Gender and Power Relations in Discourse - Locating Instances of Gender Bias


Seminar Paper, 2004

33 Pages, Grade: 2


Free online reading

TABLE OF CONTENTS

1 Introduction

2 Definitions and explanatory comments
2.1 Method: Critical Discourse Analysis
2.2 What is Gender?
2.3 Collection and choice of data: how and why?

3 Data Analysis
3.1 Introducing the guests
3.2 Laughter
3.3 Questions
3.3.1 How did you get involved?

4 Conclusion

References

Appendix

Transcription Interview 1

Transcription Interview 2

Transcription Interview 3

Transcription Interview 4

1 Introduction

It is because males have had power that they have been in a position to construct the myth of male superiority and to have it accepted; because they have had power they have been able to ‘arrange’ the evidence so that it can be seen to substantiate the myth (Spender 1980)

In my paper I want to focus on gender and power relations in discourse. My overall assumption is that discourse is influenced by the gender of the speakers and that this is a result of gender specific socialization. In discourse patriarchal structures are reflected, enacted and reproduced and consequently this has an impact on society again. There is an interdependence between discourse – and how it is constructed – and the constructed reality, as “[d]iscourses do not faithfully reflect reality like mirrors […] Instead, they are artifacts of language through which the very reality they purport to reflect is constructed” (Riggins 1997:2). Through discourse certain social patterns or structures are established and maintained, and discourse itself is also determined by these structures, which means that discourse is both constructed and constructive.

In this paper I will concentrate on my data of four interviews, all led by the same male interviewer, with two female and two male interviewees. The differences of how the interviewer addresses his male in contrast to his female guests will be my main point of interest.

My hypothesis for this paper is that in the interviews the male guests are addressed with more respect and that the interviews with the two men have a more serious touch than those with the two women. I will examine the behavior and speaking habits of the interviewer through which these differences might become obvious. It is not overt sexist or discriminating language the interviewer uses, but rather subtle hints and questions which indicate that women are still addressed differently than their male colleagues.

The approach chosen for my paper is that of Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA). It is most suitable for my field of research as I do not merely want to describe differences on the basis of gender in discourse, but I want to bring them into a wider cultural and social background in order to understand why they occur and what effects they do have on society.

Referring to Widdowson’s opinion (1995 referred to in Cameron 2001:162) that practitioners of CDA might interpret linguistic data according to their own ideological presuppositions, I must admit this is correct, as I believe it to be true for all other fields of research, be it qualitative or quantitative. The existence of entirely objective research is questionable even for the branch of natural sciences.

Indeed, this research paper and its results might be influenced by my own ideological assumptions, as I write it from my perspective of a white, middle-class and feminist woman.

2 Definitions and explanatory comments

Before starting with the main task, i.e. introducing, commenting and evaluating my data, I want to explain the methodology of my research and the choice of my data. Furthermore I believe it important to define what gender is, as I consider it crucial for the understanding of why this paper is written or why it is of interest to me.

2.1 Method: Critical Discourse Analysis

According to A Dictionary of Linguistics and Phonetics[1], critical discourse analysis “is a perspective which studies the relationship between discourse events and sociopolitical and cultural factors, especially the way discourse is ideologically influenced by and can itself influence power relations in society” (Crystal 1997). As Kress (1991: 84-85, quoted in Remlinger 1999:2) puts it, critical discourse analysis

[…] aims to provide accounts of the production, internal structure, and overall organization of texts […] to provide a critical dimension in its theoretical and descriptive accounts of texts […] [with] the larger political aim of putting the forms of texts, the processes of production of texts, and the process of reading together with the structure of power which has given rise to them […]

One of the main concerns of CDA is to describe the ideological dimension of discourse and to uncover ‘hidden agendas’.

Critical discourse analysis is one branch within the field of Discourse Analysis (DA), an approach that attempts to analyze “language above the sentence” and “looks for patterns […] in units which are larger, more extended, than one sentence” (Cameron 2001:11).

The critical in CDA stands for the understanding that reality is not something unchangeable. Certain background beliefs, structures, values etc. are constructed mostly by dominant groups, i.e. in our society white, middle-class males – or, as bell hooks (2000) describes it, a “white supremacist capitalist patriarchy”.

“…[R]eality is understood as constructed, shaped by various social forces. These, however, are frequently ‘naturalized’“ (Cameron 2001:123). CDA looks at the choices speakers and writers make in describing certain realities – and thus contributing to this naturalization – and examines the ideological patterns in the written or spoken text. Even though the choices are often made unconsciously, they “do much of the work of naturalizing particular social arrangements which serve particular interests, so that in time they may come to seem like the only possible or rational arrangements” (Cameron 2001:124). As these social arrangements serve particular interests, social inequality is established. Johanna Lalouschek and Ruth Wodak (1994:214) explain this as follows

Die in Interaktion ‘Mächtigen’ bestimmen den Ablauf der Interaktion, sie bestimmen die Themen, die behandelt werden, sie bestimmen, wie über wen gesprochen wird. Das heißt aber auch, daß es keine ‚sozial sterilen’ Interaktionssituationen gibt, bei denen alle TeilnehmerInnen die gleichen verbalen Möglichkeiten haben.

The participants do not have the same opportunities, the aim of CDA is to understand and uncover these inequalities, and furthermore contribute to resisting them.

The focus of this paper is on social inequality on the grounds of gender, a term I will explain in the next chapter. As I want to look at my data with the approach of CDA, my aim will be to find instances of talk in which it becomes obvious that gender based assumptions or background values and beliefs do make a difference in discourse. It is not enough to look at overt sexism and discrimination, but rather to uncover subtle hints or questions that could allude to some kind of gender bias. Furthermore, after locating such instances, it is necessary to bring them into relationship with broader socio-political and cultural factors. Why does the interviewer ask this question when talking to female guests, but not when interviewing male guests? Is there a difference in style or in the use of vocabulary, and if yes, why? Are these differences a way of – unconsciously – maintaining or establishing power and/or dominance of men over women in society, or do they show where women are placed in our society?

2.2 What is Gender?

“One is not born a woman, but rather becomes one” (de Beauvoir 1973, quoted in During 1999:341). This famous quotation is a first attempt to explaining what gender is or means.

Gender, as opposed to sex, which is seen as a biological category, is understood as a social category. In our society there is usually a sex as well as a gender dichotomy, sex is divided into female and male, whereas the two genders are mostly described as feminine and masculine. A great deal of discussion and research has concentrated on the constructedness of gender, whereas sex is usually seen as a fixed, biological category. But this understanding of sex can be questioned, because the concept of biology is socially constructed as well (cf. Nicholson 1994: 199-201). Being a man or woman – ‘biologically’ – is something that can be understood differently, depending on culture or background. In certain indigenous societies, for example in America, a person with male genitalia can see him/herself as half female and male, and is seen and accepted by others in this society as both male and female – a possibility which does not exist in modern, western societies (cf. Nicholson 1994: 212). Individuals who do not fit into our society’s concept of being either male or female, e.g. transsexuals, meet with at least confusion, if not general disapproval.

Thus, according to our society, there are two possible sexes, which are seen as the norm – male and female. This being male or female has consequences throughout an individual’s life, as he or she has to fulfill the requirements attached to it. Certain attributes are ascribed to women and men. The ‘biological’ woman is supposed to be feminine – with all the features society believes to be fit for females – whereas the male has to be masculine in terms of gender.

Femininity and masculinity are not innate features which are unchangeable, but rather ‘characteristics’ that are taught by society and ‘must’ be learnt from childhood on. Gender identity, i.e. ‘being’ feminine or masculine, is something we do or perform, not something we are by nature (cf. Cameron 2001:171). Newborn babies and infants cannot do gender themselves, therefore parents etc. have to do this for them by dressing them in certain colors or giving them gendered names. If nothing alludes to the sex/gender of an infant, it is most often the first question asked by people who do not know the baby (cf. ibid.). From earliest childhood on people are socialized, they are taught by parents, teachers, friends, the media to behave in certain ways and to believe certain things. Sons assist their fathers in washing the car, daughters help their mothers to wash the dishes. Teachers ask pupils what kind of housework their mothers like best and what kind of job their fathers have. In advertisements a male voice-over explains why Mrs. X should use washing powder Y. In movies the hero saves the beautiful but helpless and insecure ‘heroine’. In TV discussions on topics other than health care, women’s issues, birth control etc., the experts are mostly men. In a linguistic lecture the semantic feature analysis for man is described as [+male], woman is [-male]. A list of similar examples could follow here, filling numerous pages. All of these examples transport a certain message, namely woman is ‘minus male’, which leads to a certain understanding of the ‘world order’. The role of women in our society is a subordinate one in relation to men, and this is also reflected in language and discourse. Though times are changing and overt sexist and discriminating language is becoming a taboo in at least institutional settings, allusions to hidden ideologies and cultural assumptions that women are inferior to men can be located.

2.3 Collection and choice of data: how and why?

The data used for my research was collected in a rather time-saving and easy way, nonetheless it serves my interests perfectly. The interviews are taken from the internet, from a page related to the Department of Economics of the University of California, Berkeley, and can be viewed as video files with Real Player [2]. The interviews last between fifteen and twenty minutes – of which only parts are transcribed – and all are led by the same male interviewer. The interviewees, two women and two men, are all experts in some field of economy and part of the Berkeley Economics’ Department faculty.

It was important for me to find such a series of interviews led by one person, because it was my purpose to work out a contrast in the way women and men are addressed. If there were more than one interviewer, this would have been a difficult task. Different styles of interviewing and talking, the social backgrounds of the interviewers etc. had to be taken into account. By choosing one single interviewer, one can assume that the vis-à-vis determines the different ways of questioning, talking or behaving. Of course there are variables, such as mental or physical condition of the day, level of acquaintance with the interviewees etc., which could influence the interviewing situation. Yet it would be a quite time consuming task to take all of this into account, a bigger selection of interviews should be analyzed.

I am aware of the fact that my data is limited, which is necessary for this paper, and that the analysis or the results of my research will not be representative for all interview situations. Still, tendencies can be presented.

As the interviews I have chosen to analyze are accessible on the internet, i.e. open to the public, I consider it legitimate to use the real names of both the interviewer and the interviewees.

3 Data Analysis

My data is taken from a series of interviews with Berkeley economists, recorded by a member of the faculty for the purpose of information – both for his students at Berkeley as well as interested people from outside the university. There are eleven interviews accessible, eight of them led with male, three of them with female economists. Here the first question arose, namely why the person in charge for the interviews chose to invite so few women in comparison to men. After looking at the list of faculty members I found that there was an under-representation of women in general. Thus, the number of women interviewed stands in relation to the number of female members of the faculty – an explanation satisfactory in one sense, but dissatisfactory in so far, as it reflects the existence of the so-called ‘glass-ceiling’, which confronts many women with obstacles in their career.

Out of the eleven I randomly chose two female and two male interviewees without listening to the interviews. By doing so, I intended to avoid selecting interviews which would suit my purpose, i.e. finding evidence to verify my hypothesis, best.

In the analysis of my data I am concentrating on the construction of gender identities by the interviewer, as opposed to self-construction as ‘woman’ or ‘man’ by the guests.

In my examples S1 is assigned to the interviewer in all of the interviews, the interviewee in the first interview is S2, the second interviewee is S3, the third S4, and the fourth guest is labeled as S5.

3.1 Introducing the guests

The introduction of the interviews is the part spoken by the interviewer before the guests give their first response, be it an answer to a question or a minimal response such as “yeah”. The interviewer can lead the dialogue into whichever direction he chooses without being influenced by utterances of his guests. Therefore this is the most interesting part with regard to his attitude toward the interviewees. The interviewees’ responses as variables for certain interviewer’s reactions can be excluded.

All of the four interviews are started by the interviewer in the same way, first introducing himself with the words “hello this is kenneth train” and then explaining the ‘frame’ of the interviews by saying that “this is part of our/an ongoing series of interviews” (ex.1-4). This first part of the introduction can be seen as standardized, with only slight differences such as breathing or pauses.

1.

S1: hello, this is kenneth train hh this is part of our ongoing series of interviews with berkeley economists (.) today i’m very happy to have with us chris shannon (.) chris is a: theoretical economist and er you publish articles with titles like A PREVALENT TRANSVERSALITY THEOREM FOR <1> <@>LIPSCHITZ FUNCTIONS and you expect people to read them!</@> </1>

Interview 1, see Appendix p.24

This first example of my data is part of an interview with one of the two female experts. Kenneth Train introduces Chris Shannon as a “theoretical economist” and mentions that she publishes articles “with titles like A PREVALENT TRANSVERSALITY THEOREM FOR LIPSCHITZ FUNCTIONS”. The transcription of this sequence shows that he puts a special emphasis on the title and, in addition, starts laughing. It can be assumed that the interviewer is to a certain extent ridiculing not only this mentioned article, but others written by her as well. This becomes obvious through his utterance “with titles like”, indicating that all of her work is similar to this one article. Furthermore the statement “and you expect people to read them” reinforces the opinion that her articles are either too hard to understand, too abstract, or just not worth reading. This utterance implies that “people” would have few reasons to read her articles and that they are not of interest to a broader readership. Certainly, the title of this specific paper might sound very abstract or strange to an audience not acquainted with economics, yet this should not be the case for the interviewer, who teaches economics classes himself. In addition he should be aware of the fact that most of his colleagues might have the same ‘problem’ of a very limited number of people reading their work.

In order to reinforce the analysis of this first example, I will contrast it with the second example of an introduction part.

2.

S1: hello this is Kenneth train (.) this is part of an ongoing series of interviews with berkeley economists (.) today i am honored to have as our guest er george akerlof (.) george won the nobel prize in economics this year ehm and as i understand you just got back from Stockholm (.) the: award ceremony er is a magnificent affair but they also have a whole week of activities for you

Interview 2, see Appendix p.26

Looking at this sequence, the contrast to the first example becomes quite clear. Whereas the interviewer is ‘only’ happy to welcome Chris Shannon, he is “honored to have as [his] guest” George Akerlof. Yet this difference in word choice can as well be ascribed to the fact that the interviewee is a Nobel Prize laureate[3].

Compared to the first example, the introduction of George Akerlof is characterized by appraisal. The central point of interest is the winning of the Nobel Prize. The interviewee’s work is not mentioned in the introducing part of the interview. In fact it is the only example in which the interviewer does not say what the interviewer has written or what he is doing at the moment.

3.

S1: hello this is Kenneth train (.) this is part of our ongoing series of interviews with berkeley economists. i’m very happy to have today with us clair brown (.) she is has been director of the institute of industrial relations and currently is director of the: program for ehm work society and technology (.) thank you for coming welcome here <1> @@</1>

Interview 3, see Appendix p.28

In this example, the interviewer is again “happy” to introduce a female economist. He shortly describes what his guest is currently doing and welcomes her. This introduction is rather neutral, neither ridiculing nor praising the guest or her work.

As opposed to the three other interviews, the interviewer does not conclude the introduction with a question or some statement that allows some commenting. In the first example, the interviewee has the choice of either defending her article, explaining why people indeed read it, agreeing, talking in detail about her articles etc. The second interviewee could agree on the interviewer’s statement, speak about Stockholm and the ceremony or even start elaborating on his work which led to his receiving the prize. In the fourth example, the guest can choose whether to talk on his success, the mentioned book etc. Only in the third example it is impossible for the interviewee to select from a set of possible answers. The response to “thank you for coming, welcome here” can certainly be expressed in various ways, ranging from ‘glad to be here’ to ‘thanks for having me here’, yet the choice is rather limited. This can be compared to a Greeting-Greeting adjacency pair (cf. Cameron 2001:96), in which a ‘hello’ has to be followed by another ‘hello’ or something similar.

4.

S1: hello this is Kenneth train (.) this is part of our ongoing series of er interviews with ehm illustrious berkeley economists (.) today i’m very happy to have with us ehm maurie obstfeld (.) maurie has published towards six books an uncountable number of articles (.) in fact wasn’t one of your books (called) international economics translated into fourteen languages including greek?

Interview 4, see Appendix p.30

Whereas all the other interviewees are ‘plain’ Berkeley economists, the one of this example is ascribed with the positive adjective “illustrious”. While the “honored” in example 2 could be explained by the fact that the interviewee is a Nobel prize laureate, no hint is given why the interviewer chooses to add “illustrious” in this example. None of the women get such a ‘special attention’ when interviewed.

Again, as in the other interview with a male guest, this example is characterized by appraisal. Kenneth Train highlights Obstfeld’s success by mentioning the number of languages his book was translated into and speaking of “an uncountable number of articles”. In contrast to this utterance, Kenneth Train’s statement that Chris Shannon “publish[es] articles with titles like[..]” which she “expect[s] people to read” (ex.1) puts a very different and negative light on her accomplishments.

Taking all of this into account, it can be stated that different impressions are transported through the introduction of the female interviewees as opposed to the male guests. The accomplishments of the both men (ex.2&4) are emphasized by the interviewer. One woman is introduced in a relatively neutral way (ex.3), the other gets ridiculed (ex.1).

3.2 Laughter

There is no single explanation for the purpose of laughter. It can have different meanings in different situations. Kotthoff sees laughter as the primary means for supporting humor by saying

Frauen werden aktiv für die Gesprächserfolge ihres Gegenübers. Mit ihrem Lachen leisten sie Beziehungsarbeit. Männer tun dies (vor allem für Frauen) weniger. (1986:23, quoted in Hay 1995:156)

If laughter is used as a support strategy, it is more often done for male speakers, both by women and men. This can be explained by the male dominance in our society, because “[in] our culture this (societal) structure requires that women be passive and receptive: men make the jokes and women laugh at them” (Pizzini 1991:483).

Yet laughter can be employed in different ways, such as veiling insecurity, ridiculing something or somebody, downplaying significance etc.

In my data I found various instances of laughing which differ from each other greatly.

One of these cases has already been mentioned in the previous chapter. Here I will take a more detailed look at the situation in which laughter occurs and take into account the reaction of the interviewee as well.

5.

S1: hello, this is kenneth train hh this is part of our ongoing series of interviews with berkeley economists (.) today i’m very happy to have with us chris shannon (.) chris is a: theoretical economist and er you publish articles with titles like A PREVALENT TRANSVERSALITY THEOREM FOR <1> <@>LIPSCHITZ FUNCTIONS and you expect people to read them</@> </1>

S2: <1> @@@@</1>

@@ some people (.) a very small number of people @@

S1: and actually many people DO: and they’re quite important (.) er how did you get into this area of theoretical economics?

Interview 1, see Appendix p.24

As I have stated before, the interviewer’s laughter is a way of ridiculing the interviewee’s scientific accomplishments. It does not work as a sign of support, as it does in other cases.

At first sight one could assume that the laughter functions as a tool to establish or create a ‘friendly atmosphere’. Yet, at a closer look, the laughing downplays the significance and seriousness of the guest’s work.

The interviewee’s reaction to the interviewer’s ‘joking’ is again laughter, because any other reaction would have been problematic. As Kramarae (1987, quoted in Hay 1995:157) puts it:

Women are often put in the situation of having to choose between laughing at jokes that they do not think are funny … or risking becoming an outsider in many female/male social groups.

If the interviewee chooses not to laugh in this situation, listeners would ascribe her a lack of humor. Furthermore she puts herself into a defending position, not ceasing to laugh, by saying that indeed “some people (.) a very small number of people” read/s her articles. Through laughing the interviewee can keep her face.

A similar incident of laughter is shown in the next example. Again, the interviewer is either ridiculing what his guest is saying or showing disbelief through laughing.

6.

S4: and what we’ve learned is that you can train GREAT on the web with video streaming provided that your movies are never longer than two minutes

S1: <@> two <3>minute movies?</3> </@>

S4: <3> @@ </3>

<4> <@> two minute movies </@> </4>

S1: <4> @@@ </4>

S4: after two minutes the worker needs a break

Interview 3, see Appendix p. 28

While in the first example the interviewer starts laughing not as a response to something said, in this example a statement by the interviewee works as the stimulus. He explicitly refers to her previous utterance and laughs with disbelief. This interpretation of disbelief is reinforced by the guest’s reaction, responding first with laughter herself but then – laughingly – repeating the line “two minute movies”. Realizing that the interviewer still does not take this seriously, she stops laughing and explains that “after two minutes the worker needs a break”. Only after this statement the interviewer ceases to laugh. He has to be convinced by the interviewee that what she says is correct. Looking at the context of these utterances (cf. Interview 3, Appendix p.28), it becomes obvious that the interviewer himself has set up a project of online lectures for his students – with videos far longer than two minutes. Through ridiculing her assumption that online training and teaching should be divided into rather short units, he is defending his own project.

The same guest is confronted with a similar example of disbelief in a further stage of the interview:

7.

S4: <5> in </5> cognitive science on measuring brainwaves while people learn (.)

S1: <6> <@> brainwaves? </@> </6>

S4: <6> and er yeah </6> and they see what’s effective what’s not when it’s effective yes because (xx) this ability to measure how the brain uses oxygen

Interview 3, see Appendix p.29

Again, an utterance of the interviewee is stimulating the interviewer’s laughter here. When Clair Brown talks about “measuring brainwaves”, Kenneth Train starts giggling and repeats the word “brainwaves”. Obviously he is not familiar with this kind of research, thus the laughing is a means to cover up his own ignorance by trivializing her work.

Surprisingly, the interviewee herself does not respond with laughter in this situation, but rather explains immediately how research is done with brainwaves. This move in a way silences the laughter and leaves the interviewer to respond with a plain “aha” (cf. Interview 3, Appendix p.29).

Laughter of a different kind can be examined in the following example:

8.

S1: <6> and </6> did he have anything to say about your economics?

S3: er no. luckily he didn’t @

S1: <@> what did y’all talk about </@>?

S3: ehm well actually er we talked about the fact that he had a daughter at yale and i have a son at yale

S1: @ <7> @@ </7>

S3: <@> <7> so i </7> thought that was a polite conversation. I didn’t wanna talk about his economics </@>

S1: <@> yes that’s a good conversation </@>. Ehm now about your work that led to the nobel prize <8> er</8>

S3: <8> yeah</8>

Interview 2, see Appendix p.27

A clear distinction can be made between this instance of laughter and the ones previously described. The giggling or laughing in this example neither functions as a means to ridicule or show disbelief of the vis-à-vis. It is not aimed at one of the persons involved in the interview, the target is a third party not present, namely the president of the United States of America. As opposed to the other cases, here the interviewee is the first to laugh. The interviewer responds with laughter in order to support the implied view of his guest that George W. Bush would not be able to talk “about [his] economics”. They are, together, ridiculing someone else, thus elevating themselves. Therefore the interviewee is not forced to go into a defending position, he is rather experiencing support and appraisal by Kenneth Train.

The laughter of the next example is quite hard to identify:

9.

S1: hello this is Kenneth train (.) this is part of our ongoing series of interviews with Berkeley economists. i’m very happy to have today with us clair brown (.) she is has been director of the institute of industrial relations and currently is director of the: program for ehm work society and technology (.) thank you for coming welcome here <1> @@</1>

S4: <1> (xx) be here </1>

S1: <@> glad to talk to you again </@> ehm one of the topics you’ve been involved in extensively is on the job training (.) er and as i understand you’ve been in er looking at on the job training in ehm the internet (.) so how how did you get involved in this and what what is the topic you’re looking at

Interview 3, see Appendix p.28

The interviewer starts laughing in the introduction with no obvious reason. Whereas there were triggers in the other examples, be it the title of an article or utterances by the interviewees, nothing of that matter occurs in this example. It is not clear whether the laughter functions as a support strategy, or if the interviewer is making fun of something. The interviewee though does not respond in this case. One can assume that this instance of laughter refers to some previous situation as the interviewer says “glad to talk to you again”. The audience does not know the context – i.e. what has been said or done before the cameras and micros were turned on. The purpose of laughing cannot be identified here, yet it gives the impression that the interview is not taken as seriously. The question arises why the interviewer does not laugh in any of the introductions of male interviewees. His laughter in interview one is triggered off by the title of an article, in interview three no evident reason can be found. In interview two and four, both with male interviewees, the interviewer does not consider it either appropriate or necessary to laugh.

Looking at all of this evidence, the interviewer obviously uses double standards in his use of laughter. Whereas laughing is used as a means of ridiculing, downplaying significance, covering one’s own ignorance in the interviews with the two female experts (ex. 5,6,7&9), the laughter in the male-male interview functions as a support strategy and a way to praise or elevate the vis-à-vis (ex.8). Interview four with Maurice Obstfeld is characterized by strict, serious talk.

3.3 Questions

When looking at the data, I realized that the style of the questions about the guests’ research or work was important to examine. The interviewer seems to make a clear distinction on how to ask his female interviewees as opposed to the male ones.

10.

S1: right. well now what is the core concept of theoretical economics is trying to deal with can you just briefly describe that for us what’s the tradition within your field?

Interview 1, see Appendix p.24

This question is a rather general one. The interviewee has to select, out of a vast amount of information, the most important with regards to theoretical economics. This is a very hard task in an interview. I want to compare it with a question like ‘what can you tell me about governments’ as opposed to the question ‘what can you say about the Austrian government’. A political scientist confronted with the first question might have more difficulties in answering than the one asked to answer the second question. For sure it is possible to elaborate on the first question, yet much more information has to be arranged and structured in the mind than is the case for the second question. In an interview situation such general questions still have to be answered without much delay, and this might lead to confusing and/or confused answers. This, for the audience, can be seen as a lack of competence or a sign of ignorance.

In contrast to this general question, the next two examples taken from interview two and four are rather specific:

11.

S1: yes (.) ehm well let’s start i wanna start talking about the global (.) capital market (.) you’ve written about this quite a bit one of your articles starts with the idea er (x) global capital markets benefactor of menace now what could be the menace of having capital flow freely among countries?

Interview 4, see Appendix p.30

12.

S1: this all started back with an article that you did on er used cars <9> called</9> a market for lemons.

S3: <9> yes</9>

that’s right

S1: can you just briefly explain what that was and (.) how it was so revolutionary?

Interview 2, see Appendix p.27

In both examples the interviewer refers to a certain article or book of the interviewees and asks them to elaborate on this specific written piece. The article and the book contain limited information, thus making it easier for the interviewees to relate to it. They could arrange their thoughts by just following the structure of their written work which the interviewer alludes to. Specific questions lead to less confusion and insecurity in the answers, which reinforces the competence and security of the asked persons.

The next example carries features of both general and specific questions:

13.

S1: <@> glad to talk to you again </@> ehm one of the topics you’ve been involved in extensively is on the job training (.) er and as i understand you’ve been in er looking at on the job training in ehm the internet (.) so how how did you get involved in this and what what is the topic you’re looking at

Intervie 3, see Appendix p.28

The interviewer is in a way specific in the topic he chooses to talk about, i.e. job training in the internet, but he does not refer to a specific article or book. One can assume that the interviewee has done much research on this issue and is therefore confronted with selecting the basic points out of a large amount of relevant information in a short period of time. She cannot rely on a given structure in one of her articles as both men can do.

The differences of the questions can be interpreted in another way as well. In order to ask more specific questions, the interviewer has to be better prepared or acquainted with the work of the interviewees. Thus one can get the impression that the interviews with men have a greater importance for Kenneth Train than the ones led with women.

Taking all of this into account, it becomes evident that the interviewer addresses men differently compared to women. Through specific questions he reinforces the competence of his male interviewees, through general questions for women he adds to the probability of confusing or confused answers. Giving the impression that he prepares better for interviews with males, the importance of his female guests is lessened.

3.3.1 How did you get involved?

This subchapter is inserted into the chapter Questions, because on the one hand it deals with exactly this topic but, on the other hand, distinguishes itself from the previous interpretation of questions. Here the focus is not put on comparing examples, but rather on the fact that one question is posed to both of the women but neither of the men.

14.

S1: and actually many people DO: and they’re quite important (.) er how did you get into this area of theoretical economics?

Interview 1, see Appendix p.24

15.

S1: <@> glad to talk to you again </@> ehm one of the topics you’ve been involved in extensively is on the job training (.) er and as i understand you’ve been in er looking at on the job training in ehm the internet (.) so how how did you get involved in this and what what is the topic you’re looking at

Interview 3, see Appendix p.28

In both examples the interviewer shows interest in how his female guests came to do what they are doing, asking, “how did you get involved in this[…]” (ex.15) and “how did you get into this area[…]” (ex.14). He does not inquire this in the interviews with male guests. This implies that female economists are something special or strange. They are not moving in their ‘natural setting’, whatever this might be.

As the men are not asked the same question, they can be considered as ‘the norm’, whereas the women are constructed as ‘the other’.

4 Conclusion

My aim for this paper was to find instances of bias with regard to gender and this goal was attained through the close analysis of my data.

The interviewer applied double-standards in his interviews with men and women by addressing them differently. The introduction of his male guests is characterized by appraisal, one woman was introduced in a neutral way, the other was ridiculed. Through different styles of asking questions, the interviewer contributed to the competence of the men and reduced that of the women. He used laughter in very different ways, supporting his male interviewee but ridiculing the female. The question on how the women got involved in their field of research alludes to the belief that a woman is not ‘the norm’ in the field of economics, thus placing her in the position of ‘the other’.

All of this implies that the interviewer has certain cultural and social assumptions on what a woman should be or where she should be positioned in our society. These assumptions are not reflected in overt sexist or discriminating language, but rather in subtle hints. It is very probable that the interviewer is not conscious of the double-standards he applies. Most of the people listening to these interviews will not be aware of the bias on grounds of gender.

Through critical discourse analysis these hidden ideological assumptions have to be uncovered in order to prevent a naturalization of them. It is important to realize that such widespread cultural beliefs are not unchangeable.

In order to change the power relations in our society, it is necessary to sensitize everybody to locating instances of dominance or subordination in discourse, not only with regard to sex/gender, but with regard to all kinds of discrimination.

I believe I could verify my hypothesis that gender bias can be found in the analyzed interviews. Though this was my aim for this paper, the higher goal is to contribute to raising the awareness of discrimination among people in our society.

(6.447 words)

References

Cameron, Deborah. 2001. Working With Spoken Discourse. London: Sage.

Crystal, David. 1997. A Dictionary of Linguistics and Phonetics. Oxford: Blackwell.

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During, Simon (ed.). 1999. The Cultural Studies Reader. London: Routledge.

Hay, Jennifer. 1995. “Gender and Humour: Beyond a Joke”. M.A. thesis, Victoria University of Wellington. Online. http://www.ling.canterbury.ac.nz/jen/documents/hay-MA-thesis.pdf (6 January 2004)

hooks, bell. 2000. “An Excerpt from Feminism is for Everybody”. Online. http://www.southendpress.org/books/fifeexc.shtml (13 December 2003)

Kotthoff, Helga. 1986. Scherzen und Lachen in Gesprächen von Frauen und Männern. In: Der Deutschunterricht: Beiträge zu seiner Praxis und Wissenschaftlichen Grundlegung, 38 (3): 16-28.

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Nicholson, Linda. 1994. “Was heißt ‘gender’”. In: Institut für Sozialforschung Frankfurt (ed.). Geschlechterverhältnisse und Politik. Frankfurt/Main: Suhrkamp, 188-220.

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http://www.linguistik-online.de/heft1_99/remlinger.htm (29 November 2003)

Riggins, Stephen Harold. 1997. “The rhetoric of othering”. In Riggins, S.H (ed.). The language and politics of exclusion: others in discourse. London: Sage, 1-30.

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Source of data:

http://emlab.berkeley.edu/users/train/interviews.html

Appendix

Transcription Interview 1

Participants: Interviewer: Kenneth Train (S1); Interviewee: Christina Shannon (S2)

S1: hello, this is kenneth train hh this is part of our ongoing series of interviews with berkeley economists (.) today i’m very happy to have with us chris shannon (.) chris is a: theoretical economist and er you publish articles with titles like A PREVALENT TRANSVERSALITY THEOREM FOR <1> <@>LIPSCHITZ FUNCTIONS and you expect people to read them!</@> </1>

S2: <1> @@@@</1>

@@ some people (.) a very small number of people @@

S1: and actually many people DO: and they’re quite important (.) er how did you get into this area of theoretical economics?

S2: ehm (.) when I was an undergraduate i was er (.) er majoring, starting majoring in maths (.) and one of my professors suggested I might enjoy economics courses (.) a:nd so I started taking some economics courses and I was h really attracted by the combination of (.) er rigorous thinking er abstraction er c- clear mathematical models, but with an application to: people and human behavior=

S1: =mhm=

S2: =instead of yknow physics or chemistry or biology or or something like that so i- i- i’ve enjoyed the combination the idea that you might h mh be able somehow to rigorously think about (.) people human behavior in interactions

S1: right. well now what is the core concept of theoretical economics is trying to deal with can you just briefly describe that for us what’s the tradition within your field?

S2: hh ehm hh er I- I suppose the m- most basic concept is ehm er hh who- implications of er interactions between (.) different kinds of agents, maybe ehm individuals maybe er firms maybe the interactions between er individuals and firms maybe workers er in- within a firm maybe consumers within er a a larger marketplace

S1: and the whole thing is you’re trying to find out how all these interactions occur (.) in a way that either brings about an equilibrium? or doesn’t? is that <2>your first statement? </2>

S2: <2>that’s a good summary.</2>

mhm yeah that’s the first statement

S1: so now why would we care if there’s an equilibrium?

S2: ehm hh in a sense it’s a: consistency check on er both er the way the model is hh set up and on the: th- the notion of equilibrium that you were suggesting so (.) if you think about ehm er a simple ehm su- demand and supply model the er equilibrium notion is er a price at which the demand for the good is equal to the supply of the good ehm if that is er a reasonable (.) object to study then er you’d like to know that there is such a price for er a believable set of conditions on er consumer behavior and on producer (.) behavior <3> for</3> example

S1: <3> right</3>

S2: otherwise there is either something wrong with the: the notion of equilibrium (.) that you ha:ve. or there’s something wrong with the the specifications , the assumptions you put on hh producer behavior or consumer behavior

S1: well also er ehm e- equi- the existence of an equilibrium allows us to look at comparative statics, if we change <4>some</4>thing we wanna see how this equilibrium changes and if

S2: <4>right</4>

right

S1: an equilibrium doesn’t exist within the model then you can’t do that analysis. is that?

S2: right that’s another motivation=

S1: =motivation for it

Transcription Interview 2

Participants: Interviewer: Kenneth Train (S1); Interviewee: George Akerlof (S3)

S1: hello this is kenneth train (.) this is part of an ongoing series of interviews with berkeley economists (.) today i am honored to have as our guest er george akerlof (.) george won the nobel prize in economics this year ehm and as i understand you just got back from Stockholm (.) the: award ceremony er is a magnificent affair but they also have a whole week of activities for you

S3: yeah

S1: what were some of these festivities that they had planned?

S3: oh there were there were a great number ehm it began with a symposion. there was a symposion on behavioral economics

S1: mhm

S3: a:nd then there were just a very large number of activities ehm i gave a: lec- a big lecture on my research (.) a:nd i gave that in three di- three different universities (.) a:nd er there was a- a lunch at the ambassadors, there were concerts (.) there was the award ceremony, there was a banquet after that know i gave a s- i gave a seminar, there were lots and lots of other things (.) <1> so </1>

S1: <1> and how </1>

S3: it was a very crowded week

S1: yeah that is a crowded week. now you also met the king and queen, didn’t <2> you </2>

S3: <2> oh yeah </2> we met the king and queen (.) <3> end er </3>

S1: <3> but er did </3> you talk about economics?

S3: ehm er y es, we talked about economics l- just a little bit and we also met the crown er princess and er and her brother the prince

S1: yeah

S3: so:

S1: and there was a: er banquet at (.) uppsala castle?

S3: er there was a ba- banquet at uppsala (.) castle too.

S1: and now it’s also traditional isn’t it? for the laureates to: er meet with the president before going to stockholm, did that happen <4> (x) you </4>?

S3: <4> oh yes </4> yeah yeah we met we met with (.) bush

S1: <5> so you met with </5> president bush

S3: <5> (xxxx) </5>

<6> yes </6>

S1: <6> and </6> did he have anything to say about your economics?

S3: er no. luckily he didn’t @

S1: <@> what did y’all talk about </@>?

S3: ehm well actually er we talked about the fact that he had a daughter at yale and i have a son at yale

S1: @ <7> @@ </7>

S3: <@> <7> so i </7> thought that was a polite conversation. i didn’t wanna talk about his economics </@>

S1: <@> yes that’s a good conversation </@>. ehm now about your work that led to the nobel prize <8> er</8>

S3: <8> yeah</8>

S1: this all started back with an article that you did on er used cars <9> called</9> a market for lemons.

S3: <9> yes</9>

that’s right

S1: can you just briefly explain what that was and (.) how it was so revolutionary?

Transcription Interview 3

Participants: Interviewer: Kenneth Train (S1); Interviewee: Clair Brown (S4)

S1: hello this is kenneth train (.) this is part of our ongoing series of interviews with berkeley economists. i’m very happy to have today with us clair brown (.) she is has been director of the institute of industrial relations and currently is director of the: program for ehm work society and technology (.) thank you for coming welcome here <1> @@</1>

S4: <1> (xx) be here </1>

S1: <@> glad to talk to you again </@> ehm one of the topics you’ve been involved in extensively is on the job training (.) er and as i understand you’ve been in er looking at on the job training in ehm the internet (.) so how how did you get involved in this and what what is the topic you’re looking at

S4: (right) since I’m deeply interested in training workers on the job (.) I was very excited when the internet technologies came along well once we had quick time once we had the internet w- streaming ability then i (.) wanted to ask how can we totally revolutionize training on the job cause I thought we could=

S1: =mhm=

S4: =so what we’ve done is ehm set up some sort of beta sites and some demonstrations when being here at berkeley with the micro fab the- to make com- <2> computer chips </2>

S1: <2> what is micro fab? </2>

S4: it- it’s a way to make semi (conductor) chips

S1: ah

S4: and what we’ve learned is that you can train GREAT on the web with video streaming provided that your movies are never longer than two minutes

S1: <@> two <3>minute movies?</3> </@>

S4: <3> @@ </3>

<4> <@> two minute movies </@> </4>

S1: <4> @@@ </4>

S4: after two minutes the worker needs a break

S1: well that’s a shame because i just taped a bunch of lectures for on er er in- internet screening and they go for as long as an hour so you think people won’t listen to them

S4: I think they need a lot of breaks=

S1: =oh=

S4: =and they need to be able to leave and come back

S1: ok (.) and have you found that this t- on the job training through the internet is actually effective ha- has there been any evidence of this yet?

S4: yes and we’re actually doing some WONDERful ehm research with er with some professors at penn (.)

S1: <5> ah</5>

S4: <5> in </5> cognitive science on measuring brainwaves while people learn (.)

S1: <6> <@> brainwaves? </@> </6>

S4: <6> and er yeah </6> and they see what’s effective what’s not when it’s effective yes because (xx) this ability to measure how the brain uses oxygen

S1: aha

S4: a- as a as a way to relate to learn <7>ing</7>

S1: <7> so you </7> actually have people sitting at their terminals wired up <8> to get </8> er brainwaves and you can monitor when they’re paying attention when they’re excited?

S4: <8> (xx) </8>

that’s right and er watching videos

Transcription Interview 4

Participants: Interviewer: Kenneth Train (S1); Interviewee: Maurice Obstfeld (S5)

S1: hello this is kenneth train (.) this is part of our ongoing series of er interviews with ehm illustrious berkeley economists (.) today i’m very happy to have with us ehm maurie obstfeld (.) maurie has published towards six books an uncountable number of articles (.) in fact wasn’t one of your books (called) international economics translated into fourteen languages including Greek?

S5: i haven’t counted but it has been er translated into quite a few

S1: yes (.) ehm well let’s start i wanna start talking about the global (.) capital market (.) you’ve written about this quite a bit one of your articles starts with the idea er (x) global capital markets benefactor of menace now what could be the menace of having capital flow freely among countries?

S5: hh well we’ve seen this most (.) graphically in some of the recent er (.) currency crises that have occurred er since the early 1990s in mexico the asian crisis er or asian crisE:S i should say (.) er (.) brazil russia most recently argentina (.) and (.) hh these are (2) potential menaces in large part er flow from er some of the macroeconomic dangers of capital flows (.) in a situation when er agents may be taking er unwarranted risks (.) or regulations of er what are done with the funds that flow across borders er are lacks (.) er in the case of the asian crises for example (.) er many many firms er in those countries er borrowed as well as governments borrowed in terms of dollars (.) when the: er domestic currencies depreciated those dollar debts became very high in terms of the domestic currency and firms went bankrupt all over the place and governments got into financial trouble

S1: now this had started in was it (xx) was the first country in which this occurred and then it kind of spread from thailand or

S5: yes it began in thailand but quickly spread to other countries (.) er which might have been judged by markets to have somewhat similar er economic fundamentals or institutions for example indonesia er malaysia (.) er south korea (.) er even hong kong which was quite different from these other countries er suffered crisis and ultimately countries outside er the asian area were affected by the: er backwash of all of this

S1: so if there had NOT been these global capital markets the crisis would have just remained entirely in the (x) the thai economy would have collapsed but it would not have spread is that er the concept you’re?

[...]


[1] For this chapter cf. Cameron 2001:123-141

[2] software for playing audio and video files online

[3] Until today no woman has received a Nobel Prize in economics (cf. www.nobel.se)

33 of 33 pages

Details

Title
Gender and Power Relations in Discourse - Locating Instances of Gender Bias
College
University of Vienna
Course
Seminar "Talk at Work"
Grade
2
Author
Year
2004
Pages
33
Catalog Number
V109760
File size
487 KB
Language
English
Tags
Gender, Power, Relations, Discourse, Locating, Instances, Gender, Bias, Seminar, Talk, Work
Quote paper
Astrid Wenzl (Author), 2004, Gender and Power Relations in Discourse - Locating Instances of Gender Bias, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/109760

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