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Gender Differences

In: English and Literature

Submitted By roey
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Do female politicians conform to a masculine approach in terms of their language use? Women in politics have always been under represented due to the male domination within British politics; this means that female politicians have a majority male audience within the House of Commons and Lords. This poses a difficult task for the minority female politicians to win the support or votes of their male counterparts when campaigning policies or stating points. The great Margaret Thatcher was a radical woman in politics and was well known for her patriotic typically masculine approach to politics, which to some extent won her the title of “THE IRON LADY”. Today in our politics such a woman has not been seen, however I want to know whether or not female politicians feel the need still to adopt such traits. The masculine approach includes a number of factors in which evokes a sense of aggression and competition, such as referring to sporting matches or even war.
This investigation will use four sources from Theresa May (conservative), Dianne Abbot (labour), Nadine Dories (conservative) and Julia Gillard (Australian prime minister). From these it will explore how these four women use their language to win votes and campaign their policies, in terms of the use of discourse, grammar, lexis, pragmatics and previous theories of gender differences. To support my findings gender theorists who have specialised in the differences between female and male conversations and speeches. By applying theories and comparing them to my findings, a clear picture can be built up to reflect todays female language use within politics, showing whether or not there has been an obvious change or this adoption of a masculine approach to language is still used.
Firstly in terms of limitations, the amount of texts I have used will affect the overall reliability of my investigation, also the context in which these texts are based around, factors in different opinions in terms of “for” or “against” a situation. This will evidently result in a different approach to language either being supportive or defensive. Furthermore, the sources have been limited to a five year time period, confining the texts to be as specific as possible to the date, so that there is no long term gaps in which, female politicians could of completely changed their language use from another source.
Historically, it is expected that politicians will adopt a “masculine approach” to their language use in speeches and be assertive and, to state the point in a more professional and subjective approach without showing their emotion about the specific issue or policy. Salutations are typically expected to be polite to the audience; however when addressing the opposing party members a more negative approach can be recognised especially from male counterparts. The text structure will include a consistent use of discourse markers throughout and evidence of rhetoric in line with speeches previously made and in order to fulfil their function. If however, the female politicians of today’s politics don’t conform to the same extent in relation to the “Iron Lady”, then it can be assumed that female politicians don’t have to imitate such masculine approaches to language use, to effectively portray their points or policies. Throughout politician Dianne Abbot’s speech positive politeness is used through her use of chosen greetings, for example the start “I congratulate my hon. Friend Debbie Abrahams on securing this important debate” she empowers her colleague using the imperative and pre modifier “important debate” showing solidarity within her speech. Her closing line, “let us not lose the advances made under the labour government. Let us continue to move forward.” This is an assertive approach almost heroic and patriotic. This patriotism is a typically masculine approach, showing a form of an attacking mentality. Moreover, Dianne Abbot follows my expected idea of being direct and to the point, almost a “strictly business” approach for example however she does in some cases change to a lesser almost saddening approach by the use of her own personal memories and hardships. In addition to this Dianne Abbot takes on a more caring almost mothering roll in her ideal to change the way that especially black children find school and how they are taught as she repeats the idea of black children needing help and care. However, overall she appears to be quite restrained to the fact that this debate is very personal to her, which again shows the strength and to a certain extent the stubbornness of male politicians. So in conclusion to discourse for Dianne Abbot, in many cases she goes against what Deborah Tannen stated in her work on language and gender, in this case Dianne Abbot goes against “conflict vs compromise”, “orders vs proposals” and “intimacy vs independence”.
In terms of discourse for Theresa May’s speech on mental health, my expectations again would relate to that of a male approach to language use. There is always a constant amount of pressure on any member of the conservative government as they are currently in power so policies, ideas and reforms have to be beneficial for the majority, so making the right impact on an audience is key to sustaining power within parliament. Firstly the speech needs to of high formality and to the point; this can be achieved by planning and revising the key points essential to the speech. I personally do not believe that an emotional, unassertive approach will go far within the patriarchal society in which we live in. So I would expect Theresa May to adopt a direct and un- emotional approach to achieve the most votes at the end of the day.
The start and end both show interesting signs of points that already contradict my expectations of discourse; she starts off polite and formal however towards the end she already shows signs of a caring nature and states that the issue has been of great interest to her for a long time. Moreover, again she states of how personal the matter is to her by stating that her mother for many dealt with mental health patients for a long time. Furthermore, the ending shows again that her typically female approach is consistent by stating that patients with mental health issues need our care and concern, and shows her overall majority passive voice almost telling the story of mental health and its issues towards our society. Also throughout there is no attacking tone used, the speech stays polite throughout even when addressing the oppositional parties.
What I think Theresa may is trying to do is by being “down to earth” and showing the heart of the problem, how severe and sad it is from personal experience. Almost stimulates the emotions in the majority of the audience to then gain her support for the issue.
In terms of Nadine Dorries again she follows a similar approach as Dianne Abbot’s speech; at the start she uses positive politeness within her greeting to the audience “I applaud Michael Gove’s commitment”. In addition to the similarity between Dianne Abbots and Nadine Dorries speech the ending is also similar. “I hope the new Bill… freedom of speech, will remain safe from erosion” this last sentence follows again the assertive direct approach but also includes a patriotic view defending her point. Moreover, there are examples used to highlight the horrendous incidents that have occurred due to the issue they are focusing on. This is where Nadine Dorries, like the other two politicians show sympathy and emotion which again emphasizes the fact that women now do not need to be afraid of showing their emotion, when campaigning and to a certain extent now use emotion to their advantage.
Whilst comparing the other three texts in terms of discourse, Julia Gillard approaches the use of language in a similar way but a definite difference can be seen in terms of a more attacking style, when commenting on the “opposition”, Julia Gillard uses states the “opposition” forty seven times within her speech. This shows an almost extreme amount of emphasis on all “opposition” compared to our British female politicians, suggesting that within Australian politics my question and situation is even worse or Julia Gillard believes that addressing the “opposition” so many times in such a manor, is a necessary to gain advantage.
In terms of grammar I would expect Dianne Abbot to use complex sentences include the explanation or point needed, but in a fractured way so that the speech remains effective by being to the point. Also in terms of pronouns used I would expect more 2nd person personal pronouns to emphasize the whole of the labour party and therefore show its strengths. I would expect that there are intensifiers or a certain method of using sentence structures to emphasize the points she makes about issues with today’s government or the benefits of labours new policies.
Dianne Abbot does use complex sentences, but they are to the point and assertive, either being imperative or declarative; which on the whole highlights how well the structure of the speech is presented. However, there is an overall greater amount of 1st person personal pronouns used; we can see this use specifically when Dianne Abbot refers to personal issues of previous ages throughout her life or when she takes on the personal caring role. But I do think this works to her advantage as well because although she shows mothering tendencies she is also showing an assertive nature. One notable feature identified is the use of repetition to emphasize a point and give the audience no other alternative… “Education matters because equity matters; it matters because fairness matters; and it matters because justice matters” this shows her determination to succeed almost at any cost and does highlight an aggressive typically male approach to using language.
Theresa Mays speech in terms of grammar shows the use of the first person personal to highlight her feelings about the situation, but what is interesting is that she does use the 2nd person personal to highlight what the Conservative Party and in particular the general public must do to ensure that the issue with mental health is finally sorted out. For example the use of “we” in the closing paragraph does show a determined and assertive approach to the issue which is usually associated as a masculine approach. In terms of sentence types, the main sentence type used is predominantly complex, stating her point and explaining however I feel that due to the use of mainly more than two clauses in the sentence the overall effect it gives is rather long winded. Which shows that overall her approach to this speech and language use is still typically feminine.
Looking through the grammatical features of Nadine Dorries speech she again relies upon using complex sentences usually consisting of three to four clauses. This is to ensure all her points are well developed and supported, showing that there is a lack of decisive, attacking snaps of political abuse, commonly associated with male politicians. Nadine Dorries takes a more refrained approach, like Dianne Abbots and Theresa Mays speeches, to how she structures her speech, showing a more mature and respectful way of voicing her points and opinions against and to her counterparts. Because by showing a higher level of maturity it shows a more professional way in which to resolve the issue, which appeals to the House of Commons or Lords most certainly more so then a lesser, more brash approach.
In terms of grammar within Julia Gillard’s speech, I believe the context does affect the use of grammar quite dramatically, this being focused on sexism towards the prime minister herself and the women of Australia. For example, she changes the use of pronouns from 1st person possessive “I” to second person plural “we” to state her own view and then addresses the whole country to outweigh the gravity of the opposition’s statements. Also unlike my other three sources Julia Gillard states and repeats what the opposition has said, for example “and I quote ‘abortion is the easy way out’”, by doing so she is able to reveal the possible true identity of the opposition using it against them, again seeking to gain the advantage in attacking style, which relates more to a masculine approach then my other three sources.
In terms of lexis I believe it is imperative that any politician for a start must be able to use lexis to help support his/her points in a formal and professional manor, excluding colloquialisms for example. Also within a typically masculine approach to lexis use, I would expect there to be a relation between the certain debate and a sporting match or battle. So the possible use of struggles, fights and winning I believe is expected. Whereas within a typical female approach to the use of language I would expect a more caring, submissive and possible apologetic semantic fields of lexical choices made.
Within Dianne Abbots speech In conclusion to my observations and investigations into my overall question of Do and are female politicians still have to adopt a masculine approach in terms of language use? From what I have found I believe female politicians within Britain do not necessarily feel the need to adopt such a aggressive competitive attitude which effects their language use; to inevitably win the support of parliament and the public. I have found that female politicians in Britain use a more caring, mature and respectful way of using language to voice points in competition of the majority male counterparts. Which I think has worked in favour of today’s British female politicians as there is an ever increasing amount for the support the female politicians get from the public, compared to other male politicians. However, in case of my observation into Julia Gillard’s situation as the leading woman of Australia, I have found that she still appears to be resulting in a typically masculine approach use of language to combat her opposition, which states that maybe my findings of female politicians changing their way of language in Britain is only specialised to British politics, but a deeper investigation investigation to global politics is needed to fully assume this.…...

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