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 Apparently females attempt some kind of equilibrium by reaching a higher status

in language to compensate for their lower status as members of society,

males attempt a kind of masculine identity by using language to maintain a group solidarity

 

 

 

Status and Standard/NonStandard Language

By Mary Ritchie Key 

Women are to be talked to as to as below men and above children.Lord Chesterfield

 

The emphasis on femininity and masculinity has blurred the caste system which prevails in our society. This is not a popular theme to discuss and in some bailiwicks it is not acceptable in any form. All kinds of restrictions and limitations have been imposed on a female's linguistic habits, with the idea that these behavioral patterns would ensure her femininity.

Thus she is not permitted to swear or use "coarse" language. She is given titles and respect--males must not swear in her presence--in countless ways she is given "better" treatment. But all of this simply results in keeping women out of the running. In order to continue a caste system it is necessary for those in the lower ranks to accept their status.

To all outward appearances women have accepted this lower status, often in the belief that it was femininity they were perpetuating. Religious instruction that this is right and the natural order of things has helped maintain the womanly image. These are powerful beliefs in the minds of females who want to be "real ladies" and in the minds of males who treasure and revere their "true ladies."

There is evidence in language that this acceptance may only be a superficial mask overlaying other attitudes or feelings though out-of-awareness. In linguistic studies there are many examples of instances where female usage shows an attempt at "proper" language or more "refined" language. One can observe, even within the same family where the rearing and schooling have been identical, that very often the women use standard English and the men do not.

We have already noted the difference of pronunciation in the -ing ending of verbs, with little girls carefully pronouncing -ing, and the boys shuffling off with -in. Other dialects of English have shown a similar status-sex relationship. In South Africa, in the English-speaking universities, the men speak with more dialect features of South African English than the women, who seem to be more sensitive to the social connotations of dialect.

In a dialect of Great Britain, an extensive study was done to test the hypothesis that women "consistently produce linguistic forms which more closely approach those of the standard language or have higher prestige than those produced by men, or alternatively, that they produce forms of this type more frequently. It was concluded that there is a very close relationship between sex differences in linguistic usage and status aspirations. It would appear, then, that women have not universally accepted the position in the lower ranks, and that, out of awareness, and in a socially acceptable and non-punishable way, women are rebelling.

These distinctions are not difficult to maintain, on the other hand, because males, all too often, identify nonstandard language with masculinity. How many American families speaking standard English at home have gone through the traumatic experience of their teenage sons coming home with double negatives and "he don't's"? It appears to be general American tradition that a red-blooded male would rather be caught dead than be grammatical! 

A recent advertising campaign recognized this and exploited the possibilities. on a huge billboard along one of the freeways into Los Angeles, a cigarette company put up a sign which showed a picture of a young man and a young lady. His statement said, "Winston tastes good like a cigarette should" and her statement said, "Winston tastes good as a cigarette should"! A TV commercial continued the grammatical distinction when the young lady in the commercial corrected her companion's grammar by saying, "You mean as a cigarette should. . . ." 

Apparently females attempt some kind of equilibrium by reaching a higher status in language to compensate for their lower status as members of society, and males attempt a kind of masculine identity by using language to maintain a group solidarity. Earlier in the century American Speech published a study of "affected and effeminate words" showing that students equated culture and effeminancy. males, especially avoided words which fell into these classes.

Status distinctions in language are universal. the degree and use of these distinctions differ from language to language. We have seen that status and sex distinctions are closely related in English. Are they also in other languages? It would seem that they are. In Germany I was told that boys tend to use more "dialect" and girls tend to use "standard" language. In Italian and Spanish, upper-class women are very conscious of their pronunciation with regard to the tongue position and placement in the mouth. "It is considered plebian and socially inelegant to have a back articulation, and especially upper-class women affect a very fronted style of articulation.

Jespersen tells of the situation in old Indian drama, where women talk Prakrit (prakrta, the natural or common language) and men talk Sanskrit (samskrta, the adorned language). The principal distinction, however, is rank, not sex. In the discussions of categories we noted that Sanskrit was the language of the upper echelons, and Prakrit was the language of men of inferior classes and nearly all women.

Sapir, in his study of the Yana language, suggested that "the reduced female forms constitute a conventionalized symbolism of the less considered or ceremonies status of women in the community." The symbolic use of language with reference to sex is an almost unexplored area of language research by linguists. In Japanese, female speakers are expected to use polite expressions more often than males.

Japanese is a language which incorporates many honorifics in the discourse. The use of these has to do with the people involved and the role they play. More polite forms are expected in certain relationships, that is, young to old, lower classes to upper classes, and women to men.

In the study done on Detroit speech, which was intended to focus on socio-economic factors, the relation between certain syntactic constructions and status dimensions was shown to be clear-cut. Multiple negation (double negatives) pronominal apposition ("my brother, he went to the park"), plurals, possessives, third singular verb inflections were all investigated as to their frequency and use. 

It was shown that females are more sensitive to these indicators of lower status, and are less likely to use them. Linguists who do field work have noted that dialect differences and unusual forms of speech may be difficult to elicit from women who are more socially conscious of being denigrated. language is one way in which females can better themselves, even if only in their own image.

Many other studies in the past few years have documented that females in the black communities in the United States show a marked differences in their control of Standard English in contrast to the males. It is not clear why this is so; a complex of reasons probably is involved. Black females may have occasion to hear and speak more standard English because of their work as domestics in homes where standard English is spoken. 

Black males have acquired the Power of Words in a style and use of language which is uniquely their own. This versatility and creativity in language is enhanced in a world which is devoid of material evidence of their power. Thus masculinity is signaled by their very special use of language in the way of verbal dueling, playing the dozen, and reciting epics. 

This is not the same language which is found in school and in reading materials--the undesirable effeminate world. But desirable in another sense--the economic sense. Thus the young male struggles with an ambivalence that is seemingly insolvable--to maintain his masculinity and prowess among his peers, or to learn the "feminized" language of the mainstream community.

Analogies between the situation of women and black people have often been made, especially in the last generation since Myrdal's now famous Appendix to his An American Dilemma. Webster's definition of "disadvantage" applies to both: "The state or fact of being without advantage: an unfavorable, an interior, or prejudicial conditions." 

In interpreting male and female differences in any language, it is important to recognize hierarchies of status as well as male/female patterns. It is well to recognize these aspects of the communication systems and the linguistic demands of these systems, as people either do or do not participate equally in the mainstream of society.

Source: Male/Female Language (1975) by Mary Ritchie Key

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AALBC.com's 25 Best Selling Books


 

Fiction

#1 - Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark
#2 - Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree
#3 - Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane
#4 - Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper
#5 - Stackin' Paper 2 Genesis' Payback by Joy King
#6 - Thug Lovin' (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark
#7 - When I Get Where I'm Going by Cheryl Robinson
#8 - Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby
#9 - The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

#10 - Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

#11 - Diary Of A Street Diva  by Ashley and JaQuavis

#12 - Don't Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

#13 - For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 - For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 - Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

#16 - The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

#17 - Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 - Purple Panties: An Eroticanoir.com Anthology by Sidney Molare

#19 - Stackin' Paper by Joy King

#20 - Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

#21 - The Upper Room by Mary Monroe

#22 – Thug Matrimony  by Wahida Clark

#23 - Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

#24 - Married Men by Carl Weber

#25 - I Dreamt I Was in Heaven - The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter

Non-fiction

#1 - Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable
#2 - Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans
#3 - Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane
#4 - Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper
#5 - Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You're Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant
#6 - Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey
#7 - The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight
#8 - The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing
#9 - The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 - John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 - Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 -The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 - The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 - The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 - Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can't Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 - Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 - Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 - A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 - John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 - Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 - Age Ain't Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 - 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino
#23 - Chicken Soup for the Prisoner's Soul by Tom Lagana
#24 - 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

#25 - Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

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Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America

By Melissa V. Harris-Perry

According to the author, this society has historically exerted considerable pressure on black females to fit into one of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the Matriarch or the Jezebel.  The selfless Mammy’s behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to white folks’ domestic concerns, often at the expense of those of her own family’s needs. By contrast, the relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.     

Professor Perry points out how the propagation of these harmful myths have served the mainstream culture well. For instance, the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for black females to feel a maternal instinct towards Caucasian babies.

As for the source of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their own bodies during slavery given that they were being auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless, it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate indiscriminately.

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Sex at the Margins

Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry

By Laura María Agustín

This book explodes several myths: that selling sex is completely different from any other kind of work, that migrants who sell sex are passive victims and that the multitude of people out to save them are without self-interest. Laura Agustín makes a passionate case against these stereotypes, arguing that the label 'trafficked' does not accurately describe migrants' lives and that the 'rescue industry' serves to disempower them. Based on extensive research amongst both migrants who sell sex and social helpers, Sex at the Margins provides a radically different analysis. Frequently, says Agustin, migrants make rational choices to travel and work in the sex industry, and although they are treated like a marginalised group they form part of the dynamic global economy. Both powerful and controversial, this book is essential reading for all those who want to understand the increasingly important relationship between sex markets, migration and the desire for social justice. "Sex at the Margins rips apart distinctions between migrants, service work and sexual labour and reveals the utter complexity of the contemporary sex industry. This book is set to be a trailblazer in the study of sexuality."—Lisa Adkins, University of London

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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update 24 February 2012

 

 

 

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