Politicians and "girly-talk"...

To all our readers who threw a hissyfit when we observed that the use of hedge words is an indication of effeminacy, check out this article from the Washington Post reporting a study done by two UT researchers from Austin, Richard B. Slatcher and professor James W. Pennebaker, who did a computer analysis of the words and speech patters of our two presidential candidates from the past election, along with their running mates.

Their findings? The two vice-presidential candidates defined the ends of the spectrum on masculinity and femininity. Edwards sounded like a "girly-man." He "was the most likely to use feminine speech patterns and 'female' words," while Cheney "sounded most like a man's man." How did the study define feminine language?

They defined it as the "use of words and speech patterns favored by women."

And all good Christians who have lost their ability to think biblically, to be salt and light--particularly in matters of sexuality, say, "Horrors! Are these researchers generalizing? Have they fallen into using sexual stereotypes? How could they be so insensitive, so deameaning to women? Women don't talk like that. And even if they do, it's not polite to say so."

So again, wellmeaning Christians trout out old feminist canards, thinking it demonstrates their Christian compassion: "Sex means nothing, NOTHING, beyond body parts. There aren't male and female speech patterns--that's a stereotype. Look! John Edwards is a man and he talks that way, too!"

If we live by faith and the Word of God, it should be Christians reminding the world of the meaning and nature of sexuality. It shouldn't be left to researchers and the Washington Post.


Did it surprise anybody out there that Bush came in #2 in linguistic femininity?

If we believe the feminist argument that there is no difference between men and women, why does the Bloomington City Council need to pass an ordinance to protect "gender identity"?

Of course, women and men have different speech patterns. I don't think it is at all unfeminist to say so. (However, I think differing speech patterns are socially constructed and I think that people are able to learn to use different speech patterns if more appropriate to one's role or the occasion. I consciously use "male" speech patterns in many instances, in others I consciously use "female" speech patterns, and other times I just do whatever is natural.)

I also don't think it is especially unfeminist to say that there are innate differences between the sexes. I believe that people exaggerate innate sex differences, that people draw erroneous conclusions from those differences, and that not all differences are innate. Untanging what traits are innate versus what traits are socialized or exaggerated by socialization is tricky business. It is also tricky to figure out whether we are talking about average differences among groups, versus differences at extremes of each group, versus differences across the board for all women versus all men, etc. As a feminist, I do not oppose the notion of differences (if that is what the evidence shows), but I do not believe that there any black-and-white answers.

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