Word-count: 15,083 Chapter 1: Introduction



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2.2. Critical Discourse Analysis
It seems to me that a combination of a modified Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) and feminist linguistics can help to develop a position from which a Third Wave feminist linguistics might be able to analyse sexism (see Lazar, 2005; Page, 2005; Baxter, 2003, 2006). Feminism and CDA both have a clearly articulated political position and a motivation for analysis, in that they wish to bring about change (although not all feminists believe that sexism is still an issue, nor do they agree on what strategies to take in relation to sexism). Rajagopalan (2004) argues that CDA, unlike some other forms of linguistic analysis , wears its ethical and political commitment on its sleeve, and he suggests that Critical Discourse analysts have `unflinching faith in the truth of one existential proposition, namely that things do not have to be the way they currently are’ (Rajagopalan, 2004: 262) Sometimes, however, whilst clear on the need for changes in linguistic usage and in representation, some CDA theorists do not seem able to articulate the range of possible positions of interpretation that there may be of particular statements and phrases, assuming that there are certain meanings inherent in words.
In recent work in CDA, however, there does seem to have been a move towards an awareness of multiple interpretations of words within certain parameters and there have been attempts to chart the range of those interpretations (Ainsworth and Hardy, 2004). It is because CDA has drawn on research on discourse that it is of use to a feminist linguistics analysing sexism. Rather than seeing sexist language as simply words which convey sexist attitudes, Ainsworth and Hardy argue that:
`Discourse does not transparently reflect the thoughts, attitudes and identities of separate selves but is a shared social resource that constructs identity as individuals lay claim to various recognisable social and shared identities’ (Ainsworth and Hardy, 2004: 237)
However, this does not capture the way that individuals and their relations to others are constructed in discourse. Sexism is a set of resources which individuals assume to be available to them, which are socially approved of by certain institutions and groups, but which, within particular communities of practice and institutions, may be contested. Thus, the use of sexism by individuals may be a way of associating oneself with particular people within a group or distancing oneself from other people in a group and associating oneself with groups and values outside the group. As Ainsworth and Hardy go on to argue:

`Individual identity is constructed from social resources and … far from being unitary and pre-existent, the individual is a fragmented and ambiguous construction, dependent on context and relationships with others for its self-definition and meaning’(Ainsworth and Hardy, 2004: 237)


Thus a form of CDA which is able to capture this fluidity and the localised working out of identity will be of use to a Third Wave feminist linguistic analysis of sexism.
To sum up, this book aims to develop a Third Wave feminist analysis of sexism which still retains some of the features and benefits of Second Wave feminist analysis. Whilst global generalisations about the meanings of words and phrases judged to be sexist are more complex now, it is still essential to hold onto the notion of the possibility of generalising about language and gender and to analyse the influence of wider social structures. Local contextualized analyses eschew all preconceptions about gender and instead analyse very critically the way that gender is drawn upon within a particular context, but they need to be aware of the way that wider ideological forces inform the resources which are available to participants in particular contexts. Rather than seeing sexism as something upon which everyone can agree, I will be trying in this book to demonstrate that sexism is an issue of contestation, which it is essential that feminists engage with, in order to shape the way that women and men are represented and treated.

1 It is debatable whether the term `political correctness’ was in fact developed by feminists. Some have argued that it was from the start a term of irony or abuse, used by political campaigners to mock over-zealous colleagues (see Dunant, 1994).

2 This is a version of the words of the song which I have reproduced from memory. Unfortunately because of the nature of this book, it would be extremely unlikely that I would be granted permission to quote from this song. In past publications, publishers have refused to grant me permission to use advertisements or poems in my work (1996; 1995).

3 I discuss this discourse view in more detail later in this chapter.

4 Perhaps also we need to be more aware of the negative evaluation assumed by the use of the term `essentialist’.

5 Another problematic aspect to the concept of sexism is that feminist concern with linguistic sexism often had a heterosexual bias, which it was assumed could be simply rectified by having homophobic terms `added on' to the list of terms which are problematic for straight women. This is clearly not the case and homophobic terms need to be part and parcel of our consideration of sexism as a whole. Thus, what is defined as sexist is in need of a thorough re-examination and reformulation, taking on board the research which has been undertaken within Queer theory and gay and lesbian studies ( Kulick, 2000; Cameron and Kulick, 2006).

6 Just as sexist statements made in conversation have an impact on the community of practice within which they are uttered, so does feminist critique which draws attention to sexism. Sexist statements and anti-sexist statements alike may well be made in order to affect the dynamics of the community of practice in particular ways.

7 All words which are introduced in this way feel `forced’ and cause resentment, these especially since they are seen to have been introduced because of political pressure.

8 Added to this is the problem that there are no feminine terms in Italian as yet for certain professions, for example, for engineer and architect (`engeneer’ and `architetto’).

9 However, I do not see language as simply reflecting social structures. There is a much more complex relation between language and culture.

10 When I first started working at Sheffield Hallam University in 1995, there were BA and MA courses in Women's Studies. Now those courses no longer run; there are still, however, many courses which are explicitly drawing on feminist theory. Most of these courses concern themselves with gender issues at some level whilst not using `gender’ or `women’ in their titles. In the last ten years, the term `gender’ has been much more commonly used as a term to refer to both men and women and this reflects the integration of feminist theory and women's issues into the curriculum. In other countries, the situation is much worse, for example, in Japanese institutions, feminist theory and women’s studies are negatively viewed and colleagues who work on these subjects find promotion difficult (Kumagai, 2006, pers.com).

11 This section is a substantially revised version of papers given at the International Gender and Language Association Conference, Lancaster University, 2002, and at the Third Wave Feminism Conference, Exeter University, 2002. An earlier, longer version of this section has been published as `Third Wave Feminist Linguistics and the Analysis of Sexism’ (2004) Discourse Analysis On-Line, www.shu.ac.uk/daol.

12 We need to question the homogeneity of our current characterisation of Second Wave feminism. Susan Stryker (2002) argues that Second Wave feminism was more diverse than most feminists acknowledge ; there was a great deal of dissent and alternative accounts of gender - for example, see work by Angela Davis and Chela Sandoval (extracts of these writers’ works can be found in Lewis and Mills eds., 2004).

13 This is rather curious because many of the linguists who draw on Butler's work would be critical of the use of Speech Act Theory from which the notion of the performative is drawn.



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