Inthe previous centuries, the socio-economics status of women was weaker thanmen. They didn’t have authority to work in high position, vote, and they evenmodified as sexual objects. From the book Waysof Seeing (1972), written by John Berge, he mentioned that the socialpresence of women has developed as a result that they have to concern aboutthemselves being looked in the society. This could be seen in the European oilpainting. Women have usually treated as the sexual object in the paintings, “becausethe ‘ideal’ spectator is always assumed to be male and the image of the womanis designed to flatter him (Berge 64).
” The unequal relationship between menand women is implanted to our culture and from our way of linguistic use. Robin Lakoff, a famous linguist whowas born in 1942, wrote a book Languageand Woman’s Place(1975), which discovers that women in the society were ledto use different aspects and ways in their speech than men, and they treateddifferently in the communication in the world. Lakoff mentions “Language usesus as much as we use language (Lakoff 45),” The quote indicates that thesociety standardized the unspoken rule of “language use,” which wordings aremodified by gender, races, socio-economic status and social context. People inthe next generation learn the standardized linguistic use from the teachers.
Then,they are imperceptibly influenced by the language while they are using thelanguage. “Women language” is the product of the unspoken rule that creates genderinequality between men and women. And yet it could be separated into two parts:the language that women were taught to use and the language that to describewomen (Lakoff 46). The linguistic use is affected by the society and theculture that women have become a controversial issue in the use of language. Itotally agree with Robin Lake on the gender inequality in the linguistic use.She mentioned how the women and girl be affected about the ways of language usein home, school and society. Our language follows the standard languageideology that Lippi-Green mentioned language could be the tool to rank peoplewho have differences compared to the majorities who had powers.
“A bias towardan abstracted, idealized, homogenous spoken language…which is drawn from spokenlanguage of the upper middle class (Lippi 67).” The book indicates the languagesubordination process that people are forced to give up their native tongue anduse the same language that the majority is using. That is similar to the pointthat women as the weaker part of the society have to subordinate the languagein the way they want to speak, and have to follow the social instruction.Language is maintained by the people who have powers and the social values. People are taught to learn thespecific linguistic use to determined their gender from their speech, whichgender is performative functioning as same as the linguistic construction. Theyare modified by the social reality that there is no stance or meaning byitself, besides, it follows by how the society maintain the values of sexualitywhich women were assumed to have special lexicon and less certainty in theirwords. In the book Performative Acts andGender Constitution: An Essay in Phenomenology and Feminist Theory, “Genderis a performance with clearly punitive consequences…those who fail to do theirgender right are regularly punished. (Butler 522)” It refers to the point thatour performance in different ways such as talk, walk and that amalgamate theimpression of being a man or a woman.
Lakoff strengthens the point by focusingon discrimination of color and adjectives, the use of different particles inman and woman’s speech will be considered as the essential factor of theimpression from the listener. Women who used the masculinity wordings could beostracized by the society as they may be interpreted as homosexual or interiordecorator. Lakoff also brings out that this kind of stereotyping will onlyhappen to women instead of man. For instance, a man who described some specialcolor names such as crimson, papayawhip or thistle will not be stereotypedbecause “Men tend to relegate to women things that are not of concern to them,or do not involve their egos (Lakoff 49).” There are different attitudestowards the men and women using the language. Thelanguage of men and women have different social connotations that would be usedin the conversation in the community.
Although the feminism is much more commonnow, people are still afraid of how their social image will be affected by theway they speak. Lakoff lists out several ideas about how the women are led touse some features of speech such as hedges, tag questions and empty adjectives.Compared to men’s speech, women’s languageis more polite than the men, as they were not allowed to be overpowered andusing aggressive language in the past. Women learn to use “women language” to presenttheir ideas, so that the way they speak won’t be stereotyped and categorized asthe aberration of the society. They could be easier and generally accepted bythe majorities as they are the weaker position compared the male. “This constitutes one wayin which a performance is in a sense, ‘socialized,’ moulded and modified to fitinto the understanding and expectations of the society… (Goffman 22).” Goffman suggested in his book Presentation of the Self in Everyday Life (1956) that when anindividual started to present himself, his performance would usually follow thesocial norm.
When the performance is different to how the society modified as asuitable act, performer will cover their true opinion and follow theexpectations of the society. Women, as socialized as the weaker position, don’twant to be judged by the society because of their opinions. Therefore, womenchoose to change their question intonation or use a tag question like “He looksso tired, doesn’t he?” That creates the uncertainty of their sentence whichavoid creating conflicts with the addressees. On the other hand, languagereinforced the image on how women should be like. It stereotypes the culturalimplication about the social role of women. Lakoff mentions about theeuphemistic use of the word “lady” in describing women.
She provides convincingevidence in working titles and differences between the euphemism of “Gentleman”and “lady”. For instance, there is “cleaning lady”, but there is no “cleaninggentleman”, “doctor lady” or “garbage gentleman”. The word “lady” in careerfield is mostly come with the low-paid jobs, which the term “lady” symbolizesthe women are helpless, less-skilled, as “lady” influenced the reputation ofthe women. The language creates image of the powerlessness of the women byusing the euphemistic terms. This is similar to the blacks that they arecreated image by the European and whites: “to make him talk pidgin is to fastenhim to the effigy of him… the eternal victim of an essence, of an appearancefor which he is not responsible (Fannon 22).” The only way the image can be changed is through the acquisition of thelanguage use, which to gain more power and social acceptance to change theinequality in language.
Education of language use to the newgeneration would to help for them to indicate the way to speak in the society. Teachershave their responsibility to be aware and determine the kind of language theyare speaking with the students. “Language learning thus goes beyond phonology,syntax, and semantics: but it takes a perceptive teacher to notice the pitfallsand identify them correctly for students (Lakoff 76).” After the students havea better understanding in language, it helps to change the unspoken rules asthey will know their way to speak in the society. They could express more theiropinions and accommodate themselves in the society. As the language in the past isdeveloped under the male chauvinism until the women’s liberation movement in1960, it creates the gender inequality in the development of the language use.The promotion of feminism is more common right now and we change see the changesof language becoming gender neutral.
For example, we don’t mention policemananymore, but we use the terms of police instead. However, the essence of thelanguage is hard to change because of our traditional culture and informationwe received. The language is controlled by society while we are using languageto work in the society.