Language and Gender

Select a television show, such as a crime or medical drama, whose main female and male characters have equal qualifications and occupations. Record at least one episode or borrow one from the library so you can review, replay, and pause it. Analyze the gendered language behaviors and discourse patterns of the main characters. Pay attention to several items: Does the female character have a higher pitch or softer voice than the male character? Does one character tend to use more suggestions while the other issues more commands or makes direct requests? Try to keep track of who introduces topics as well as what part of the storyline (subplot or “issue”) belongs to which character. Depending on the show, you may find that one character tells jokes while the other only responds to them. Notice who issues insults and who interrupts. Also pay attention to how characters interact in mixed-sex groups or same-sex groups. (Clark et al, p. 559) Use your findings to write a position essay which discusses how gender is expressed on the show. In your essay, take a position on whether the show’s writers work with or against stereotypes about gender and how it affects communication practices in gendered groups in society. A good place to begin your research is with Deborah Tannen.

The final draft will:
● Have an argumentative thesis, which is supported by good reasons and evidence from credible resources
● Cite (direct quote, paraphrase, or summarize) at least 5 sources ● Be 6-8 double-spaced pages long, not including the cover page and references page
● Use APA formatting
● Use APA in-text citations

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