaks for North African
Women in France?" by Patricia Geesey discusses the problematic
distortion of North African women's voices as they are produced and
reproduced in France. Her title and chapter express well the problem of
muting as altered or distorted voice in groups with varying levels of
influence within a culture. Who does speak for a group of women? The
question is difficult and the answers are more so.
Returning geographically to North America, the next set of
contributions deals with voices often completely muted. Dominique
Gendrin's work, "Homeless Women's Inner Voices: Friends or Foes?"
analyzes voices almost never heard and even less honored-
conversations that are imagined by homeless women-and assesses the
value of such conversations to the women who carry on these internal
dialogues. She suggests encouraging the use of these internal, personal
voices to help avoid the social isolation and desperation brought about
by becoming homeless. In "Cherokee Generative Metaphors," Lisa Perry
writes of the generative metaphors of the Cherokee, a group whose
voices a long and conscious effort attempted not only to silence but to
eliminate-an effort not yet dead with the rise of English-only
movement in the United States in the 1990s. LaTasha Farmer's "Sexual
Harassment and Catcalls among African Americans," notes that
growing acceptance of the idea of sexual harassment has potential to
Introduction: The Meaning of Voice
distort understanding of the practice of verbal interplay among African
Toward the end of the book, we include three widely disparate
chapters. Each fits the metaphor of muting in different ways. David
Natharius' paper, "The Stifling of Women's Voices: Men's Messages
From Men's Movement Books," examines three widely read books of the
Men's Movement. Through his outlines of the arguments in these books,
Natharius shows how many men mute the voices of women in the
feminist movement. His analysis of the men's voices makes clear the
amount of distortion in their understanding of what women are saying
and how little they actually listen to women's voices. Next, we include
Leilani Cook's "Magical Voices," a transcription and discussion of the
words of two women whose voices are widely dismissed, muted by
being ignored or disparaged. These are women of magic, a Wiccan and a
Catholic faith healer; Cook describes the two women at work. Louise
Goueffic, whose words from "The Patriarchal Code Works Against the
Common Good of all Individuals," open this introduction, closes the
book with a chapter both academic and artistic. She summarizes her
analysis of The Patriarchal Code, 10,000 words in English that she sees
as supporting "man in his role as father-husband-man and son, as the
basis of act, thought, and reasoning." She argues that exposing the Code
will lay bare the "deep level structure of male bias or 'sexism'" found in
English. The sweep of her view and unorthodoxy of her method have
led many to dismiss both the argument and the arguer.
UNDERSTANDING OUR OWN VOICES
Several of these authors comment explicitly on the problems they (or
their consultants) confront when crossing cultural language borders. The
concerns go beyond the matter of learning a new vocabulary and the
obvious rules of the grammar of a language. In learning to operate
within a different language and cultural system, we need to understand
our own voice. The issue here goes farther than what most of us call
easily to mind when we think about our English language. Any
communication system operates within a cultural system, and both
include rules of thinking, talking, and communicating that native
speakers know and (they might say "intuitively") do without noticing,
or sometimes even knowing what they have done. These unstated
patterns, of which most speakers are unaware, guide how we think
communication should (must) occur; then, often without understanding
these patterns, we apply rules that fit our system but not others.
Taylor and Hardman
Many rules of communication relate to gender and these
cultural rules about gender and communication are among those least
likely to be taught explicitly. As a result, gender rules, which
communication almost always involves, are those most likely to be
applied without conscious awareness. At the same time, the gender
rules of cultures vary widely, so are potentially the source of many and
various interpretations of how communication transactions should be
Because of the diversity of voices brought together in this
volume, it is necessary to foreground the gender rules buried in the
communication of English speakers. These patterns of English thinking
reflected in the logic of our grammar and in the unstated premises on
which we operate provide the frame for how we perceive what we see
and hear and read and how we understand the materials in this book.
For that reason, we include here a brief summary of previous work that
exposes the underlying assumptions about gender that inform the
perceptual schemata of English speakers. We then use the chapters in
this volume to discuss how our assumptions about gender, language
and communication combine to silence a wide variety of women's
As English speakers, we have built a whole system of thinking
on the assumption that the human species is divided into two genders,
arising out of our two sexes. Gender, virtually everyone now agrees, is a
social-cultural phenomenon that has to do with behaviors, values,
attributes, expectations, relationships, and so on, in addition to being an
identity category. However, few cultures, and certainly not English-
speaking ones, have anything like a clear set of agreements about exactly
what those behaviors, values, and so forth are. Thus expectations related
to gender do not break clearly into "two" groups. Perhaps more
problematic, however, are other assumptions about sex that we transfer
to assumptions about gender: There are only two genders, no more.
Female persons will develop (and exhibit) feminine genders; male
persons will develop (and exhibit) masculine genders. No one
individual will develop (or exhibit) more than one gender. Once
achieved, a person's gender does not change; it is not influenced by
relationships, situations, or passage of time. As we live our lives, these
assumptions hold only for a very few people, unless gender is defined in
such a way as to remove everything from the definition except one's
decision that one is female or male.
For some people, none of the assumptions hold. Many people
with the "wrong" chromosomes develop female gender identities and
some people with no Y chromosomes develop male gender identities.
Although modern surgical techniques and modern media have
Introduction: The Meaning of Voice
permitted wider awareness of such "anomalies," such inconsistencies
are not new phenomena. Nor have they been created by "modern"
civilization. Some cultures have legitimized gender identities that were
inconsistent with external genitalia; others have attributed special status
to persons who possessed biological manifestations of both sexes.
Important about the incorrectness of these assumptions is how
they relate to the way women's voices are heard. To begin to unravel the
complexity of the influences, a set of definitions given by Kessler and
McKenna (1978) is useful. Kessler and McKenna described gender as
multifaceted, distinguishing as different gender assignment (what infants
are labeled at birth), gender identity (what one calls oneself), gender role,
and gender attribution (what gender other people decide a person is).
Gender attribution is the most useful concept. Gender attribution is
something each of us does whenever we interact with others. First, we
decide a person's sex, and then continually draw conclusions about that
person and gender. Similarly, although less significant for this
discussion, each of us constantly behaves in ways that present cues that
lead others to make gender attributions about us. When one interacts
with others, almost no communication can take place until we resolve the
question: "Is this person female or male?" Usually the conclusion is
drawn quickly, with little or no conscious thought. But it is almost
always drawn, and once made, the decision then triggers numerous
subsequent attributions affecting the subsequent communication.
Ordinarily, we do not focus on such "doing" of gender. We have
learned patterns of interaction and repeat them without much attention
until we encounter new people or new situations that require alteration
in the pattern. In the doing and learning over many years, not only have
we developed habitual patterns that we enact without paying attention,
we also develop feelings and attitudes about gender. These feelings also
operate without conscious awareness until some challenge or event calls
them to the surface.
One could use the analogy of an iceberg as a useful way to
conceptualize these aspects of gender. Weaver (1985) used such an
analogy to describe how culture functions; doing gender is much the
same way. Weaver noted that what we observe about a culture is a
relatively small part of its impact, in the same way as the part of an
iceberg that appears above the surface of the water is much smaller than
that below the surface. The analogy can apply to gender as well. In
doing gender, what we "see" (or at least pay attention to) are behaviors
and language. Habitual patterns and attitudes about behaviors and
language are not visible, but quite strong. And the attitudes, feelings,
and judgments about patterns of gendered behavior and values
powerfully affect communication.
Taylor and Hardman
One final concept is helpful to understand the role of gender in
the creation of meaning about women and women's voices, the idea of
cognitive schemata. A cognitive schema is a collection of organizing ideas
or principles that play a major role in interpretations of subsequent
perceptions and experiences. Schemata can be described as working
models for how "the world is" that we develop as we learn a culture.
Through life experiences, schemata can (and do) change, but schema are
generally conservative. We tend to assimilate new information to fit
Gender schemata involve aspects of personal identity, ideas
about others, ideas about interpersonal and public interaction among
people, ideas about cultural roles and norms, and ideas about language
and language use. One of the basic impacts of gender in communication
is that our schemata about humans include the belief that they must be
gendered-and each culture imposes many constraints on how that
gender exists and is expressed. In other words, each culture encourages
the development of particular gender schema that guide and focus
behavior of people within that culture. Another way to put it is that
schemata focus and frame gender into ideologies that create ways of
Bem (1993) used the metaphor of a lens to describe gender
schemata. Ideas of gender, whether individuals' gender schemata or
more generalized cultural ideas of gender create ways of seeing, hence
the term, lens. Bem believes that most of us look through these lenses,
hence they determine how we see the world. Importantly, we interpret
the lenses as showing how things are, not as just another way of seeing.
Bem argued that we need to look at the lenses, not through them, to see
the impact of gender in our lives.
Bem identified three gender lenses within our gender schemata:
androcentrism, gender polarization, and biological essentialism.
Androcentrism, a term first used by the First Wave feminist Charlotte
Perkins Gilman, is male centeredness-the equation of what is male or
masculine with standard. Bem pointed out that androcentrism is not "the
historically crude perception that men are inherently superior to women,
but a more treacherous underpinning of that perception," one that
identifies female as a sex-specific deviation from the norm and male or
masculine with human (p. 2). Androcentrism, for example, sees women as
the weaker sex and, therefore, male strength as standard. Another
example: The male voice is standard leading to the interpretation that
women's voices are weak or soft. Androcentric thinking assumes that life
forms are male unless proven otherwise and that the way men do things
is the norm. An androcentric view would not describe women's voices as
standard and men as speaking loudly and intrusively.
Introduction: The Meaning of Voice
Now, to be sure, androcentric views in U.S. culture hold a
particular view of male as the standard. It is a White, Eurocentric
version of male that all else is measured by the size of its deviation.
Deviations from the Euro-masculine model-to be female, or Black,
indeed to be any race besides White-is to be not just different, but
The second gender lens named by Bem (1993) is gender
polarization. This involves the assumptions about gender identified
earlier: There are two, and only two, unchanging genders; females
develop and do feminine gender; males develop and do masculine
gender. These assumptions create a lens because the relationship
between female and male is presumed dichotomous. Gender
polarization becomes the organizing principle for the social life of the
culture. It is expected, not merely that females and males will differ, do
different things, communicate differently, and so on, but also that the
differences are dichotomous. Polarization adds to the perniciousness of
androcentrism. Polarization makes being not male into the opposite of
A third gender lens is biological essentialism. One who subscribes
to biological essentialism believes that the assumptions built into both of
the other lenses, but especially gender polarization, are the natural and
inevitable consequences of intrinsic biological givens. A biological
essentialist argues that biology causes gender polarization. That
researchers have devoted years of study continuing to attempt to answer
questions about differences between women and men, while ignoring
questions about differences among women, and among men,
demonstrates the power of the biological essentialism lens. Its power is
also demonstrated by the continuing efforts to demonstrate how biology
causes a whole variety of human behavior, including human
communication patterns. That folks, both lay and scientific, on either
side of the argument, will not easily accept a conclusion that the causes
of human behavior lie both in environment and biology illustrates the
power of the interactive influence of two lenses, gender polarization,
and biological essentialism.
A final point about the biological essentialism lens: To suggest
this is a perceptual screen rather than a "fact" is in reference to gender
characteristics across a culture. For any individual, biology may be to
some extent deterministic. One's size, propensity to have allergies, level
of activity, or any of hundreds of other characteristics may be, probably
are, strongly influenced by one's biology. Even for individuals, however,
the outcomes are not determined by biology. A person with genes to
become large will not grow to full potential if she or he is inadequately
nourished as a child. Even more so is variability exhibited across the
Taylor and Hardman
many individuals within a culture. The biological essentialist, however,
believes that biology determines gender polarization across a culture,
with a resulting belief that the polar opposites of gender apply to all
women and men, and if there are individuals who do not display these
characteristics, they are deviants or in some way abnormal.
Bem (1993) noted only three gender lenses, but Taylor (1996)
argued that in current English-speaking cultures there exists a fourth
gender lens. This lens is the premise of heterosexual essentialism, an idea
extrapolated from Rich (1976, 1980). Among the fundamental
assumptions we make about gender is the expectation that females will
be attracted to males and only to males; and that males will be attracted
to females and only to females. The belief is that "normal" people
"naturally" behave in these ways. Heterosexuality is seen as the way
biology predisposed individuals, hence the essentialistic label. A
construction of gender relations as essentially heterosexual is deep
within our scientific, philosophical, and cultural understandings of
"how things are." One outcome is our conclusion that those without the
"natural" sexual attractions are deviants and abnormal. Thus, a
generally shared cultural belief has been that to be homosexual, or
bisexual, is to be abnormal, sick, or sinful. The assumption of
heterosexual relationships undergirds virtually every one of our cultural
institutions. The supremacy of this lens is being challenged, but on the
whole it remains a dominant perspective.
Throughout, this discussion of the four lenses reflects an
underlying principle that ties them all together. Something beyond the
lenses is necessary, for example, to convert androcentrism from a
description of how things are to an assertion of what should be. To
convert male as standard into male as ideal requires a ranking principle.
Such a ranking principle underlies the constant suggestion that to be
different from a norm is deficient; that of two "opposites" one is better;
that biology is "more" important than culture or environment. In each
case, the "need" to rank cannot be accounted for with only the gender
lenses Bem described.
An additional element is at work. We describe it as the hierarchy
principle. The hierarchy principle is also a cognitive schema, perhaps
among the most important in influencing how we construe the world to
be. (A perceptive reader will note that the preceding sentence is an
example of what it is saying.) The hierarchy principle pervades our
thinking; one can find it in almost every idea expressed and every
Hardman (1993) first articulated the hierarchy principle in
relation to gender in her work on derivational thinking. Hardman
described derivational thinking by showing how three postulates of
Introduction: The Meaning of Voice
English underlie or reflect patterns of thinking.4 By postulate, Hardman
referred to a concept that is "manifested structurally across all the levels
of a grammar within a culture" (p. 42). A postulate is so much a part of
the grammar, it reflects (or is) a way of thinking. The postulates she
named are of number, of ranking (the comparative-superlative), and of
sex-based gender. The first two of these postulates do not appear to be
about gender, but because the relation among the three is mutually
reinforcing, they are inextricably linked, and reflect (and in turn create) a
gendered way of thinking by English speakers. One could summarize
the three postulates with the following trilogy: Number is important;
number one is most important; number one is masculine. Significant for
this discussion is the way Hardman's work illustrates the hierarchy
principle and applies it to gender.
The postulate of number simply reflects that, with very few
exceptions, English speakers must make decisions about number
whenever they talk. To speak in English, one must know whether the
subject of the sentence is singular or plural, which then determines the
remainder of how one talks about that subject. The exceptions to the
postulate of number are mostly unmodified imperatives ("get out," "Be
careful"). But even such imperatives imply a clear sense of the second
postulate, the postulate of ranking. Some rank is implied when one
speaker assumes the right to give another orders or instructions. The
postulate of hierarchy (ranking) reflects the English speaker's constant
drive to compare in a ranking manner. All native speakers of English
understand (and constantly use) the postulate of hierarchy when they
apply the comparative-superlative principle ("You are wise; she is wiser;
I am wisest"). We use the principle constantly.
Hardman (1993) suggested doubting readers try doing without
a comparative or superlative ranking in their speech for as little as 1
hour. She reported challenging students to listen to themselves and try
to avoid implementing hierarchy in their speech for just 1 day. No
student whose first language is English has reported success. Illustrative
is the nature versus nurture controversy previously cited. Why must it
be that one is "more" influential than the other? Why can't both have
influence? What matters which is the "most" influential? Also
4The work on derivational thinking came out of Hardman's (1978) work on the
linguistic postulate developed to describe the underlying principles of the Jaqi
languages of South America, which do not include the categories that frame
derivational thinking. The basic linguistic postulates of Jaqi are data source and
humanness. Clearly, the early perception of the correlation between obligatory
grammatical categories and the ordinary perceptions of the speakers of any
language was inspired by the work of scholars who came before, in particular,
the work of Lee and her work with the Wintu (1959/1987, 1986), and also the
work of Sapir (1921, 1961) and Whorf (1956).
Taylor and Hardman
illustrative is Hardman's suggestion that in the United States, we must
talk about equality constantly if we want to have any because the
structure of our language (and our thinking) is built on hierarchy.5
In the third postulate, Hardman (1993) supplied the key to why
the hierarchy principle forms a gendered lens. The third postulate is that
male, or masculine, is best. In English, feminine is derived from
masculine, just as in the dominant religious traditions of English
speakers, female was derived from male. Hardman used the linguistic
concept of marking to develop this point; and the argument she made
has been developed in numerous ways by many other linguists (e.g.,
Miller & Swift, 1976; Penelope, 1990). Male, in English, is unmarked.
That means male is the standard from which differences are measured,
or "marked." Until recently, and still for many, for example, the word
actor must be marked with "ess" to denote a female actor; waiter (and
many other terms) similarly. Another marking that relates to gender is
that marked by "ette" to denote smaller or lesser. A dinette, for example,
is a small table; a vinyl couch may be described as leatherette (unless you
want to sell it!). The relation to gender is probably obvious, but some
examples may be instructive. Coquette, for example, in English is applied
to females even though the French from which it is derived (coqueter: to
flirt; coquette: a beau, a flirt, a little cock) was not female-specific. For a
communication-related example, take the term suffragette applied to the
women of the 19th-century voting rights movement. They never used
the term themselves. If they described themselves as other than
crusaders for women's rights it was as suffragists. First derisively and
later because to English speakers it seemed the appropriate term, they
became (and the uninitiated call them yet today) suffragettes. A native
speaker of English would identify a suffragist as a person (e.g., a man)
who seeks suffrage. Another example is the case mentioned earlier, of
man as the common term for homo sapiens.
An example of derivational thinking that is also grammatical,
involving the three postulates, is the ranking of object and subject within
a sentence, and then assigning preferred gender to these grammatical
slots. Such assignment underlies our linking passivity and victimization
(object status) to femininity and agentiveness (subject status) to
masculinity. Thus, if anything bad befalls anyone, it is the woman's
fault; if anything good or worthwhile is done, men do it.
Derivational thinking, then, the constant and mutually
reinforcing use of these three grammatical structures, is the way in
which we grammaticalize some of the schemata previously mentioned.
5Mizutani (1981) argued that the reverse is true for Japanese-who must talk
about ranking because the basic structure is equality.
Introduction: The Meaning of Voice
It is also why we find it so difficult to change our assumptions and ways
of perceiving, even though it be our desire to do so, and why it is so
difficult for us to appreciate diversity or perceive equality.
These postulates of derivational thinking demonstrate how
fundamental the gender hierarchy is to English thought. Without the
hierarchy principle, androcentrism and gender polarization could
describe separate and equal spheres. In that the postulates make clear
how strong is the impulse to hierarchy (to ranking), recognizing them
demonstrates how exceptionally difficult gender equality is for those
whose thought structures are built on English. English thinkers almost
compulsively rank any two items seen as related. Hence, native English
speakers virtually never think of female and male, or feminine and
masculine as simply different. Until the English ranking postulate is at
least weakened, it will take extraordinary effort and commitment on the
part of any speaker of English not to see one of any pair as best, more
appropriate, more valuable, more "standard." Similarly, until we look at
the gender polarization lens, it will be difficult to see any difference pair
as simply different, not opposite.
The hierarchy principle interacts with the other lenses in many
ways. Think of a culture developed with the same postulates, but
without the androcentric lens. Give it, for example, a gynocentric lens.
Number would still be important; one still best; but now one would be
feminine. The ranking, polarizing, and heterosexual lenses would
remain. The culture would be matriarchal, but as long as the impulse to
rank remains (e.g., as long as one is best), gender polarization and
inequality would remain.6
This excursion into understanding the definitions and
assumptions about gender, the gender lenses, and the hierarchy principle
that infuse English thinking provides a framework for understanding the
kinds of muting that have occurred with respect to women's voices. We
note here that some aspects of these assumptions, perspectives, and
principles appear in other cultures, particularly but not exclusively in
other Indo-European languages or cultures. Each culture involves its
own set of nuances. The same behavior may or may not reflect the same
6The Jaqi do not rank people by sex; women and men are equal within the
culture-both human, as contrasted with the nonhuman. Equal, not identical. As
Hardman explained to students and others, the common perception is that, if
men are not dominant, then women are; so, if it is not a patriarchy then it has to
be a matriarchy. Endless explanations that no, it is not a matriarchy, but rather a
culture where all adult persons are human fall on deaf ears, or, rather, into brains
that run on the rails of derivational thinking. For additional information about
the Jaqi languages see Hardman (1966, 1981, 1982, 1984, 1985, 1986), and
Hardman, Yapita, de Dios, and Visquez (1988).
Taylor and Hardman
categories of thinking. We must take great care neither to misperceive
nor fail to see structures to which we are oblivious because we categorize
according to our own patterns of thinking. Especially, but not only
outside of the Indo-European family, what appear to us to be similar
behaviors may very well be reflecting structures quite foreign to us.
Using our own patterns of thought without focusing on them can blind
us to assumptions, perspectives, and principles of other cultures. This is
in part what happened as colonialism denigrated the status of women in
many "conquered" cultures in order to bring those cultures into line with
Many of the chapters in this book demonstrate some or all of the
effects of the gendered thought patterns just discussed. Perry's work on
Cherokee came about specifically as she came to understand the role
that derivational thinking had played in the misunderstandings that she
faced on a daily basis as well as those of her culture historically. Shear's
examination of Kannada kinship and address systems emerged as she
learned through personal contact that what she had been told about
India did not match her experiences. Koyama's discussion of popular
stories that convey conventional understandings of gender, specifically
women, grew out of discussions of derivational thinking with an
English-speaking friend and her surprise in learning the underlying
grammatical categories and perceptual schemata of English speakers
and that English speakers lacked the stories of strong powerful women
in influential roles that she assumed everyone knew. Farmer's study of
catcalling among her African-American friends resulted from her effort
to apply a dominant cultural perspective and definitions of sexual
harassment to the life she lives.
Similarly, the interaction of these gendered patterns of thinking
and talking have often resulted in the silencing of voices, some of whom
we hope to recover in this book. Koyama and Hio, who examines
Japanese ideographic writing, both work to explore traces of ancient
voices within existing language and cultural patterns. Koyama's work,
especially, demonstrates the danger of applying to one culture gender
schema appropriate to another. Belief in and interpretation of the
powerlessness of Japanese women derive in part from seeing one
culture's interaction patterns through the lens of another culture. Hall's
conclusions based on a devalued community are part of a specific effort
to suggest that less hierarchical conception of the value of people (and
thus of their speech). Both Ashwell's work on aizuchi and Ogawa's study
of politeness and gender demonstrate gender subtexts in that they both
show how people "really" talk differs from gendered expectations.
Many of the chapters show the hierarchy principle at work,
combined with polarization and applied to cultural differences. A kind
Introduction: The Meaning of Voice 23
of "unconscious" cultural ranking is demonstrated in Foreman-Takano's
examination of English textbooks; Shear's discussion of Kannada;
Ashwell's look at aizuchi; Hall's analysis of chismeando. The combined
effects of gender polarization and hierarchy are discussed in Gendrin's
study of homeless women's self-conversations; Eid's analysis of
obituaries; Traverso's look at the content of teen magazines in Italy;
Natharius' report of how men in the men's movement view women.
Cook's women of magic themselves demonstrate how voices are
devalued in part due to gender identification and in part due to other
types of hierarchy at work. Natharius' review of men's movement books
especially highlights the strength of the hierarchy principle. These
writers cannot conceive that female and male could both be hurt in our
existing system; to improve women's status would put women above
men they believe; they cannot imagine equality. If men cannot dominate
women, then obviously, they think, women must dominate men. The
writers reflect the strength of the polarization lens as well. Men cannot
have a feminine side; they must reject it to become "real" men because
to be feminine in any way means to be not masculine. The conclusion is
absurd to anyone who sees the gender lenses instead of looking at the
world through them.
Several of the chapters show the complexity involved in the
interactions among the elements in our gender schemata and other
thought patterns. Among these are Timm's analysis of the complexity
and unanticipated potentials of gendered language; and Geesey's
examination of how one woman is taken to speak for others even when
speaking of her own experience. And although the chapters themselves
do not always draw out the full potential implication of these complex
interactions, many of the issues are ripe for such analysis.
In that respect, it is helpful to turn to the discourse strategies of
silencing that Russ (1983) described. These include denial of agency
("She didn't really do it"); pollution of agency ("She did it, but look who
she is," or "she did it but she had help"); false categorization ("She's just
a children's writer"); dual standard of content ("Women's life
experiences are of no interest"); anomalousness ("She's an eccentric");
and isolation ("She only wrote one"). Russ' categories actually turn out
to be specific ways in which the gender schemata and derivational
thinking implement their goals of establishing hierarchy and the
primacy of androcentric values. It must be remembered that the
hierarchy principle can be generalized beyond gender to class, race, and
other categories conceived to be "less than" the ideal of White and male.
So, the variation on the agency premise is "They didn't really do and if
they did it doesn't count because ... (they are no good people, the work
is 'just' a their lives are of no interest, they're weird, and there's
Taylor and Hardman
only one of them)" irrespective of any relevance of these statements to
actual factual truth.
Many of the chapters illustrate one or more of Russ' principles
at work. For example, chismeando is gossip, by women, and therefore is
not important. Not to be listened to seriously, it would rarely be thought
of as contributing to linguistic or communication theory. Aizuchi,
considered a practice of the Japanese (and thought wrongly of referring
to Japanese women primarily), is considered in the United States as a
polite behavior, or a feminine behavior; therefore, it is of no interest,
along with the people perceived to do it. Although now with the advent
of Japan as an economic superpower the discounting of Japanese men is
difficult, it gets done in another way, in attributions of insincerity and
opaqueness-pollution of agency. Ogawa's examination of the
associations with politeness sheds light on another side of the process
and in so doing illustrates the interactions among the gender lenses.
Politeness has been associated with femininity and with women, even
by scholars who should know better, and labeled as weakness behavior.7
Androcentrism and hierarchy have associated two devalued concepts
and led us to ignore other associations, in this case rudeness and
masculinity. The complexity of the associations of gendered language is
also exposed in Timm's discussion of the feminine metaphors in eco-
environmentalism, which also illustrates pollution of agency and false
Harmon's analysis of anthologies of literature clearly
demonstrates Russ' categories at work, and is an update of a portion of
Russ' work, showing that the categories discussed in 1983 were still valid
in 1994. If "she" wrote it, the literature cannot be as important or good as
that written by men. Women's writing warrants having only short pieces
or few pieces included. The same analysis applies to the dismissal of
foreign or lower class voices. If "they" do it, it can't be worthwhile.
Many of the voices of the authors presented here are not the
traditional voices found in a "scholarly" book. We have some concern
that Russ' categories, applied to women or class-based, might lead to the
dismissal of some of the contributions to this book: a pollution of agency
(the homeless or women of magic), a false categorization (gossip or
immigrants or non-Whites or metaphors of mother earth), a double
standard of content (teen aged girls or Goueffic's creative philology or
the lives of immigrants or natives); or anomalousness (again, women of
magic or creative philology or Kabyle women in France). Some of the
chapters deal with instances in which "she didn't do it." That would
7The Spanish have a saying, Lo cortis no quita lo valiente (Courtesy does not
negate the presence of valor), which reflects as it denies this association. It is
used to encourage courtesy even when anger is appropriate.
Introduction: The Meaning of Voice 25
appear to be the case of Egyptian obituaries, where the lives led would
appear to be those of the men, not the women themselves. This book
itself is at risk of being dismissed because "there is only one of it."
We are convinced, however, that appreciation of diversity and the
richness of many different patterns of communicating depends on our
ability to perceive value across differing styles of voice. To be able to do
that, to accept widely varying voices as having something to contribute to
our understanding of the human condition, we must make the effort and
commitment necessary to hear outside the postulates of our derivational
thinking, to go beyond the boundaries of our own gendered thinking. We
must learn to hear the voices of women and the voices of other cultures as
serious, as standard, as also part of the norm of humankind.
The ambition of the conference of Our Own and Others' Voices
was to contribute toward that dream. The intent of Hearing Many Voices
is the same. We offer here a diversity of voices that may be heard as
standard, normal parts of the intricately woven human quilt. We hope
our readers will hear the voices in that manner.
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Japanese is a language spoken by approximately 122 million people in
Japan, and by immigrants living in the United States, Brazil, and other
countries. It is not clearly related to any other language, but some
linguists have considered it to be a part of the Altaic language family,
whereas others relate it to the Korean language. There are several major
dialect differences, with the southern dialects of the Ryukyu Islands
(south of the island of Kyushu) and the Tokyo dialect (where standard
Japanese comes from) forming the biggest differences. Major borrowings
from other languages come from Chinese and English.
Kabyle is one of the Berber languages spoken by some 12
million people in the area known as the Maghreb or Maghrib, which is
the area of north Africa including Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco. People
from this area are known as the Maghribi. Berber is a Semitic language
of the eastern Sudanic family. It is not Arabic and only very distantly
related; offense is taken at any attempt to link the two.
Cherokee is the southernmost language of the Iroquoian family
of languages. Originally spoken in the area that is today North Carolina,
most of the Cherokees were removed to Oklahoma in the Trail of Tears
in the 19th century. During the 19th century, a man by the name of
Sequoya developed a syllabary for writing Cherokee. The California
redwoods were named in honor of this man. Today, Cherokee children
are learning or relearning Cherokee in Cherokee classrooms and are
again writing with the Cherokee alphabet. There are more than 10,000
speakers of Cherokee today, with only one tenth of them living in the
ancestral area. The data presented here come from the eastern branch of
Arabic is spoken by some 150 million people worldwide. The
Egyptian variety is spoken by about 53 million people. Arabic is a
Semitic language, forming a branch in and of itself, with many varieties
within the language itself. The Koranic, classical or literary, Arabic exists
in a diglossic relationship with the vernaculars; that is, Arabic speakers
learn the latter at home and in school learn the former.
Black English, also known as Black English Vernacular (BEV) or
Afro-American Vernacular English (AAVE), or, more recently, Ebonics,
is a variety of English spoken by many millions of people, mostly Black,
primarily in the United States. Whether this is a dialect of the English
language or one language in the English family of languages has been,
and is, a topic of much discussion. Black English is, in part, a creole from
slave times also much influenced by southern White English.
Spanish is a Romance language descending from Latin, and is
spoken by about 270 million people world wide and is currently the
fastest growing minority language in the United States. The Dominican
variety of Spanish is spoken by some 7 million people. Spanish was the
first European language to be recognized as a language, and to be
described in a grammar. The first recognition of Spanish occurred about
one millennium ago; the first grammar was in 1492.
Kannada is a Dravidian language spoken by some 26 million
people in southwest India in the State of Karnataka. It is not related to
the Indic (e.g., Hindi) languages of northern India. Kannada has its own
alphabet; inscriptions date from the sixth century and there is a literary
tradition dating from the ninth.
Italian is a Romance language descending from Latin, and is
spoken by some 5 million people in Italy. It is also spoken in
Switzerland, the Vatican, and San Marino and is a major immigrant
language in the United States, Australia, Canada, Brazil, Argentina, and
to some extent Africa.
SOME SUGGESTIONS FOR A
(RELATIVELY) NEW MODEL OF
SYLVIA L. ASHWELL
Day-to-day conversation is the most prevalent form of our
communication with one another. The backbone of conversation is the
interaction of the participants, that complex interplay of speech and
silence in which there would be no understanding otherwise. One part
of this interaction is a device called backchanneling, a term coined by
Yngve (1970). A backchannel is a short verbal or nonverbal signal
inserted by the listener when the speaker offers a space in the flow of
talk without necessarily giving up that talk. Backchanneling is mainly a
supportive device, but can also be used to show interest, get a response,
or receive clarification. Examples include expressions like "mm-hmm,"
"uh-huh," "yeah," and also nonverbal signals, such as head nods and
eye gaze. These backchannels usually occur at pauses in the speech flow,
which sometimes can be signaled by tag questions such as: "Isn't that
so?" or "Right?" (Marche & Peterson, 1993).
Backchannels, even though seemingly insignificant, are
important components of conversation. The name itself suggests that
backchannels are not important because they are not part of the "main"
channel of communication but are part of the back, or less important,
channel (Yngve, 1970). I prefer to use the term aizuchi, borrowed from
the Japanese. Aizuchi means "hammering together," a more apt
metaphor for the real meaning of conversation. Most Japanese, when
asked, know about aizuchi. Aizuchi is important to the Japanese. Looking
at aizuchi gives clues into the organization of Japanese conversation. My
focus, however, is on how the structure of Japanese society informs how
the Japanese people conduct conversation, on understanding contrasting
English and Japanese uses of the phenomenon of aizuchi. Finally, I
suggest a way of studying conversation in general that includes
supportive devices like aizuchi, and a practical use for recognizing the
cultural differences in using this specific conversational device
DEFINITION OF AIZUCHI
In Japanese, aizuchi is found in such expressions as un ("yeah"), hai
("yes"), and soo ("is that right?") The use of aizuchi is signaled by certain
syntactic markers, which roughly translate into English tag questions;
some examples include ne, sa, and yo. These markers, which happen at
the end of clauses, are followed by a short pause, which cues the listener
to supply the appropriate aizuchi. These clauses are defined by Maynard
(1989) as pause-bounded phrasal units ( PPUs). PPUs can be anything
from full grammatical sentences (with a subject, object, and verb) to a
noun or verb phrase alone. Aizuchi typically occurs after PPUs, but can
also occur during them. Aizuchi are mainly used during a topic change
in the conversation and when agreement is sought. This is a fairly
frequent conversational device in Japanese; in one study, there was a 35-
minute conversation in Japanese in which more than 600 examples of
aizuchi were found. What does the use of aizuchi in Japanese say about
the Japanese language on the whole? For this, we need to look at the
Japanese language more closely.
Aizuchi: A Model of Conversation Analysis
THE JAPANESE LANGUAGE AND THE SOTO/UCHI DISTINCTION
The main component in the Japanese grammatical system is the soto/uchi
(outgroup/ingroup) distinction (Mizutani, 1981; Wetzel, 1994). Much of
what is said in Japanese is determined by the social position and age of
the person one is addressing. Members of one's soto group include those
who are higher in social and economic position than oneself, such as
employers, high government officials, and educators. High social
position also includes people of advanced age; however, some aged
individuals are part of one's uchi (literally, "home") group (e.g., parents,
grandparents). Other members of one's uchi include family members,
close friends, and acquaintances. If one is meeting another person for the
first time, that person is assumed to be soto and treated respectfully. The
boundaries between uchi and soto are fluid, and can change with
increased -amiliarity to another person. But the soto/uchi distinction is
never ignored; its focus on the addressees and the inherent respect due
them form the cornerstone of everyday conversation. (Wetzel, 1990)
The honorific system in Japanese for both nouns and verbs attest
to this. For example, the verb "to exist" takes three forms. The most
respectful form, the sonkeigo form, is irasharu. This form is used when
addressing people who belong to the soto group and, as suggested in the
previous sentence, is very respectful; the neutral form, iru, with
members of the uchi group; and kenjoogo, or humble, form, mairu, when
referring to oneself in the presence of members of the soto group and
esteemed members of the uchi group. All Japanese verbs have these
three forms. Also, nouns that are attributable to a person of high social
standing or advanced age receive an honorific prefix, o- (native Japanese
words) or go- (words borrowed from the Chinese). For example, o-hon no
sense would translate literally as "the (honored) book of the professor."
The word sense ("teacher") illustrates the next example of honorifics: the
honorific suffixes. Professors, elementary and secondary school teachers,
doctors, and other persons of authority are called by last name plus
sense (e.g., Ashwell-sensei). Others that are respected in Japanese society
receive the suffixes -san (less formal) or -sama (more formal). These
examples from the Japanese grammatical system illustrate the
importance of the soto/uchi distinction (Mizutani, 1981).
The use of kinship terms and other terms of address also keep
the listener in mind. Figure 1.1 (adapted from Suzuki, 1978) shows the
different terms of address that are a part of a Japanese person's social
and personal relationships.
As the addressee changes, so do the terms of address. This is not
unusual in itself; more unusual is that kinship terms can be quite fluid in
Japanese. For example, one's mother is grandmother to one's children;
(Neesan "older sister")
younger sister ` (first name)
(first name or omae,
an affectionate term (Neesan) self
for younger siblings)
----- (first name)
Figure 1.1. Terms of address for social and personal relationships
when one is talking with her children, one fits the children's frame of
reference into her mind, and calls her own mother "grandmother." The
mother starts calling her mother "grandmother" even when the children
are not around. This can be true of other relatives as well (Suzuki, 1978).
What becomes central to a native Japanese speaker is maintaining the
relationships that one has with other people. One does this by taking the
listener's frame of reference and making it her own. One tries to
anticipate another's needs and wants without imposing on the other.
This desire to attend to another is an integral part of the soto/uchi
distinction. Soto/uchi depends on familiarity of, or when familiarity
cannot be achieved, solicitude of the other. I explore how aizuchi fits into
soto/uchi in the next section.
AIZUCHI AND THE SOTO/UCHI DISTINCTION
As noted previously, Japanese speakers use aizuchi (previously
mentioned as backchanneling) many times in conversation. In one study
comparing Japanese and English-speaking styles, Japanese used aizuchi
three times more than did native English language users (White, 1989).
Both native Japanese and native English language users carry on
conversations everyday, in the workplace, with friends, and at home
with family. Aizuchi is found in both languages. Why, then, such a
marked difference in usage? The answer lies in the soto/uchi distinction.
A major component of soto/uchi is taking the listener's needs into
account. Aizuchi, showing support in conversation, does this. By
confirming what was said, the speaker knows the listener is actually
listening, and the listener helps the speaker continue her talk. Aizuchi
Aizuchi: A Model of Conversation Analysis
also shows how collaborative communication really is-how two (or
more) must work together in order for communication to go smoothly.
Both the speaker and listener are aware of the "hammering together"
(the literal meaning of aizuchi ) each is doing to make the conversation
flow smoothly (Miller, 1991).
How does aizuchi fit into soto/uchi? Actually, a native Japanese
language user uses more aizuchi with a member of the soto as opposed
to the uchi group. Because soto members are typically one's superiors,
and the aim in Japanese conversation is smooth relations with each
other, one would supply as much aizuchi as possible to accomplish this
end. In Yamada's (1992) study of U.S. and Japanese business discourse,
he noticed that Japanese offer more aizuchi than the Americans in both
the Japanese and English language. Again, because Japanese view
Westerners and other foreigners as soto, Japanese would use aizuchi to
ensure the conversation's steady and easy flow. Aizuchi provides a way
for listeners in a conversation to interact and help out. In Japanese, it is
indispensable; actually, in any language, it is absolutely necessary as
well. Ask any Japanese speaker about aizuchi, and he or she knows what
it is, but ask any English speaker about backchanneling (aizuchi in
English) and you will get a blank stare. Most conversation analysis is
done in English, why hasn't aizuchi been given its due?
PERCEPTIONS OF AIZUCHI BY NATIVE ENGLISH SPEAKERS
How is aizuchi viewed in English? Boxer (1993) showed that native
English speakers find Japanese speakers' use of aizuchi in English to be
excessive. As a consequence, the native speakers' perceptions of the
Japanese as a whole were negative: The Japanese could offer no critical
insights or comments of their own to the conversation; all the Japanese
want to do is agree. This common complaint of the English of Japanese
speakers carries over into more general perceptions of the Japanese-
they are automatons doing what someone tells them to do; they have no
originality; they cannot be independent thinkers. In other words, they
are weak and have very little power in their lives to change anything.
Because we stress the role of the individual in the United States, it is
easy to see how a society that stresses the other can be seen as
powerless. However, as Wetzel (1990) pointed out, this difference does
not suggest differing degrees of power but differing definitions of
power. Power is defined in Japan as coming from interactions with
others and not from a person. Aizuchi is the center of these interactions;
therefore, aizuchi, far from being weak and insignificant, actually is a
very powerful device (Wetzel, 1990).
Another way of looking at aizuchi in English is as a device
associated with women. Most English speakers see the supportive role
played by aizuchi as a woman's role. Showing support or rapport is
something associated with women in general, so it would seem natural
that women would use more aizuchi than men (Tannen, 1990; Maltz &
Borker, 1982, cited in Yamada, 1992). Analysis of work in conversational
analysis, however, shows little difference in frequency of use of aizuchi
in same-gender conversations in English for both females and males
(Marche & Peterson, 1993). Also, in mixed-gender conversations,
females and males used about the same number of aizuchi. Differences
found in aizuchi use are from types, not frequency, of aizuchi use.
Females tend to use aizuchi more as a support device, whereas males use
it more for confirmation purposes. In any case, the differences in type
are not large. This shows that although aizuchi is seen as feminine (and
all the characteristics we associate with that), our use of aizuchi in
English shows that it is a vital conversational device that is not gender-
specific. Due to preconceptions they bring to the situation, however,
English speakers tend to see the Japanese as somehow "feminine."
Given the further associations of ideas of feminine, Japanese speech may
also be seen as powerless. Such associations also give a sense of
insignificance to aizuchi. Although certainly this is not the full
explanation why aizuchi is not treated with importance, linking aizuchi
with the "feminine" in English is at least part of the explanation. Also,
English speakers are not used to the massive amount of aizuchi that
Japanese speakers give; in their search for an explanation, may find that
aizuchi is a symbol of powerlessness by its frequent use. An association
by English speakers to "femininity" and cultural misunderstanding of
aizuchi define the relative marginalization of this conversation device.'
A (RELATIVELY) NEW MODEL FOR CONVERSATION
What does this mean for the way we look at conversation? For one
thing, we need to expand our view of conversation. The role of the
listener or listeners needs to be fully included if we wish to know how
conversation really works. This would mean examining aizuchi and its
functions and uses, as well as other listener-support devices. This would
also mean changing the meaning of "listener" and "speaker" as English
speakers know it. This would be accomplished by studying other
1For an explanation of femininity and powerlessness, see Wetzel (1990) and
Fishman (1978); for an illustration of marginalizing aizuchi and other supportive
features of conversation, see Yngve (1970).
Aizuchi: A Model of Conversation Analysis
cultures and languages that have a different model for conversation than
English speakers have. Examining the Japanese language is a start, but
of course other languages should be studied as well. Conversation
analysts should know another language well enough to get an
understanding of the way things are done in that language, so they can
be better informed in their work; this includes study of the nonverbal as
well as verbal aspects of language. Some work has been done on the
listener's role in conversation by communication researchers outside
linguistics. Now it is time for linguists to give their attention to this
topic. I particularly beseech native English-speaking linguists to do this;
the "monolingual" approach to language studies in general is fast
becoming too narrow a focus.
Why do I say a "relatively new approach"? Work done since the
1970s has seen a significant increase in examining the listener's role in
conversation (Miller, 1991; Schegloff, 1982). What has been missing,
however, is awareness of how much our perceptions of how people talk
(i.e., our expectations based on our own rules of speech) affect our study
of conversation. Boxer's (1993) study of native English speakers'
perceptions of aizuchi is a good starting point, but a connection needs to
be made between perceptions of speaking and overall perception of
another culture (this includes gender as well). Both are deeply connected
because the only way our perceptions can be made known is through
language. Therefore, our negative perceptions of Japanese
conversational style may very well inhibit us as a society from truly
understanding not only these conversational styles but the Japanese
people as well. To recognize these gender associations, and the
associated perceptions of what is appropriate for different people to say
under what circumstances, is important in teaching English to the
Japanese and Japanese to the English. For language studies, it also
means that we cannot come to a complete awareness of what language is
until we can recognize the contributions other languages can bring us.
This can be done by knowing what our perceptions of our own and the
other culture are, and moving beyond them.
I thank M.J. Hardman and Anita Taylor for their invaluable help in
editing this chapter. Thanks also go to Diana Boxer and Ann Wehmeyer
for providing sources that proved essential.
Boxer, D. (1993). Complaints as positive strategies: What the learner
needs to know. TESOL Quarterly, 27(2), 277-299.
Fishman, P. (1978). Interaction: The work women do. Social Problems, 25,
Marche, T., & Peterson, C. (1993). On the gender differential use of
listener responsiveness. Sex Roles: A Journal of Research, 29(11/12),
Maltz, D., & Borker, R. (1982). A cultural approach to male-female
miscommunication. In J. Gumperz (Ed.), Language and social identity
(pp. 196-216). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Maynard, S. (1989). Japanese conversation: Self-contextualization through
structure and interactional management. Norwood, NJ: Ablex.
Miller, L. (1991). Verbal listening behavior in conversations between
Japanese and Americans. In J. Blommaert & J. Verschueren (Eds.),
The pragmatics of intercultural and international communication (pp.
111-130). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Mizutani, 0. (1981). Japanese: The spoken language in Japanese life (J. Ashby,
Trans.). Tokyo: Japan Times Ltd.
Schegloff, E. (1982). Discourse as an interactional achievement: Some
uses of "uh-huh" and other things that come between sentences. In
D. Tannen (Ed.), Georgetown Round Table on languages and linguistics,
analyzing discourse: Text and talk (pp. 71-93). Washington, DC:
Georgetown University Press.
Suzuki, T. (1978). Words in context (A. Miura, Trans.). Tokyo: Kodansha
Tannen, D. (1990). You just don't understand: Women and men in
conversation. New York: Ballantine Books.
Wetzel, P. (1990). Are "powerless" communication strategies the
Japanese norm? In S. Ide & N. McGloin (Eds.), Aspects of Japanese
women's language (pp. 115-128). Tokyo: Kurosio Publishers.
Wetzel, P. (1994). A moveable self: The linguistic indexing of uchi and
soto. In J. Bachnik & C. Quinn Jr. (Eds.), Situated meaning (pp. 73-87).
Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
White, S. (1989). Backchannels across cultures: A study of Americans
and Japanese. Language in Society, 18, 59-76.
Yamada, H. (1992). American and Japanese business discourse: A comparison
of interactional styles. Norwood, NJ: Ablex.
Yngve, V. (1970). On getting a word in edgewise. Papers from the Sixth
Regional Meeting of the Chicago Linguistic Society, 567-577.
WOMEN AND MEN
IN EGYPTIAN OBITUARIES:
LANGUAGE, GENDER, AND IDENTITY
For most of us, a name is not just a tag or a label. It is a symbol which
stands for the unique combination of characteristics and attributes that
defines us as an individual. It is the closest thing that we have to a
shorthand for the self-concept.
-Smith (1985, p. 38)
A name is so closely identified with the thing itself that not to have a
name is not to exist.
-Guillaume (1938, cited in Adler, 1978, p. 98; emphasis added)
It should be self-evident-but it is not always so-that names and other
descriptors of the self and others have a strong effect on people's
perception of themselves and of each other. The quotes from Smith and
Guillaume are only a sample of many more that can be cited as expressions
of the strong relation that binds names or naming with identity.
But if names are indeed important in the identification of
people, we would expect them to be always used. And by implication, a
systematic pattern of not using names in the identification of certain
people, if found, should constitute an interesting case study. Such a
pattern can indeed be found in the identification of people, both
deceased and survivors, in the obituary pages. Its presence, as I argued
elsewhere (Eid, 1994a, 1994b), raises important questions as to the
significance of identifying people with/without names and the social
meaning that lies behind such linguistic choices.
If names are so important, as the quotes presented here would
lead us to believe, then how can people be identified without their
names, and why? The answer to the first question, as the following
obituaries show, is easy: one person (A) is identified in relation to
another (B) in such a way that only B's name is mentioned, thus A is
identified but without a name.1
Obituary 1: Passed away Mr. Darwish Mursi, president of the civil
sector of the Asiut national court; father of Sayed, a student at the
School of Law, Hasan, at the vocational [school], and his brother Sadiq
Mursi, at the Credit Bank in Minya, and the wife of sheikh Abdel Baqi
Seif at Mallawi; maternal uncle of Sayed Abdel Baqi at the School of
Law; relative and in-law of the Dakir and Seif families. Mourning
ceremonies [to be held] at Mallawi. [OB#53; 3/17/1948]
Obituary 2: Passed into God's mercy yesterday a generous and devout
lady, mother of the honorable Ahmad Fouad, Chief Prosecutor of
Mansura; sister of the late Amiralay Mohammed bey Abdel Aziz;
mother-in-law of Bekbashi Tawfiq Lutfi; paternal aunt of Qaimmaqam
Mohammed bek Aziz, inspector at Misr [Cairo] Police, and Ahmad
Abdel Aziz, officer in the Armed Forces; grandmother of the wife of
Ahmad Munir in the Plants Department; grandmother of Abdel Aziz
Tawfiq in Paris, Salih Fouad in the Law School, and Kamal el-Din
Munir in the Military Academy; maternal aunt of the wife of Salah
Eldin Eldumyati in the Italian Bank ... [OB#37; 3/9/38]2
1Un the translation, I have tried to retain the flow of the Arabic obituary as much
as possible, which at times leads to slightly awkward English as, for example,
the retention of the Arabic verb first in the first obituary. To make it easier for
the reader to follow the obituary texts, titles are placed in italics and relational
terms in bold.
2In obituary 1, I used "Mr." for Arabic ustath, an honorific term of address used
with intellectuals (lawyers, journalists, officials, writers, and poets), and in
obituary 2, "the honorable" for Hadrit. I have also retained the Arabic military
ranks for which I give equivalents here as they are given in The Hans Wehr
Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic: Amiralay, "Colonel," Bekbashi, "Major," and
Qaimmaqam, "Lieutenant Colonel."
Language, Gender, Identity
One style of obituaries, illustrated by the two obituaries starts with a
mention of the deceased through the sentence "Passed into God's
mercy.. ." (or a variant thereof) followed by a list of her or his survivors
and ends with information on the time and place of the funeral and
other mourning ceremonies. In Obituary 1, the deceased is represented
with his name (first and last "Darwish Mursi"), as well as his title
("Mr.") and occupation (president of civil sector .. .). A list of survivors
follows, whereby the deceased is identified in relation to them: He is
father of Sayed, and so on. Obituary 2 follows the same format, the one
difference being that the name of the deceased is avoided: She is only
identified as the mother of Ahmad Fouad. Her son's name is mentioned,
and so is his job; he is even introduced with an honorific term of address
("the honorable"). We don't know her name; all we know about her is
that she was "a generous and devout lady."
Name avoidance is used in both obituaries, but not with both
deceased. In Obituary 2, it applies not only to the deceased but also to
her survivors: daughter, granddaughter, and niece. To mention her
daughter, the deceased is identified as "mother-in-law of Bekbashi
Tawfiq Lutfi" (translation: mother of the wife of T. L.). Likewise, her
granddaughter is listed as "the wife Ahmad Munir" and her niece as
"the wife of Salah Eldin Eldumyati." Thus, all surviving females are
identified through their husbands, and the deceased through her son. In
Obituary 1, an obituary of a male, name avoidance is also used but only
in reference to a female survivor, specifically, in identifying the
daughter of the deceased as "the wife of sheikh Abdel Baqi Seif."
So although in principle any person (female or male) can be
identified without a name, you may have noted in these two obituaries
that it is only women that are identified without their names, not men.
One of the purposes of this research is to establish the gender basis of this
variation. I focus on the relation between name avoidance and women's
representation in the obituaries, as well as the change that takes place
over time. Name avoidance is attributed, among other things, to
women's lack of public identity-itself attributed to male control over the
public domain (e.g., education, economy, space) and the power
associated with it, to the exclusion of women. The change in female
identification takes place as women acquire education, jobs, and other
public identities independent of family and home. As women begin to
share resources originally reserved for men, they also get to share the
linguistic resources as well. Hence, the analysis I provide supports the
position that people identified without names are in some sense hidden,
or nonexistent, relative to a certain domain, and that linguistic choices,
like sociocultural or political choices, not only reflect the context in which
they are made but also serve to reproduce or change it.
It would follow that change will be most evident when women
join the workforce and participate in the sociopolitical and other public
events of their community. For Egypt, I expect the 1960s was the turning
point, for it was then that Egyptian women of all socioeconomic
backgrounds entered the universities and the job market in large
numbers, partly as a reaction to economic policies adopted by the
government. (See the quotes cited from Hooglund, 1991, in the following
section for some specifics.) I also expect this change to be reflected
linguistically in the obituaries through the use of names, titles, and other
forms of reference.
In this chapter, I report on some of the results I have obtained so
far in this research; some of these findings have been discussed in more
detail in Eid (1994a, 1994b). I focus on names as indicators of gender
identity in the obituaries and, toward the end of the chapter, I briefly
discuss the use of titles. The project as a whole is a cross-linguistic cross-
cultural research on language, gender, and identity, based on a
quantitative, content analysis of obituaries. It deals with three language
situations: Arabic (in Egypt), Persian (in Iran), and English (in the United
States), but here I only report on findings from the analysis of the Arabic
obituaries. The research covers a period of 50 years, from 1938 to 1988,
with data collected at 10-year intervals (1938, 1948, etc.) from one major
newspaper in each country: Al-Ahram (Egypt), Ittilalat (Iran), and The
New York Times (United States). The Arabic database consists of 1,337
obituaries; the English and Persian are comparable in size.
I begin with a brief discussion of gender inequality as revealed
through the obituaries.
GENDER INEQUALITY: NAME AVOIDANCE
Previously (Eid, 1994a), I presented evidence that women in the 1938
Arabic obituaries were denied equal access to the obituary pages.
Women's identity was suppressed, hidden or made invisible, whereas
men's was never questioned. My analysis of the 1938 obituaries
identified a number of strategies, including name avoidance, which
were employed by families writing obituaries for their deceased to hide
women from this public domain. These strategies serve to create a bias
toward the identification, perhaps even glorification, of the male sex. But
they also created the impression that this must have been a society
without women, or perhaps one in which women rarely died.
A few figures illustrate the discrepancy in the representation of the
sexes. First, the ratio of female to male obituaries was biased toward men
(38% to 62%) suggesting that in 1938 Egyptian families tended to write
obituaries for their deceased men more than they did for their deceased
Language, Gender, Identity
women. The Arabic obituaries, by comparison to their English and Persian
counterparts, appeared to be more biased in this respect than the English
but less so than the Persian. The English obituaries showed an almost even
split for 1938 (slightly favorable to women) with 121 female to 119 male
obituaries (a 50.5% to 49.5% female-male representation). Although this
even split was not maintained through the years, the overall ratio was
reasonably close with a 47% to 53% female-male representation. In the case
of Persian, the earliest that can be compared with is 1948 where the
distribution of female to male obituaries was 43% to 57%, and the overall
distribution was 38% to 62%. On the basis of overall distribution, however,
English came out as least biased (47% to 53%), Persian as most (38% to
62%), and Arabic as in between (41% to 59%).
A similar, if not worse, bias was found among the survivors in
the 1938 Arabic obituaries. Only 30% of the obituaries mentioned female
survivors-the remaining 70% of the families who chose to write
obituaries for their deceased must either have had no female family
members (which is highly unlikely), or they must have chosen not to
mention them (which is much more likely). Worse yet, only 7 of the 148
(4.7%) obituaries obtained for that year mentioned a female survivor by
name. Worst of all, however, were the statistics on gender bias among
survivors mentioned by name. Here, out of 1,247 survivors studied, 50
(4%) were women and the remaining 1,197 (96%) were men.
Furthermore, among the women, only 10 were mentioned by name-
which, when computed as a percentage of the total survivors
population, yields a dismal .8%.
These statistics clearly establish gender bias against female
mention and identification by name. Evidence from other areas of the
obituary pages further substantiated this bias. Here I give an example
from what is referred to in the Egyptian obituary pages as shukr
(thanks)-a column or section of the obituary pages where families of
the deceased publicly thank those who participated in the funeral or
other mourning ceremonies. Mourning ceremonies are traditionally sex-
segregated. Women visit with female members of the deceased family
during a 3-day mourning period, usually at the family's residence. Men,
on the other hand, attend the funeral procession, the religious ceremony
(be it at a mosque or church3), the internment (usually restricted to very
immediate male family members), and, in most cases, a one-evening
3Christian women would most likely be allowed to attend the religious
ceremonies because, in general, they are not barred from attending church. The
situation among the muslims is slightly different because women, again in
general, do not participate in the public practice of religion (e.g., the Friday
ceremony at the family residence. Men's mourning ceremonies are
therefore all held in public,4 whereas women's are held in the privacy of
the home with other family members and friends by their side.
Among the few rare cases of deceased women mentioned by
name in 1938 was the obituary of Miss Amina hanim Riad, part of which
is given in Obituary 3.
Obituary 3: Passed into God's mercy Miss Amina hanim Riad; daughter
of the late Ali bey Riad; maternal aunt of Amiralay Ahmad Riad bey,
former [retired] Inspector of Cairo Prison Administration, Ali effendi
Riad, of the Notables, Mohammad effendi Fikri, retired Railway Station
[official], sheik Mohammad Zaki Badr, teacher, Mohammad effendi
Labib Hasanein, teacher; maternal aunt of the wife of Salih effendi
Kamal and Abdel Aziz effendi Badr, teacher; paternal aunt of ...
Obviously the deceased was not married: she was given the title anisa
"Miss," and no husband or offspring were mentioned. She was
identified first as daughter of the late Ali bey Riad; next as the maternal
aunt of a number of males and one female identified as the wife of Salih
effendi Kamal (i.e., she is identified by the offspring of her siblings).
Although there was nothing especially unusual about this particular
obituary, I quote it because 3 days later (3/12/1938), two shukr
announcements appeared: one from her sisters, who incidentally were
never directly mentioned in the obituary only indirectly through the
mention of their offspring as just explained, and the other is from
Amiralay Ahmad Riad (the first mentioned nephew) and the rest of the
family. I quote for illustration a portion of each.
Obituary 4: The sisters of the late6 Amina hanim Riad offer their deep
thanks to those who consoled them in the loss of their dear one, and they
ask God to spare them any misfortune in relation to their dear ones.
4Even the one-evening mourning ceremony is often held outside the home. A
tent of a sort is often built to allow male visitors and officials to pay their
respects to the family of the deceased as represented by its male members.
5Comments on the translation: Inspector of the Cairo Prison Administration is a
translation of mufatish maslahat sugun misr. In Arabic misr is ambiguous in that it
is used to refer to Egypt and to Cairo. I opted to translate it as Cairo here, but it
could very well be Egypt. One would have to check the records and see how the
term was applied at the time and whether there were two separate
administrations. I have also used the term Notables to translate alacyan, a term
also used to refer to a class very much similar to the notables in the West. Finally
in Obituary 3, "Major General" is a translation for liwaa'.
6"The late" here translates almaghfur laha (lit.: the forgiven one).
Language, Gender, Identity
Obituary 5: Amiralay Ahmad Riad and the rest of the family thank all
those who have consoled them in their misfortune, the passing away of
their dear one,7 and they especially mention their Excelencies: Major
General [liwa'] Mohammad Haidar pasha, Director General of the Prison
Administration, Mahmoud Sami pasha, Abdel Rahim Fahmi pasha,...
The first shukr came from the sisters of the deceased. Their names were
not mentioned but the deceased name was. The shukr was addressed to
women only, which was not reflected in the English translation but was
indicated in Arabic by the morpho-syntax of the announcement. All
verbal and pronominal inflections are marked for feminine plural-the
inflection used for exclusively female reference. The second shukr came
from the family, which appears to be headed by Amiralay Ahmad Riad,
who was obviously mentioned by name. It was addressed to all those
who participated in the mourning ceremonies but gave specific mention
by name to some of these participants: all were men, mostly with titles
(e.g., pasha) or in influential positions. But it did not mention the name of
the deceased. The morpho-syntax of Obituary 5 uses the masculine plural
instead-the inflection used in reference to all male groups as well as
groups inclusive of both sexes. Thus, the contrast between these two shukr
announcements provides further support for gender bias in favor of men
with respect to accessibility and identification in this public domain.8
But that was 1938, and we would expect a different picture to
emerge if we examine the population as a whole (i.e., all 6 years). Before
doing so, however, I briefly discuss two obituaries from 1988 in order to
illustrate some of the changes that took place in the representation of
women so as to present a more balanced picture of the situation.
Obituary 6: Passed into God's Mercy alustatha Kazim Beshir Hamid,
former Director of Rushdy Technical School; wife of alustath Ahmad
Fahmi, former Director of Preparatory Education; mother of alsayyida
Shery wife of Mr. Ahmad Mikkawi, Consultant at the Arab League;
daughter of the late ustath Beshir Hamid, former Under-Secretary of
Education; sister of Dr. Mustafa Beshir, a forensic doctor in Saudia,
alsayyida Safiyya Beshir at the Mohammad Karim Schools wife of the
late Mahmoud Elgohari; in-law of the late Mr. Sabir Hassan, Director of
the Shabrawishi Factories; niece of... [#563; 4/5/88; 36 lines]
7The translation here reflects the Arabic faqidatihim "their lost one," which
sounds quite awkward in English.
8In accordance with the editorial policy adopted for this volume to mention
women before men, the sisters' shukr is mentioned and discussed before the
"family's" (i.e., male members). However, in the newspaper column, the
family's shukr appears first and the sisters' second (i.e., below it), which, I
believe, is significant in that it attributes more prominence to the family's (=
male members) shukr.
Obituary 7: Passed into the heavenly glories engineer Michel Iskandar
Youssef, former General Director of The Arab Company for Cotton
Ginning; husband of the late Mary Halim in Ab[n]oub; father of Dr.
Nagi at the Suez Canal University [who is] husband of alsayyida lean
Iskandar, Dr. Mona at School Health in Talkha [who is] wife of Dr.
Munir Michel, Dr. Hoda wife of Engineer Wadic Malti in America, Dr.
Amira wife of Dr. Atef Halim in Libya, and Dr. Dalal wife of Dr. Mugib
Girgis in Libya; brother of Dr. Fouad in Talkha, engineer Youssef, sister
Munira, producer Kiria the wife of Saleh Mishrei, George Naguib, and
the late Khalil Nashed; husband of the sister of the late Fayez and the
late Unsi, Nabil, a dealer in Tawfiqiya, Amir in Delta [Company] for
Ginning, and Dr. Kamal in England, and their sisters. Funeral
procession was held yesterday, and mourning ceremonies are held at
home 247 Gumhouria St in Mansoura. [#566; 4/5/88; 23 lines]
The first is an obituary of a Muslim woman, the second a Christian man.
They differ little in terms of how people are identified. In both, the
deceased were identified by their full names (Kazim Beshir Hamid in
Obituary 6 and Michel Iskandar Youssef in Obituary 7), their titles
(ustatha in Obituary 6 and engineer in Obituary 7), their jobs (former
director of the Rushdy Technical School in Obituary 6 and former
director of the Arab Company for Cotton Ginning in Obituary 7). Their
spouses are then mentioned with their own names. The husband in
Obituary 6 was mentioned by title and occupation; the wife in Obituary
7 was not, most likely because she did not have one. This assumption
can be further confirmed by looking at the survivors. Here many women
were mentioned by occupation and by professional titles as well. (I
underlined women's names for those not familiar with Arabic names.)
In Obituary 6 spouses of survivors were mentioned. Husbands of female
survivors were, as expected, mentioned very often. But wives of male
survivors were now mentioned as well; and when they were, they were
also identified by their titles and occupations.
Does this mean that equity had been achieved in 1988? Statistics
from the survivors data, not as yet available, will hopefully answer this
question. At this time, however, the examples in Obituaries 6 and 7 can
at least illustrate where women's representation is heading and how the
change will, most likely, proceed. But to answer the question of equity
between the sexes, a look at the total population statistics is needed.
However, I ignore the survivors population and report on my findings
with respect to the deceased population only.
Table 2.1 shows that 84% of the deceased population were
identified with their own (given) names, and a substantial 210 (16%)
were mentioned without. But when broken down by sex, these statistics
became much more impressive because 210 deceased persons not
Language, Gender, Identity
Table 2.1. Name and Sex for Total Population.
Name Female Male Total
No 210(38.3%) 0(0%) 210(15.7%)
Yes 338(61.7%) 789(100%) 1,127 (84.3%)
Totals 548 (100%) 789(100%) 1,337 (100%)
mentioned by name were all women. Of the 548 females represented,
338 (61.7%) were mentioned with their own names and 210 (38.3%)
without; thus almost 40% of the women had no names. Again, the
figures became more impressive when compared with the men's, where
of the 789 obituaries of men none were represented without names.
These figures then reduce all variation in the use of names to the
identification of women because men were always identified by their
own (first) names, and name avoidance becomes a strategy applicable
only in the identification of women, thus confirming the gender basis of
To explain this discrepancy, I take the position that the
representation of people in the obituaries is in some way a reflection of
the way they are, and possibly wish to be, perceived in the society. In
the case of the deceased, it is the way their families wish to have them be
perceived, or think they would have liked to have been perceived by the
public, specifically, by readers of the obituary pages who would
naturally include family, friends, colleagues, acquaintances, among
others.9 The decisions are ultimately made by the families, within the
context of the various social groups and communities in which both they
and their deceased are (or have been) a part. These groups, then, become
the audience to whom the obituaries are addressed.
If this is so, some major factors that may affect people's
decisions in identifying their deceased include their religious affiliation,
the geographical location from which they come, their socioeconomic
status and that of their families, and possibly the age of the deceased. I
argued elsewhere (Eid, 1994b) that religious affiliation, location, and
status impose certain traditions and modes of behavior on their
membership, which eventually become expected norms that serve to
identify and symbolically represent that community. But symbols can be
90f course this relates to the "who writes the obituaries?" question and the kinds
of considerations involved in the obituary writing process-a question
addressed in more detail in the longer version of this project.
both linguistic and nonlinguistic. Nonlinguistic symbols include dress,
for example, which can easily identify people on the basis of these three
variables. Linguistic symbols include not only speech patterns and styles
characteristic of various regions, classes, and racial and ethnic groups
but also forms of address, the use of names and titles, and other forms of
identification. Name avoidance (or the identification of people without
their names) can therefore be viewed as a linguistic symbol that serves
to identify women, for it is only women whose identity, and hence their
name, appears to be eclipsed and made dependent on someone else's
(usually a man). In the next section, I look at the effect of the two
variables (Time and Religion) on this variation.
GENDER INEQUALITY: TIME AND RELIGIOUS AFFILIATION
To assess the effect of time, the data are broken down by year. Table 2.2
provides figures on women mentioned with and without a name
obtained from each year separately. They show a steady increase in the
number of deceased women identified by their own names. The
percentage of women represented by their names has more than
doubled during this period, starting with 37.5% in 1938 and ending with
87.4% in 1988.
Table 2.3 reports the increase per decade, again measured in
percentage point difference. The largest increase (17.2%) occurred in the
period from 1968-1978. This decade can, therefore, be said to constitute a
turning point in the history of female representation; it was the period
with the highest increase in the percentage of families representing their
deceased by name. This result confirms my initial hypothesis, and can
be explained historically on the basis of the socioeconomic and cultural
changes that took place in post-1952 Egypt-changes in the status of
women triggered by government policies on education, employment,
family and health care, among other things. The following quotes from
Hooglund (1991) describe some changes that could have impacted the
status of women, hence their image and public identity.
The proportion of the population with some secondary education more
than doubled between 1960 and 1976; the number of people with some
university education nearly tripled.... Women made great educational
gains: the percentage of women with preuniversity education grew
more than 300% while women with University education grew more
Table 2.2. Female Identification by Name Per Year.
Name 1938 1948 1958 1968 1978 1988
Yes 21(37.5%) 51(46.8%) 52 (54.2%) 60 (60.0%) 71 (77.2%) 83 (87.4%)
No 35 (62.5%) 58 (53.2%) 44 (45.8%) 40 (40.0%) 21(22.8%) 12(12.6%)
Total 56 109 96 100 92 95
Table 2.3. Increase in Women's Representation by Name.
1938-1948 1948-1958 1958-1968 1968-1978 1978-1988
9.3% 7.4% 5.8% 17.2% 10.2%
In the first ten years following the 1952 Revolution, spending on higher
education increased 400%. Between academic years 1951-52 and 1978-
79, student enrollment in public universities grew nearly 1400%....
The total number of female college students had doubled; by 1985-86
women accounted for 32% of all students. (p. 147)
The change in the obituaries during the 1968 to 1978 period can,
therefore, be viewed as a result of changes that took place in post-1952
Religion, the second variable examined, turned out to be one of
the strongest predictors of identification by name. Table 2.4 gives a
breakdown of the deceased population by Religion and Name, first in
relation to the total population then in relation to the female population.
Christians are less likely to represent their deceased without a name-
only 9% of them did, as compared to 20% among the Muslims. The
Muslim population shows more deceased women mentioned without
than with their names (53% to 47%), thus accounting for the high
percentage of women identified without their names.
Examination of the effect of this variable on women's
identification over time reveals an even more interesting picture. Table
2.5 shows that the trend in both Christian and Muslim populations is
towards an increased identification of women by name. But they also
show the distance between the two populations. The Christian
population started with a 65% female representation by name in 1938
and grew to a 95% in 1988, whereas the Muslim population started with
an initial 20% and ended with an 81.5% representation by name in 1988,
significantly below the Christian population.
Figure 2.1 provides a graphic view of the percentages of women
identified by name for each year. It shows a steady increase in the
female population toward representation by name. But it also shows
varying degrees of distance between the two religious groups as well as
the trajectories of change.
Table 2.4. Name of Deceased in Relation to Religion.
Total Population Female Population
Name Muslim Christian Muslim Christian
No 164 (20%) 46(8.9%) 164(52.9%) 46 (19.4%)
Yes 656 (80%) 469 (91.1%) 146(47.1%) 191(80.6%)
Total 820 (61.3%) 515(38.5%) 310(100%) 237(100%)
Language, Gender, Identity
Table 2.5. Religion and Women Identified by Name.
Religion 1938 1948 1958 1968 1978 1988
Christian 13 31 43 30 35 39
(65%) (67.4%) (86%) (81.1%) 81.4%) (95.1%)
Muslim 7 20 9 30 36 44
(20%) (31.8%) (19.6%) (47.7%) (73.5%) (81.5%)
4 50 -1-------- All-
30-- 16 98.
30- -- ----- -- ------------------ -- /
1938 1948 1958 1968 1978 1988
Figure 2.1. Women identified by name:
Religious affiliation and time effects
VARIATION IN TITLES
The previous discussion establishes the gender basis of name avoidance
as a strategy for identifying people in the obituaries, and the effect of
religious affiliation (another form of identification) on this variation.
And although name avoidance, strongest in 1938, decreased over time, it
was still not totally abandoned by 1988. Public identity as evidenced by
the obituaries can be said to depend on one's sex and religion, among
The question of public identity is communicated in the
obituaries through two other linguistic variables: titles and occupation.
Table 2.6 provides a summary of the title and occupation data for the
population broken down by Sex.
Titles are divided into two types: professional and social.
Professional titles need no explanation; they are basically derived from
one's profession: doctor, professor, general, engineer, and so on. In view
of the overlap between an occupation name and a title derived from that
occupation, I followed the following procedure in coding title versus
occupation. Because titles in Arabic precede the name, a profession is
counted as title if it occupies that position; it is counted as an occupation
if it occurs after the name. Social titles refer to some aspect of social
status or identity; they can be personal or marital saidd "Mr.," anisa
"Miss," Haram "Mrs.," armala "widower, fem."), religious (sheikh,
muqaddis, Hagg), honorific (pasha, bey, effendi), and son on.
The majority of women and men, as Table 2.6 shows, are
identified by a title: 53% of the women and 62% of the men, which points
to the cultural significance of titles in Egyptian/Arab society in general.
But the difference between the sexes becomes apparent when examining
the type of title used with each. Table 2.6 shows 30% of the men are
identified with a professional title, but less than 2% of the women have a
professional title. And although social titles are used extensively with
both sexes, they are more important for women than for men. Almost all
the women identified with a title are identified with a social title,
specifically 98% of them as compared to only 72% of the men.
A comparison of the data from professional titles and occupation
provides an insight into the relative importance of the two in the
identification of people in the obituaries. Of the men, 54% are identified
with an occupation, but only 30% have a professional title (see Table 2.6).
For women, the situation is dismal on both counts: Only 4% are identified
with an occupation and less than 2% with professional titles. For both
sexes, however, the number of deceased identified by occupation is
higher than the number identified by professional titles. This points to the
importance of occupation in establishing public identity. If this is so, then
Language, Gender, Identity
Table 2.6. Titles and Occupation in Relation to Sex.
Title Professional Title Social Title Occupation
Female Male Female Male Female Male Female Male
Yes 317 527 5 158 312 380 23 428
(53%) (62%) (2%) (30%) (98%) (72%) (4%) (54%)
No 231 262 312 369 5 145 425 361
(47%) (38%) (98%) (70%) (2%) (28%) (96%) (46%)
Total 548 789 317 527 317 525 548 789
occupation becomes the way to public identity, and we would expect the
number of women identified by their occupation to increase over time.
We would also expect women to be identified by occupation prior to their
being identified by professional titles.
Tables 2.7 and 2.8 provide the necessary support here.
Professional titles for deceased women appear only in 1988, where 5 out
of 52 women identified by a title had a professional rather than social
title. Prior to that point, none of the women had professional titles. Table
2.8 shows the earliest instance of a woman identified by an occupation
appeared quite a bit earlier in 1948. The number continued to increase
but remained quite small on the whole.
The picture that emerges from the results obtained so far
supports the idea that public identity may very well be tied to
occupation. For women, this may be the only route to a public and
independent identity. Such a conclusion would have to await a more
detailed analysis of the title and occupation data.
So far in this research I have established that uses of the linguistic
variables studied (names, titles, occupations) depend on sex, but other
factors (such as religious affiliation) also have a strong effect on this
variation, at least in the case of name avoidance. These same factors are
also hypothesized to have a strong impact on women's public identity. I
hope continued research in this area would allow us to determine the
overall effect of these variables on women's public identity and to
explain why they affect it the way they do.
Table 2.7. Professional Titles by Year and Sex.
1938 1948 1958 1968 1978 1988
Female Male Female Male Female Male Female Male Female Male Female Male
Yes 0 6 0 11 0 26 0 34 0 41 5 40
(8%) (11%) (31%) (39%) (45%) (10%) (48%)
No 30 73 67 91 58 58 56 54 54 50 47 43
(92%) (89%) (69%) (61%) (55%) (90%) (52%)
Total 30 79 67 102 58 84 56 88 54 91 52 83
Table 2.8. Occupation by Year and Sex.
1938 1948 1958 1968 1978 1988
Female Male Female Male Female Male Female Male Female Male Female Male
Yes 0 52 1 63 2 64 7 84 5 77 8 88
(1%) (48%) (2%) (45%) (7%) (62%) (5%) (53%) (8%) (61%)
No 56 40 108 67 94 77 93 52 87 69 87 56
(43%) (99%) (52%) (98%) (55%) (93%) (38%) (95%) (47%) (92%) (39%)
Total 56 92 109 130 96 141 100 136 92 146 95 144
Language, Gender, Identity 57
Adler, M. K. (1978). Naming and addressing: A sociolinguistic study.
Eid, M. (1994a). Hidden women: Gender inequality in 1938 Egyptian
obituaries. In R. Rammuny & D. Parkinson (Eds.), Investigating
Arabic: Linguistic, pedagogical, and literary studies in honor of Ernest N.
McCarus (pp. 111-136). Columbus, OH: Greyden Press.
Eid, M. (1994b). "What's in a name?" Women in Egyptian obituaries. In
Y. Suleiman (Ed.), Arabic sociolinguistics: Issues and perspectives (pp.
81-100). London: Curzon Press.
Hooglund, E. (1991). The society and its environment. In H. C. Metz
(Ed), Egypt: A country study (pp. 91-153). Washington, DC: Library of
Congress Federal Research Division.
Smith, P. M. (1985). Language, the sexes and society. New York: Basil
THE POWER OF WOMEN'S VOICES IN
THE PRACTICE OF CHISMEANDO
JOAN KELLY HALL
True life is not lived where great external changes take place-where
people move about, clash, fight and slay one another-it is lived only
where these tiny, tiny infinitesimally small changes occur
Everyday face-to-face interactive practices appear to be, perhaps because
of their ubiquity, rather ordinary and uneventful. Studies however, of
such practices (e.g., Goodwin, 1992; Hall, 1993b), have shown them to be
constitutive of a mutually shaping, locally situated struggle between the
sociocultural forces embedded in their linguistic and paralinguistic
elements and the individual participants. There has also been a focused
interest in the examination of the power embedded in the control or
manipulation of the linguistic and paralinguistic elements of oral
practices (see e.g., Goodwin, 1992; Hall 1993b) as well as a parallel
interest in looking at how larger sociopolitical and sociohistorical
processes are constituted in everyday talk.
In what follows, I briefly summarize the notion of interactive
practice as it is used here and the research on the nature of gossiping as
a social practice. This is followed by a short description of the practice
and the group of women participants. I then examine the sociocultural
knowledge embedded in the stories told and the uses of two intonation
patterns in the storytelling. Finally, I discuss these moments and the
practice itself both in terms of its importance to this group of women
and of the larger issues of sociopolitics and situated action, and suggest
areas for further study.
The study reported here is part of these larger research interests.
My primary intent is to show that the practice of chismeando' as defined
and engaged in by a group of women from the Dominican Republic is
an important sociocultural and sociopolitical activity. I argue that in this
practice, the women collectively remember and create sociocultural
knowledge important to living their daily lives. I examine in particular,
the ways in which these women use two different intonation patterns to
foreground and create chisme (gossip). I argue that the uses of the
formulae, which on one level may seem inconsequential, are important
sociopolitical acts by which the women actively constitute or maintain
the social rules by which they live their lives. My empirical data
challenge any claim to a universal meaning of these paralinguistic
conventions, demonstrating instead that meanings of these (and other
interactive) patterns emerge from the dialogue between the larger
sociohistorical forces embedded in the practice and their contextually
situated uses by particular groups of people and individuals in those
groups (Bakhtin, 1986; Morson & Emerson, 1990).
THE NATURE OF INTERACTIVE PRACTICES
Conversation, telling stories, telling jokes, gossiping, and other similar
behaviors are known as interactive practices. Interactive practices are
goal-directed, recurring episodes of face-to-face interaction that are
significant to the establishment and maintenance of our social groups
and communities. Participation in these practices is mediated by
particular symbolic tools and other communicative resources (e.g.,
language, intonation patterns, gestures, body stance, voice qualities, etc.)
that provide structuring frameworks for the creation, articulation, and
management of collective social histories (Vygotsky, 1978; Wertsch,
1Although the substantive chismear may seem a more grammatically correct
choice, I chose to use the word chismeando to frame what the women are doing as
it is the word they used in describing what they were doing.
Women's Voices and Chismeando
1991). These resources include lexical and syntactic choices, participation
structures, act sequences, and prosodic and other formulae to signal
opening, transitional, and closing moves. Communicating meaning in an
interactive practice depends on our shared understanding of the
conventional (i.e., historical) ways in which the resources get used. It is
this conventionality that to some degree binds us to particular ways of
using the resources in our practices. Their actual meaning, however,
emerges from the ways in which we use them at a particular moment.
Bakhtin's (1986; Morson & Emerson, 1990) notion of dialogicality
captures the tension that exists at any moment in a practice between the
sociohistorical, conventionalized nature of the communicative resources,
and their locally situated, emergent uses during the practice itself. It is
the simultaneous attention to these resources and their locally-situated
uses that can reveal the myriad ways groups formulate voices in relation
to larger social forces (Gal, 1989).
GOSSIPING AS A SOCIAL PRACTICE
The study of "gossiping" has generated a great deal of scholarly interest
in a variety of disciplines (e.g., Brenneis, 1984; Coates, 1989; Connerton,
1989; Eckert, 1990; Eder & Enke, 1991; Gluckman, 1963; Goodwin, 1992;
Hall, 1993a, 1993b; Hannerz, 1967; Haviland, 1977). In these studies, the
content of gossip is defined as a certain kind of talk about a socially
unacceptable act that happened to or was instigated by a person not
present at the time of the talk or is acted toward as if she were absent
(i.e., she is talked about in the third person). Its primary function is to
serve as a forum for the display of social control within which group
members, by talking about others, are able to exert collective power over
each other and keep each other's social behavior in check. Through
posing and responding to real social dilemmas in this practice, people
develop, display, and sustain their sociocultural competence.
The study presented here confirms earlier conclusions, and
extends the analysis by demonstrating the kind of information that is
contained in the stories and its social significance to these women, and
the situated, dynamic nature of these processes (i.e., how the recreationn
of significant sociocultural knowledge is interactionally realized).
Sociocultural Context and Participants
The data that form the basis of this study are part of a larger audiotaped
data set I collected in the town of San Crist6bal, Dominican Republic
during a 3-month stay in 1989. The Dominican Republic is a Spanish-
speaking country, and shares the island of Hispaniola in the Caribbean
with the country of Haiti. San Crist6bal is the capital of the province of
the same name and lies about 28 kilometers to the southwest of Santo
Domingo, the capital of the country.
The data consist of 55 minutes of audiotaped interaction. The
woman with whom I lived, who is also member of the women's barrio
and who lived closer to the center of town, assisted me in the
transcription and analysis. The women themselves also helped me. The
women and a number of townspeople also participated in some semi-
structured interviews conducted during the 3-month period in 1989 and
in a follow-up visit in 1990. These are included as secondary data
The country is poor and about 75% of its population are the
lower middle and working classes. Most of the people are mulatto; 25%
are White or hispanic (15%), and Black (10%) (Wiarda & Kryzanek,
1992). The participants in this study as well as the majority of the
population of the town of San Crist6bal are mulatto and members of the
lower middle and working classes at the time of the study.
The women ranged in age from about 13 to 22. At the time of the
study, most attended school, either during the day or at night, and a few
had jobs as house or laundry maids in middle- and upper middle-class
homes located closer to the center of town. A few studied English at one
of the several English-language institutes located around town. Most
hoped to marry and remain in San Crist6bal, although a few had
aspirations to go to the United States to live and work. Only one, the
oldest, was married. She had two children and was married to the
brother of one of the other participants.
I lived among and interacted with the women for about 2
months, joining in some of the chismeando sessions, and building a level
of confianza (trust) before I asked to record them. They made me feel
like a friend and confidante. I am not unaware that my status as an
American may have colored our interactions in ways not visible to me.
According to the women, two criteria guided a decision as to
whom one could engage in chismeando: those with whom one had
confianza and those whose social power was perceived to be more or less
equal. Relevant components of the women's establishment and
Women's Voices and Chismeando
maintenance of confianza included similarity and proximity of living
conditions and a shared understanding of the social rules against which
the reported displays of improper behavior were evaluated. The women
all lived in the same barrio and considered themselves good friends
among whom existed a high level of confianza. Age and gender did not
seem to be a strong factor in deciding with whom one could share
confianza. Although the practice reported on here was engaged in
entirely by women, no one considered chismeando to be solely a woman's
Sociocultural Knowledge Constructed in Chismeando
Presented here is an overview of the sociocultural knowledge embedded
in the chismeando stories told by the women. Such an examination
provides a window into the sociocultural knowledge these women
considered important to the living of their daily lives as members of
All talk considered by the women to be chisme concerned some
questionable social behavior of another person who was either not
present during the interaction, acted towards as if she or he were not
present, or of people passing by the group while they were engaged in
chismeando. The behavior talked about did not have to actually occur;
rather, it at least had to be a possible occurrence.
The formation and maintenance of interpersonal relationships
both with each other and with men were the primary focus of the
stories. Three behaviors most frequently gossiped about were women
being with men in particular places where and/or when they shouldn't
be, women wearing borrowed items such as shoes and items of clothing
around town and damaging them, and women acting "stuck up" (i.e.,
seeming to be unwilling to talk with the other members of the
community). Other less frequent topics included unmarried women who
had gotten pregnant, couples who had gotten into fights, and boyfriends
who flirted with other women.
In all stories told, the women were always referred to by name
and all were members of the barrio where the gossipers lived. Most
frequently mentioned were women members of their group.
Interestingly, when men featured as characters in the stories, they
remained anonymous, being referred to as un muchacho (a boy) or el/ese
novio (the/that boyfriend). Naming of specific men in chismeando was not
necessary to the telling or creating of scandal. Instead, it was the naming
of women and the suggestion of some kind of association with a (any)
man either at a time that was inappropriate or in a place that was
considered improper and thus worthy of being talked about.
Two kinds of places served as settings in these stories: those
suggested to be improper because of the time of the meeting, at night,
and those considered to be improper because of the kind of place it was.
Some of the specific places mentioned in the stories in which women
were said to have been seen with un muchacho at night and thus used to
suggest socially improper behavior included "down by the river," "on
the corner by Ramoncito's," and "at the beach." The women stated that
these places, by themselves, were not considered inappropriate places
for women to be. Rather, it was women being in them, or suggested to
be in them, with men at inappropriate times that was considered
Two places were frequently cited and when mentioned
generated heightened audience reaction. One was the town of Hatillo, a
small town about 12 kilometers outside of San Crist6bal, and the site of
field headquarters for a number of government engineering projects.
This distinction brought to the town an increased population of
construction workers of national and international origin, and as such,
Hatillo had a reputation in the town as a place with wild and corrupt
ways. Another place important in the making of scandal and often used
as a setting of stories was the Bar Dorado located in the center of San
Example 1 shows the use of the place to suggest a display of
improper behavior by one of the members of the group. According to
this story, Susana, a girl about whom much chisme occurred, was said to
have been seen sitting in Dorado, a place considered to be filled with
tigres (tigers-men of ill-repute) and loose women. It was certainly not a
place for a proper Dominican woman to be. By suggesting that Susana
was seen there, the teller of the story implies that Susana was engaged in
some kind of scandalous behavior. The frequency with which these
places were mentioned in chismeando and the heightened responses
their naming called forth clearly indicate their social importance in the
lives of these women.
1. Mari: bueno Lola a mi no me gusta el chisme pero ti no sabes que
2. Susana anoche andaba por ahi, muchacha, y esa muchacha
2Pseudonyms are used for all participants, both as tellers of the stories and
characters within them. Transcription conventions include: [Lto indicate
overlapping talk;: to indicate vowel elongation; = to indicate connected talk (i.e.,
no pause between the utterances); ( ) to indicate incomprehensible talk; T and
4- to indicate rising and falling intonation, respectively. The English translation
follows each example.
Women's Voices and Chismeando
4. Lola: =qui6n=
5. Mari: =o Susana=
6. Lola: =Tc6:: r mo
7. Otra: L SuFsa::na
8. Mari: L (digo yo) Justina y Susana estaban en la
9. iglesia y fui a la iglesia en la iglesia que yo la estaba
10. buscando para que fu6ramos a la heladeria y cuando yo
11. pas6 por Dorado estaba Susana sentada en TDo:ra::-do=
12. Lola: =To::: rFo::
13. Otras: LTa:::Iy::
15. Arlene: =para que Tti4-ve:4a para que tt6 ve:la
1. Mari: well Lola I don't like gossip but don't you know that
2. Susana last night was walking around, girl, and that girl
4. Lola: =who=
5. Mari: =oh Susana=
6. Lola: =Twha:: rl:t
7. Other: LSu [rsa::na
8. Mari: L(I say) Justina and Susana were at
9. church and I went to the church in the church what I was
10. looking for her so we could go to the ice cream shop and
11. passed by Dorado there was Susana sitting in TDo:ra::,ldo=
12. Lola: =To::: r[o::
13. Others: F LTo:::I::h
15. Arlene: =so that Tyou'd see:Jher so that Tyou'd see:4her
Coger prestado (borrowing items) was an important and
frequently engaged in social activity by all members of the town and as
such was an activity about which there was much potential for socially
inappropriate behavior, making it a frequent topic in chismeando.
Example 2 is about one such incident. In this story, as in many others,
coger prestado is treated as an important and serious social activity, as it
was one way the women worked creatively with their low economic
resources to wear clothing items and accessories considered to be
luxuries. Each invested in a few items, which they then treated as
community resources by lending the items to each other. Thus, taking
good care of items borrowed and appropriately responding to improper
treatment given to one's belongings were important social rules used by
the women in the evaluation of their own and others' behaviors.
In the following story, the fact that a woman had damaged a
borrowed dress and still wore it "modeling" around town is offered and
responded to as a socially inappropriate act.
1. Arlene: ay pero ven acd ustedes no saben la 61tima=
2. Mari: =cual es la iltima
3. Arlene: viene Aide ayer=
4. Lola: =Aid6 ayer aqui la de alli Fde la esquina
5. Arlene: LmodelaT:: Fndo
6. Mari:: Lla Thija neigra=
7. Arlene: =si si con el vestido azul que yo le prest6 Tmodelan,4do
8. Morena: y te lo rompi6
9. Arlene: y yo me qued6 callada
1. Arlene: oh but come here you don't know the latest=
2. Mari: =what's the latest
3. Arlene: Aide comes yesterday=
4. Lola: Aide yesterday here the one from over there from the corner
5. Arlene: LmodelT:: ing
Black girl= F
7. Arlene: =yeah yeah with the blue dress that I lent her 1 modelling
8. Morena: and she tore it on you
9. Arlene: and I kept quiet
The chismeando stories reveal much about what was valued in a
man. That men quite often had multiple concurrent relationships with
women seemed an accepted fact; more salient behaviors in evaluating
social appropriateness was whether men supported their families in
some way and did not inflict physical violence on the women or
children. Example 3 shows how the possibility of socially improper
behavior by one man was brought forth for discussion and evaluated by
the women as he passed by their group. The fact that he brought home
some of his wages to his mother and siblings was evaluated quite
positively by the group and used to dissuade others from providing
chisme about him. Mari, in fact, tells the others twice to "shut up" since
he is "the best boy."
Women's Voices and Chismeando
1. Mari: ay esp6rate ahi viene Ram wages to his mother and
2. Lola: es muy ch6vere ese muchacho el mejor muchacho es Ram6n
3. Mari: =cdllense que ahi viene Ram6n el mejor muchacho
4. es Ram6n es un muchacho muy serio callense
5. que ahi viene Ram6n Fel mejor muchacho
6. Lola: Lcuando cobra lleva cuarto a su casa
7. le da cuarto a su mama y a sus hermanos=
8. Mari: =61 es muy bueno
1. Mari: oh wait, here comes Ram6n fighting for Arlene
2. Lola: he's great that boy the best boy is Ram6n
3. Mari: =shut up 'cause here comes Ram6n the best boy
4. is Ram6n he is a very serious boy shut up
5. 'cause here comes Ram6n [the best boy
6. Lola: Lwhen he gets money he brings
some to his house
7. he give some to his mother and to his siblings=
8. Mari: =he is very good
Another important aspect of the social lives of these women as
displayed and created in the practice of chismeando is religion. Religion
often served as a criterion for deciding whether someone could be the
subject of chisme and whether the inappropriate behavior said to be
displayed by someone was actually possible. In Example 4, Mari uses
the concept of religion to allay Lola's fears that she might figure as a
protagonist in one of the chismeando stories. Mari uses the fact that Lola
went to church to explain why the others would not consider her as a
potential story character.
1. Mari: ay Lola no hablando de ti que ti eres muy seria
2. que ti vas a la iglesia no de ti no se puede hablar
1. Mari: oh Lola not speaking about you 'cause you are very serious
2. 'cause you go to church no you can't be talked about
In summary, the stories of chismeando are concerned with far
more than idle chatter. They reveal the people, places, activities, and
norms that frame the interpersonal relationships that are significant to
the women of San Cristobal as they go about the business of living their
Important in the practice of chismeando is the varied use of two
intonation patterns, the phrase-final fall and the phrase-final rise,3 to
bring forth the most significant part of the chisme story, the alleged
improprietous act. The two are not determined by what follows their
uses, as the responses to both types of utterances were the same,
exclamations of incredulity, and so on. Rather, it is the type of text,
related versus created chisme, by which the distinction is made. In other
words, when the socially inappropriate act is clearly expressed in the
lexicogrammatical content of the utterance, the intonation falls at the
end. At these moments, it seems to be taken for granted by the
storyteller that the impropriety is clearly expressed in what was said,
and the falling intonation alerts the others to attend to the propositional
content of the statement. Example 5 contains examples of these
1. tiene como Tcinco no::Ivios
2. estaba Susana sentada en TDo:ra::Ido
3. esta mafiana ( ) a mi y a Arlene dizque que que ella va para
1. she has like Tfive bo::ylfriends
2. there was Susana sitting in tDo:ra::Ido
3. this morning ( ) to me and Arlene it's said that that she's going to
The claim that a girl has five boyfriends, as in Line 1 of Example
5, for instance, seemed to be a taken-for-granted impropriety in the lives
of these women, and was intonationally expressed as a phrase-final fall.
That is, the falling intonation alerted the listeners to attend to the
propositional content of the utterance as it made explicit the social
behavior that was being judged. Line 2 is taken from Example 1 (Line
11) and occurred as the climax of the story told by Mari about Susana.
As mentioned earlier, that the Bar Dorado and the town Hatillo are
places of ill repute was common knowledge to the townspeople of San
Crist6bal and the mere mention of their names as sites of particular
behaviors made explicit the impropriety of the act committed (i.e., being
3These patterns are similar to what Bolinger (1989) called, respectively, Profile A,
whole distinguishing feature is an abrupt fall from the highlighted syllable, and
Profile B in which there is first a jump up to the accented syllable and then a
continuous gradual rise.
Women's Voices and Chismeando
in these places). This pattern, the phrase-final fall, was used to present
chisme (i.e., to bring forth and open for discussion, statements about
improper displays of social behavior by certain community members).
The impropriety was commonly known and agreed on among the
women and contained in the propositional content of the utterance.
In the second intonation pattern used to present a claim of
inappropriately displayed behavior, the utterances ended on the rise. In
these utterances fewer, or no, details about the alleged behavior were
given. Instead, the phrase-final rise of the utterance implied an improper
display of some behavior that if performed by someone else or in some
other place or time might not have been considered improper. Four
examples of utterances ending on the rise are included in Example 6. In
each of these utterances what was said does not indicate a particularly
improper behavior and what preceded and followed each of these does
not clarify the impropriety. The fact, for example, that Madelin was seen
on a street corner with a boy was not, in itself, improper behavior.
However, by ending the utterance on the rise the storyteller created the
possibility of impropriety and intended for the other participants to
interpret it as such, which in all cases they did, by responding with
exclamations of surprise (ay) or incredulity (cdmo). The use of rising
intonation invited suspicion of scandalous behavior (i.e., what was said
was to be interpreted as improperly displayed social behavior by the
character in question). By using this pattern the women created chisme
from otherwise unremarkable displays of social activity.
1. yo vi a Madelin anoche en la esquina ahi donde Ramoncito con un
2. que dej6 el novio por Taqui::
3. tenia un pantatl6::n
4. que era en la parcela que estaba a las horas de la noche con un
1. I saw Madelin last night on the corner by Ramoncito's with a Tbo::y
2. that she left her boyfriend The::re
3. she had on a pair of Tpa::nts
4. it was in the field that she was at night with a Tbo:y
I suggest here that the women's knowledge and use of these two
patterns constitute two strategies of sociopolitical economy (Gal, 1989).
The first pattern, the phrase-final fall, used by a storyteller, signaled to
the other women that what was contained in the propositional content
of the utterance was to be interpreted as explicit display of improper
behavior. By bringing forth and evaluating stories about others'
behaviors in this way the women foregrounded important social issues,
set themselves apart from these issues, and were thus able to reflect on
and deal with the social conditions by which they lived their lives. Using
this particular pattern in the telling of chisme stories the women, either
as storyteller or respondent to the stories, displayed the sociocultural
knowledge necessary to maintain their status as bona fide members of the
group. At the same time, it made visible their individual stances toward
the larger social world in which they lived (i.e., made visible the issues
important to them in shaping theirs and the others' social lives).
The knowledge and use of the second intonation pattern, the
phrase-final rise, is a significant interactive strategy that is potentially
more powerful than the first in that by ending utterances on the rise the
women were able to create chisme from social moments that could
otherwise be viewed as harmless. Through the use of this pattern the
women actively engendered skepticism about a particular person's
social behavior, and thus had the potential to transform any social act
into an impropriety and any community member into a perpetrator of
scandalous behavior. One would not have had to break a social rule to
be made a story character in chismeando as any social act or person could
be made to seem improper just by virtue of the rising intonation.
The use of the rising intonational pattern in creating chisme is a
powerful strategy available to these women for changing the course of
theirs and others' lives. On the one hand, this power to transform
someone into a perpetrator of impropriety by naming her as a character
in unspecified displays of impropriety sets up a frame of expectations
that facilitates the making of other, similar interpretations, and as a
consequence, casts a web of suspicion about the person's status as a
socially proper community member. On the other hand, knowing how
to create chisme about someone else in this way can be used to shield one
from being made a character by others. That is, the more competent one
is at controlling and manipulating the creation of chisme about others,
the more socially powerful she is likely to be. Thus, it is less likely that
others will attempt to use that knowledge against her. Further study is,
of course, needed to substantiate this claim, although see Hall (1993b),
for a study that examines an individual's control and manipulation of
some of the conventions of chismeando in such a way as to positively
affect her status in the group.
One more point needs to be made about the importance of the
two patterns of interest here: Their roles as powerful tools in the
reconstructionn of the social lives of these women in chismeando
challenge any claim to some universal meaning residing in the patterns
themselves. They challenge in particular the claims made by Lakoff
Women's Voices and Chismeando
(1975) and Bolinger (1989), for example, that the use of the rising
intonation pattern is a universal index of uncertainty, hesitation,
tentativeness and indecisiveness, its use marking some psychological
weakness in the user. This is clearly not the case here. As demonstrated,
the use of the rising intonation is a strategy that does not reflect a level
of self-doubt residing in the user about what is being said but actively
and forcefully engenders uncertainty, or even more seriously, skepticism
in the minds of the other women about the degree and kind of social
propriety residing in the behaviors of particular community members.
Those using this strategy in creating chisme reflect no hesitation or
tentativeness in doing this. Rather, as I argued earlier, its use creates a
level of social power in the hands of the user that can serve to help
maintain or modify both her status and that of the person being
presented as a character in a chisme story. At the very least, the women's
uses of these two patterns reveal the significance of context in the
interpretation and construction of meaning of these and other linguistic
and paralinguistic resources used in interactive practices.
The practice of chismeando is important in the lives of the women
studied. The stories told contain significant sociocultural information.
Moreover, the ways the storytellers use two prosodic conventions in
evaluating the social behavior of others allow them to display and create
important sociocultural knowledge.
This study is significant in a number of ways. First, it provides
an understanding of the important role that the practice of chismeando
can play in the building of intragroup support as women make visible
what they, collectively, consider to be important sociocultural
knowledge. By participating in the display and creation of such
knowledge, the women solidify their allegiance to each other as social
group members. In addition to its intragroup importance, the practice of
chismeando can play an important role for those who are not members of
the group but aspire to be. Because there is significant sociocultural
knowledge embedded within the stories-knowledge that is for the
most part difficult to locate elsewhere-by engaging as audience to the
practice, outgroup members can develop some of the sociocultural
competence needed to become a legitimate member of the group or at
the very least come to understand what it means to be a legitimate
member of the group.
Moreover, the study shows that a degree of sociopolitical power
is embedded in the competent uses of two seemingly insignificant
paralinguistic conventions. Hymes (1974) pointed out that "the more a
way of speaking has become shared and meaningful within a group, the
more likely that crucial cues will be efficient, i.e., slight in scale" (p. 54).
Such is the case examined here. Although these cues used by the women
may seem unremarkable, the potential for power embedded in their use
clearly makes competent engagement in the practice of chismeando of
some political importance to the successful accomplishment of their
everyday lives. That is, knowing how to both display and create social
rules and knowledge are skills useful to the evaluation of one's own and
others behavior in ways that help to maintain the social group and one's
status within it.
The study also demonstrates how the meanings of two
particular intonation patterns, the phrase-final rise and the phrase-final
fall, are tied to their uses in locally situated sociocultural activities,
calling into question any universal claims to their meanings. It thus
provides empirical support for Eckert and McConnell-Ginet's (1992)
statement that such strategies can only be interpreted and evaluated in
the contexts of their uses. It also provides evidence of an important
sociopolitical activity in which powerful linguistic behaviors are used by
women. The women's speech makes problematic the perspective that
gossiping is mere solidarity-building "idle talk" (Holmes, 1993). The
evidence presented here suggests otherwise and points to the need for a
more situated, contextual study of language use in which such
dimensions as the relationships among the participants, their social
identities and roles played, and the social goals) brought to and
negotiated in the interaction are taken into account.
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M. Holquist, Eds.; V. W. McGee, Trans.). Austin: University of Texas
Bolinger, D. (1989). Intonation and its uses. Stanford, CA: Stanford
Brenneis, D. (1984). Grog and gossip in Bhatgaon: Style and substance in
Fiji Indian conversation. American Ethnologist, 11,487-506.
Coates, J. (1989). Gossip revisited: Language in all-female groups. In J.
Coates & D. Cameron (Eds.), Women in their speech communities: New
perspectives on language and sex (pp 94-122). London: Longman.
Connerton, P. (1989). How societies remember. Cambridge: Cambridge
Eckert, P. ( 1990). Cooperative competition in adolescent "girl talk"
Discourse Processes, 11, 91-122.
Women's Voices and Chismeando
Eckert, P., & McConnell-Ginet, S. (1992). Think practically and look
locally: Language and gender as community-based practice. Annual
Review of Anthropology, 21, 461-490.
Eder, D., & Enke, J. (1991). The structure of gossip: Opportunities and
constraints on collective expression among adolescents. American
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Gal, S. (1989). Language and political economy. Annual Review of
Anthropology, 18, 345-367.
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Goodwin, M. H. (1992). Orchestrating participation in events: Powerful
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Hall, J. K. (1993a). 'Tengo una bomba: The paralinguistic and linguistic
conventions of the oral practice chismeando. Research on Language and
Social Interaction, 26, 57-85.
Hall, J. K. (1993b). Oye, oye lo que ustedes no saben: Creativity, social
power and politics in the oral practice of chismeando. Journal of
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Haviland, J. (1977). Gossip, reputation and knowledge in Zinacantan.
Chicago: Chicago University Press.
Holmes, J. (1993). Introduction to sociolinguistics. London: Longman.
Hymes, D. (1974). Foundations in sociolinguistics: An ethnographic approach.
Lakoff, R. (1975). Language and women's place. New York: Harper & Row.
Morson, G., & Emerson, C. (1990). Mikhail Bakhtin: Creation of a prosaics.
Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
Tolstoy, L. (1964). Why do men stupefy themselves? In Leo Tolstoy:
Selected essays (A. Maude, Trans.). New York: Random House.
Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher
psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Wertsch, J. (1991), Voices of the mind. Cambridge, MA: Harvard
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crucible. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.
GENDER/LANGUAGE SUBTEXTS AS
FOUND IN LITERATURE ANTHOLOGIES:
MIXED MESSAGES, STEREOTYPES,
MARY R. HARMON
Applebee (1993) found that nearly 66% of high school literature classes
rely on anthologies as their primary source of literary selections and that
over 88% of those teachers surveyed found these anthologies to be at
least satisfactory in regard to the selections contained and the teaching
apparatus included that accompany the heavy textbooks. (The Prentice
Hall American literature text weighs in at more than 13 pounds!) Thus,
the literature anthology plays a key role in U.S. high school literature
classes. Authorized by the teacher, the classroom, the school, and
sometimes state boards of education, anthologies, "embody the power to
select (and therefore suppress), the power to shape and present certain
aspects of human experience" (Scholes, 1985, p. 20). Through their
content and form, contend Apple and Christian-Smith (1991), they
"signify particular constructions of reality, particular ways of selecting
and organizing that vast universe of possible knowledge" (p. 3).
Anthologies, they continued, participate in the organized knowledge
system of society and assist in "the creation of what a society has
recognized as legitimate knowledge" (pp. 4-5; Apple, 1991).
Acknowledging the importance of high school literature
anthologies, their selection as well as their nonselection materials
(teaching apparatus), to the possible shaping or reinforcing of the
thoughts and attitudes of a multitude of students, this chapter recounts
my examination of the sociolinguistic texts and subtexts found in the
most recent editions of five widely used high school U.S. literature
anthologies' selections as well as their non-selection materials that
comprise between 46% and 54% of their pages. I found that messages
reinforcing dominant culture stereotypes and gender discrimination
occur frequently in the choice of selections in all five anthologies, in their
introductions of authors and selections, and in the questions and critical
commentary they provide on selections, historical background, authors,
and literary trends. In addition, these anthologies, all of which claim to
offer students integrated approaches to language study, introduce little
in the way of discussion and questions about the sociolinguistic aspects
of language use, even when selections and critical commentary contain
blatant examples of gender-biased language.
I examined the following five anthologies:
Adventures in American Literature (1989). Pegasus Edition.
Annotated Teacher's Edition. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.
America Reads Series. The United States in Literature (1991). Classic
Edition. Teacher's Annotated Edition. Scott, Foresman.
Elements of Literature. Fifth Course. Literature of the United States
(1993). Annotated Teacher's Edition. Holt, Rinehart and Winston.
Literature and Language. Yellow Level. American Literature (1992).
Teacher's Annotated Edition. McDougal, Littell.
Prentice Hall Literature. The American Experience (1991). Second
Edition. Annotated Teacher's Edition. Prentice-Hall.
In the following, I consider and exemplify 10 means through
which the anthologies examined in my study send students messages of
gender bias and reinforce common gender stereotypes. Constraints of
space and time prohibit my examples from being exhaustive lists; rather,
they serve as illustrations of each of the 10 key points.
COVERS AND FRONTISPIECES
As soon as high school U.S. literature students receive their anthologies,
a subtext of gender bias may begin working on them. Almost none of
the anthologies studied depict either women or artifacts made by
women on their front covers or in their frontispiece pictures. The
possible exception is the frontispiece picture of the Statue of Liberty, a
female in form if not in fact, draped by a quilt found in the McDougal
Littell textbook. Prentice-Hall's cover and frontispiece both feature the
portrait of Captain Joseph Reddeford Walker. Under his picture, every
day, students and their teachers see the book's title, The American
Experience. Inside the Teacher's Annotated edition, teachers are told that
Walker, a White male trapper and adventurer represents the values of
19th century Americans (p. v). One is tempted to ask just whose
experiences and values and which Americans this solitary White male
The anthologies I studied all offer women limited representation and
sometimes only token representation. Table 4.1 reports the number of
female and male authors in the sample anthologies, the number of
selections included in each textbook written by women and men, and
the number of pages devoted to those selections. Numbers that appear
to not "add up" correctly can be accounted for by anonymously written
selections, several of which can be found in all the anthologies
examined. As the table shows, the collections seriously under represent
women. The highest percent of female authors is just over one in four
(26.9%). The pages on which readers find selections written by women is
even lower in all but one case. Prentice-Hall and Harcourt Brace
Jovanovich offer only token representation (17% and 14%, respectively).
The highest proportion of pages is one in three. What the numbers alone
do not show is that the majority of selections written by women appear
late in the anthologies on a one poem apiece basis or in the nonfiction
portion of the book, much of which teachers do not assign students to
read (Applebee, 1993). Few multiple entries or short works of fiction by
women appear, and as Table 4.2 reveals, fewer long works (plays or full-
length novels) written by women can be found. The numbers in Table
4.1 also fail to show that often the total pages of a few White male
authors such as Whitman, Miller, Melville, Poe, Hawthorne, Emerson,
Wilder, or Thoreau exceed all pages in the book written by women.
Table 4.1. Authors, Selections, and Pages.
Authors Women (%) Men (%)
PH-128 29 (22.7) 91 (71.1)
HBJ-134 24 (18) 105 (78.4)
SF-164 42 (25.6) 107 (65.2)
HRW-112 29 (25.9) 77 (68.8)
ML-93 25 (26.9) 64 (68.8)
Selections Women (%) Men (%)
PH-204 50 (24.5) 146 (71.6)
HBJ-233 46 (19.9) 182 (78.1)
SF-221 70 (31.6) 141 (64.3)
HRW-188 47(25) 135 (71.8)
ML-108 28 (25.9) 76 (72.2)
Pages Women (%) Men (%)
PH-618 104 (16.8) 502 (81.2)
HBJ-575 78 (13.6) 493 (85.7)
SF-533 115(21.6) 403 (75.6)
HRW-594 188 (24.9) 441 (74.4)
ML-471 156 (33.1) 308 (65.4)
Table 4.2. Long Works by Women and Men.
Long Works Women Men
PH 1 0 1
HBJ 2 2 2
SF 2 0 2
HRW 2 1 1
ML 1 1 0
INTRODUCTIONS AND ESSENTIALIST STATEMENTS
With the exception of McDougal Littell, introductions to authors and
their works appear before the works in the sample anthologies. Thus,
students' and their teachers' readings of the works are likely influenced
by the content and form of those introductions. In all five anthologies,
White men tend are given longer introductions than other authors and,
in cases where pictures are present, they have pictures included with the
introductions. In two of the five examined anthologies, there was a
pronounced difference in how female and male authors are introduced.
As Table 4.3 reveals, Holt, Rinehart and Winston and Prentice-Hall
introduce women more often in terms of their male mentors or family
connections and the places in which they lived and men more often in
terms of their literary accomplishments. Thus, repeatedly throughout
these textbooks, students are transmitted messages that say achievement
lies within the province of males.
The introductions of some women writers contain essentialist
statements that lump together the works of all women and all
minorities, thus diminishing the importance of individual writers and
allowing for token representation of many diverse peoples by a few.
Harcourt Brace places a heavy burden on Gwendolyn Brooks who is
said to present both the African-American and the women's point of
view. Note the use of the essentialist "the." To speak for all those
peoples, Brooks is given two selection pages. Holt places an even
heavier burden on Maxine Hong Kingston who, according to Holt,
"speaks for some of the long stifled voices of Women, Native
Americans, Blacks and other ethnic groups [note her own is not even
mentioned], blue collar workers, and the poor, who did not in
anthologies of the past often have the chance to tell their stories directly"
(p. 1025, italics added). Ironically enough, Kingston does all of this in a
short selection entitled, "The Girl Who Would Not Talk."
THEMATIC TOPICS OR ARRANGEMENTS
The thematic arrangements and topics suggested by four of the five
anthologies bear out Jay's (1991) contention that thematic approaches
are most often androcentric and "especially discriminatory ..
present[ing] a partial experience in the form of an eternal verity" (p.
211). With the exception of McDougal Littell, when anthologies offered
thematic arrangements or included critical commentary on recurrent
literary themes, the themes adopted largely excluded women writers
and women's experiences. For example, as Scott, Foresman discusses the
Table 4.3. Modes of Introduction.
Accomplishments Place Other People Style
HRW Women 7% 52% 28% 19%
Men 49% 22% 13% 14%
PH Women 40% 20.7% 21% 21%
Men 81.3% 7.7% 4.4% 6.6%
theme of "Initiation," it names only 1 female but 12 male initiates. The
"American Dream" theme includes only 1 female's but 11 male authors'
works. The "Journey" theme features only 3 women travellers compared
to 10 men. Harcourt Brace's section on "The American Novel" covers 33
novelists: 6 women and 27 men. Holt's "O Brave New World" theme
lists 1 female-written and six male-written pieces; under "The Age of
Reason" no women can be found; nor are there any under "The
Individual and Society."
All five anthologies introduce their literary units with historical
background chapters. Table 4.4 shows how these chapters virtually erase
the contributions of all but White males to the anthologies' versions of
history. All of the anthologies' background chapters are accompanied by
time lines, graphing chronologically the events covered in the chapters.
As I looked at the events and the pictures included, I categorized them
as female (Women's Rights Convention in Seneca, New York), male
(World War II declared-women held few, if any, of the power positions
that determined if and when the United States went to war), and neutral
(San Francisco earthquake). In these versions of history, women play a
very limited role. Does that matter? As early as 1979, Howe argued, "the
images we pick up, consciously or unconsciously from literature and
history significantly control our sense of identity and our identity" (p.
62). Gill (1993), professor of history at Yale Divinity School added, "The
exclusion from history .. has been women's most debilitating cultural
deprivation.... Men's power to define what is political and what is not,
what is historical and what is not, has left women adrift in an eternal
present" (p. 12).
Gender/Language Subtexts 81
Table 4.4. Time-Line Events and Pictures.
Women (%) Men (%) Neutral (%)
PH 33(7) 431(91) 10(2)
HBJ 18(8) 213 (92) 0
SF 33 (10) 281 (88) 4(1.2)
HRW 30(11) 235(85) 12(4)
ML 11(7) 135(88) 7(4.6)
PH 13(11) 103(86) 4(3.3)
HBJ 5(10.6) 32(68) 5(10.6)
SF 10(23) 12(28) 21(49)
ML 3(8.6) 19(54) 13(37)
GENDERED LANGUAGE, SEXIST LABELING, MISOGYNIST
As Table 4.5 reveals, anthologies, despite their claims to integrated
approaches, expend little space to discussions of sociolinguistic aspects
of language use. When we remember that the typical anthology has
more than 1,800 columns of space, the figures under each category in
Table 4.5 demonstrate even more dramatically the scant attention paid
to the sociolinguistic issues surrounding language use and users. Issues
of sexist language are treated in especially limited fashion. Moreover, all
five of these anthologies use sexist language themselves and fail to
query such usage when it occurs in their selections. All contain a large
number of pieces that use the term girl for adult women and which rely
on the generic he and man. Despite all that has been written on the
dismissal and exclusion inherent in such language use, not one of the
anthologies addresses this issue in either critical commentary or the
questions that follow selections. In fact, two of the anthologies (Scott,
Foresman and Harcourt Brace), use the term girl to refer to adult women
characters in selections by Henry James, Flannery O'Connor, and
Dorothy Parker. Several of the anthologies use sexist labeling to refer to
female characters in stories. Holt refers to Dame Van Winkle as an "ill-
tempered shrew," and a termagantt" as well as a "nag." Rip, on the
other hand symbolizes the "triumph of American innocence" (p. 121).
Table 4.5. Columns of Language Commentary and Questions.
PH HBJ SF HRW ML
The changing nature of American English 4 13 16 39 1.5
Dialects in American English
Authors' uses of dialect
Dialect as status/stigma
Standard English defined
Contrasts between standard and
nonstandard forms; standard English grammar
Language standards, setting standards,
formal, informal, slang forms
Authors' uses of varied social registers
Status/stigma of varied registers
The generic "he"; "man"
Authors' use of the above generics
Other sexist language use
Implications of sexist language use
Racist language use
Implications of racist language use
Names and Labels
3 .5 1
Scott, Foresman uses similar terms to query Tom Walker's wife's actions
and motives. In its Teacher's Notes, Holt describes Emily Dickinson as a
spinster. McDougal Littell refers to the old, poverty stricken beggars in a
Melville selection as "hags."
Even the most recently published anthology (the Holt
anthology's 1993 edition), includes blatantly sexist labeling and
commentary. About Anne Bradstreet, the introductory material reads,
"Who would guess that the poet who would begin our literature would
be an immigrant, teen-aged bride?" (p. 42). That Anne Bradstreet was 38,
long married, and a colonial resident for a long period of time when her
first work was published seems not to deter Holt as its labeling
diminishes both Bradstreet and her work. As Holt comments on Emily
Dickinson, students and their teachers are told that at first her life
seemed "normal." "No one doubted that she would grow gracefully into
womanhood, make a good marriage .." (p. 352). Thus, Holt narrowly
defines the "normal" path for women. When Dickinson chose a less
"normal" way of life, Holt describes her in terms of her dress and her
marital state. She dressed "in white, like the bride she would never
become" (p. 352) and died at the age of 56, "the perpetual bride who
never crossed her own doorstep" (p. 353). Not until the last of a 4-
column introduction does critical comment acknowledging Dickinson's
achievements as a poet appear.
Scott, Foresman valorizes Hawthorne's assessment of the
women writers of the 19th century as a "mob of scribbling women" by
quoting it without examination. In fact, Scott, Foresman "elevates"only
Harriet Beacher Stowe "above Hawthorne's ranks of scribbling women"
(p. 265). Who judges literature and what is at stake in such judgements
is never addressed nor is the role that respected male writers and critics
such as Hawthorne may have played in ensuring the silence of women's
voices, their denigration as authors, and their limited representation in
anthologies such as this one. One is reminded of Dale Spender's (1989)
contention that "Men have been in charge of according value to
literature, and they have found the contributions of their own sex
immeasurably superior" (p.l). Scott, Foresman again valorizes
misogynist material when it quotes Nathaniel Ward's "humorous" lines
depicting women and trouble as synonymous. No "humorous" lines
critiquing men's behavior are quoted anywhere in Scott, Foresman.
Finally, because Scott Foresman fails to examine the
sociolinguistic implications of the language use or the story itself, the
inclusion of Harry Mark Petrakis' "The Wooing of Ariadne" must be
discussed. The story features a male protagonist who has fallen in "love
at first sight" with the beautiful and spirited Ariadne who consistently
and emphatically refuses to speak to him or to see him. He launches a
loud campaign to break down her opposition to him and harasses her at
a dance, follows her, shouts to her from the sidewalk, talks to her priest
after following her to church where he again creates a scene by shouting
entreaties to her. She, the fulfillment of male fantasy, finally decides to
see him and allow him to call on her, much to his triumph and joy. In
the days of stalking laws and "no" means "no," the inclusion of this
story by Scott, Foresman seems irresponsible as it teaches that sexual
harassment will prevail and is a valid means of gaining one's will even
as it teaches that women do not know their own minds. Rather than
query the sociolinguistics of courtship and harassment, Scott, Foresman
pronounces the male protagonist's final speech in the story as
"eloquent" (p. 657). Thus, the anthology sends unexamined messages
that stalking is legitimate, as in sexual harassment.
What, then are the messages students receive from their
textbooks in regard to women, their expertise, their significance, their
achievements, and their relationships to men? Women's works are
insignificant, they belong at the back of the book. Women are virtually
erased. Although they may write a short poem or two or an essay, the
anthologies suggest women do not produce long works or serious works
of fiction worth reproducing for a national audience. Women seem to
play little or no role in the construction of United States' history. One or
two women writers are sufficient to speak for all as well as for all
minority persons. Women writer's lives and achievements are of interest
primarily in regard to where they lived or which males they knew or
were related to. Angry women are shrews, hags, nags, and termagants;
others are "girls." Unmarried women are tragic "spinsters"; women's
lives are normal only if they become men's "brides." Underlying all five
of the anthologies is a strong subtext of the normalcy and necessity of
heterosexual relationships; all five maintain absolute silence on
homosexuality or homosexual relationships.
What can be done? As parents, teachers, and interested persons
we can demand that schools and textbook publishers provide students
with texts which do not promote and reinforce damaging sexist
messages and stereotypes. As teachers and teacher educators, we can
assist students in the critique of textbooks to alert them to the sexist
messages they contain. We can deconstruct, defuse, and undermine the
sexism of the anthologies through discussions of their inaccuracy and of
who and how such messages benefit and damage. Apple (1991)
reminded his readers that for the most part hegemonicc forms are not
imposed from outside by small groups of corporate owners plotting
how to do in workers, women, and people of color Dominant
relations are reconstituted on an ongoing basis by the actions we take
and the decisions we make in our own local and small areas of life" (pp.
34-35). Thus, as teachers and teacher educators, rather than participate
in the skewed and damaging versions of literature and history as
presented in the high school literature anthologies, we can assist
students to construct alternative and oppositional versions, versions that
empower women rather than relegate women (more than half the
readers) to the back of the book.
Apple, M. W. (1991). The culture and commerce of the textbook. In M.
W. Apple & L. K. Christian-Smith (Eds.), The politics of the textbook
(pp. 22-40). New York: Routledge & Kegan Paul.
Apple, M. W., & Christian-Smith, L. K. (Eds.). (1991). The politics of the
textbook. New York: Routledge & Kegan Paul.
Applebee, A. N. (1993). Literature in the secondary school. Urbana, IL:
National Council of Teachers of English.
Gill, K. (1993, May 2). A review of Gerda Lerner's the creation of the
feminist consciousness. The New York Times Book Review, p. 12.
Howe, F. (1979). Sexual stereotypes start early. In P. Rose (Ed.),
Socialization and the life cycle (pp. 52-63). New York: St. Martin's
Jay, G. S. (1991, March). The end of "American" literature: Toward a
multicultural practice. College English, 53, 264-281.
Scholes, R. (1985). Textual power: Literary theory and the teaching of English.
New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Spender, D. (1989). The writing or the sex. New York: Pergamon.
Thompson, E., Bowler, E., Fried, P., Jackson, D., McCollum, D., Standen,
J., Hickox, R., Schneider, C., & Ackley, K. (Eds.). (1991). Prentice Hall
literature. The American experience. Annotated teachers edition.
Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.