Wednesday, 29 January 2014

English Language AS - Language and Gender (Part 1 - Gender in Fiction)

Language and Gender is a fascinating topic, with loads to write about in an exam! However, there are several parts to Language and Gender and with that in mind I've broken the topic down into 3 sections: 

- Gender in the Written Mode
- English - The Sexist Language?
- Gender Approaches

Gender in the Written Mode

First, we must distinguish what is gender and what is sex.
- Sex is the biological bits-and-bobs a person is born with, being either male or female. 
- Gender, on the other hand, is more fluid. Some males identify more with "feminine" behaviours and roles, and some females identify more with "masculine" behaviours and roles. Gender is shaped by the socialisation process, in which "male" and "female" behaviours are conditioned and shaped by society. 

Many adverts aid this socialisation process in promoting gender specific toys, however Sweden has recently gone gender-neutral in its toy adverts in order eliminate sexism and gender conditioning. 

Gender in Fiction 

The way that women and men are portrayed in fiction is often reflective of attitudes towards gender at the time of production. 

The first aspect of gender to look at in written texts is which verb process is used to demonstrate a characters actions. There are 3 verb processes which have varying levels of control and power associated with them: 

Material Processes
A material process, also known as a dynamic process, is a verb in which movement takes place. 
e.g. to run, to jump, to hit, to scream
Material processes are often used to show power in a text, showing that the actor has control over their actions. Those affected by these material processes could be seen as in a submissive or subordinate position.
Relational Processes
A relational process, also known as a stative provess, is a verb which shows a state of being. 
e.g. to be, to see, to become, to appear
Relational processes are often seen as less powerful than material, as they don’t show action or decision.
Mental Processes
A mental process is a verb which shows a perception or a thought. 
e.g. to imagine, to wish, to think, to question
Again, mental processes are seen as less powerful as they suggest that a character does not have the power to carry out their thoughts. 

Key Words: 
Actor/Subject - The individual responsible for the action of a verb process (e.g. HE hit her, with HE being the actor)
Affected/Object - The person affected by the action of a material verb process (e.g. he hit HER, with HER being the affected)

Another way of showing masculine power in literature is the use of prepositions which suggest dominance, for example "he locked his hands AROUND her wrists" shows not only the male actor completing a material process on the affected but also suggests full control through the act of encircling her wrists, shown by the preposition "around". The material verb process "locked" connotes handcuffs, which suggests ownership and control.
A second example of this is the preposition "over", for example "he towered OVER her", suggesting his position of physical and psychological power. 

Make sure you thoroughly annotate and analyse any fictional text you are given for processes and prepositions. The best piece of advice I've been given is to "write a lot about a little", making sure you analyse each word and phrase carefully! 

Good Luck!

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