Key questions: how are men and women represented? How does the text conform to gender stereotypes? Does the text reflect the period it was written? You must revise the gender stereotypes table.
Lexis / Semantics
You need to explain how men and / or are presented through the lexis of the text. You need to consider how the lexis reinforces gender stereotypes or does it subvert them? Things to consider:
- Archaic language to name females / males and female / male social roles (e.g. ‘maid’, ‘bachelor girl’)
- Lexical Asymmetry
o Male words and female equivalents are often unequal (asymmetrical) e.g. bachelor - spinster
- Marked and unmarked terms
o Terms for females are often marked by the addition of a suffix to the male term, which is unmarked e.g. ‘host’ – unmarked – ‘hostess’ – marked; this suggests that the male experience is the norm and the female experience is a variant or deviant form
- Insulting Usage
o There are many negative words for females, often with no equivalents for males e.g. ‘slag’ for women ‘stud’ for male; this highlights society’s different expectations of male and female sexual behaviour. Insulting usage could also be a means of control.
- Patronizing Usage
o Comparing women to food – e.g. ‘honey’ ‘sweetie’ – suggesting women’s primary function is to provide men with pleasure
o Female pronoun for inanimate objects – e.g. ships referred to as ‘she’
- Man / Mankind
o ‘Man’ may be used to refer to the entire human race
- How formal is the lexis? What might this suggest about the genders involved? For example if a male writer uses a lot of colloquialisms and taboo language this confirms Lakoff’s research and it may be present to appear ‘blokey’ and ‘one of the lads’ – a means of covert prestige.
- What are the connotations of the lexis? Positive or negative lexis? What does this suggest about the genders involved?
- How is the lexis gendered? For example does the male writer appear knowledgeable and technical? Is he arrogant? Is he therefore conforming to and reinforcing research into gender or is he reinforcing and confirming stereotypes?
- How are men and women positioned in the text? For example is the man dominant?
- Stereotypes – in terms of topics, lexical choice, representation etc. Is the topic a stereotypical ‘male topic’ or a stereotypical ‘ ‘female topic’? Women poor at telling jokes (Lakoff) etc.
- Does the lexis of the female writer or the reported speech of the female character etc reflect Lakoff’s view that women are tentative in their speech? For example, fillers, hedging etc.
- Does the female writer / character have a special lexis (Lakoff), for example more terms than men for colours?
- Generic ‘he’
o Used to refer to both men and women
- Order of precedence
o Placing the male word first in a phrase (Mr and Mrs) suggests male dominance
- Adjectives. Does the female writer use ‘empty adjectives’ thus confirming research?
- Look at the adjectives used to describe men and women.
- Men are more likely to be described in terms of what they do whereas women are frequently described in terms of how they look and their family. There is a tendency to depict women as existing primarily in relation to their families.
- Information given by modification in noun phrases and adjectival description may cast women in a limited series of roles. For example , mothers – ‘mum Sarah’; in relation to men – ‘his Camilla’; how they look; ‘sexy Maxine’
- Verbs. Do women perform any action at all in the text or is it the males who are performing the actions? e.g. ‘Prince Charles buys his mistress Camilla a horse.’ This reinforces male dominance. When women do act positively it is often against their own bodies and emotions.
- Women are often depicted as weaker – they are victims, they are on the receiving end of an action rather than performers of it.
- Sentence functions. Imperatives? Men use more according to Lakoff. But it could be an indication of a powerful woman or a stereotypical ‘nagging’ woman?
- Pronouns. To engage the reader? To relate to the reader? Etc.
- Women are more likely than men to use standard grammar. Is this reflected in the text?
- Proper nouns. Look at how men and women are named. In media texts, for example, men are less likely than women to be referred to by their first name. Compare ‘Mr Blair’ to ‘Maggie’ (Tony Blair and Margaret Thatcher) and ‘Mr Obama’ to ‘Hillary’. More respect for the men – is this indicative of social attitudes?
- The naming strategies adopted sometimes serve to make the woman anonymous other than her role in relation to her situation, her family or her husband. For example, ‘a stalker’s victim’, ‘Spencer’s sad wife’, ‘the wife of the Chancellor’.
Do the images reinforce stereotypes? For example women placed in a lower position than men, pink for females etc.