Communicating Gender – power of words or gender power in language?

January 12th, 2012 10:51 am

In about 3 months students/young people from all over Europe will meet in Løgumkloster, Denmark 24-28 October to discuss another interesting topic at the next WSCF conference. For me it will be fourth WSCF conference in total and the first one as a PrepCom member. We look forward to you joining us.

Frankly speaking, when I first learnt about the topic “Communicating Gender” I had difficulties imagining what it actually involves. But the more abstract it sounded at the beginning, the more tempting it became to explore later what is hidden behind. In fact, during the PrepCom meeting in June we realized themes we want to discuss need to be carefully selected as a “gender subject” is pretty broad.

It can be approached from sociological/anthropological/cultural even religious point of view. However, one of its “corners” is also communication as such. No doubt gender can easily be expressed on first place by ones appearance, non-verbal behavior as well as mostly generalized by ones role in the society, e.g. being a woman, a mother, a wife, a daughter etc. But gender can be also, let me use this phrase – communicated – orally, that is simply by words.

From a very young age we are uniformly taught to behave and speak politely in an appropriate way for a child – whether it comes to a boy or a girl. Regardless of gender we are taught to, among others, greet the elders, listen to authority, avoid nasty language, etc. With coming years our (oral/mental/body/whatever) language cultivates alongside our growing or better say maturing. And sometimes it surprisingly develops the opposite way. Taking “nasty language” as a key-case, the latter is reflected mostly on the extending “vocabulary” which declines in its value but raises in its power.

Unfortunately, this trend is not new and has become fairly common in our society (from pupils, teenagers, students to adults). On the other hand, what keeps me wondering is a public “feedback” to such oral expression. When it comes to a man, his language may be met with indifference or just a silent condemnation. In the worst cases, it ends up with nodding in disagreement. But when it comes to a woman, her inappropriate language is often met with much bigger shock close to an outrage.

The same words, different genders, different reactions, different judgment… unequal tolerance? Is there anything like power of words when it comes to gender? And consequently can we speak about a gender power in language? Does it have any other reflections? How is it tolerated in our society? How is it judged? What does it say about our society? Does it say anything relevant at all?

I look forward to any stimulating debate and hope to see you at the conference !

-Gabriela Bradovkova, Slovakia

PrepCom member WSCF Europe Communicating Gender Conference
Supported by the Council of Europe

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