Sunday, December 18, 2016

Reflection on "Marked Women, Unmarked Men" By Deborah Tannen

The article, " Marked Women, Unmarked Men" by Deborah Tannen is an interesting piece that argues that no woman is unmarked. The word "unmarked" in this context refers to the denotative meaning of a word. However, the word "marked" refers to the way language alters the definition of a word and gives it its connotative meaning. In her article, Tannen focuses on how how the concept of "marked" and "unmarked" is relevant in today's society, especially concerning women and men. She details in the text how in English the unmarked tense of words refers to the male while marked tense is made by adding endings such as "ess" or "ette" adding a sort of silly connotation into the mist. The purpose of this text was to relay the tendencies in language, and in real life, that make women marked. She adopts a colloquial tone to make her seem more relatable and  easy to understand. Tannen utilized multiple pieces of evidence to support her claim. Her evidence consisted of personal anecdotes and references to the book The Sociolinguistics of Langiveguage by Ralph Fasold. She conveyed her evidence with the use of several rhetorical techniques such as imagery and diction. In the beginning of  the article Tannen uses imagery to describe the women at a conference she attended and how their clothing and makeup, or even lack of makeup, reflected how they were marked. She then explains that every aspect of the women's clothing was a decision they made that would carry a meaning to someone. For instance, she states, "There is no woman's hair style that can be called standard, that says nothing about her. ...but a woman whose hair has no particular style is perceived as not caring about how she looks, which can disqualify her for many positions, and will subtly diminish her as a person in the eyes of some." Tannen then continued to say that men had the option to be unmarked, an option not available to women. Another rhetorical technique she employed was diction which she used in the example regarding titles. Tannen explained that even the titles given to us on a form are marked for women. Titles such as"Miss", "Mrs" or "Ms" provide a lot of information about a woman. For example, Tannen states that "Checking "Ms." declines to let on about marriage (checking "Mr." declines nothing since nothing was asked), but it also marks her as either liberated or rebellious, depending on the observer's attitudes and assumptions." Her use of the words liberated and rebellious have a great effect on the audience as it not only shows what is assumed by checking "Ms" but also shows this one aspect of language could go such a long way to categorize a woman. I really enjoyed this article as it really broadened my perspective of prejudice against women. I never knew that prejudice went as far deep as the language we speak. This article actually reminded me of an episode of Grey's Anatomy, where one of the older characters was reminiscing about his residency and how one of his fellow residents, a woman, wasn't taken seriously because of her gender. Although I do not know if she was referred to as doctorette, the episode did show that every decision she made as a woman greatly impacted what people thought of her.

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