Reactions to this chapter, as you can imagine, can have a wide – and often fiery – range. On some occasions, the male students will adamantly object to their portrayal as controlling, exclusionary, or ignorant while in other situations, men were reluctant to say anything for fear of attack or of being seen to promote the type of domination Kramarae describes. The responses of women are equally varied – ranging from animated endorsement to perturbed disagreement. Some women fiercely protest the characterization of women as powerless. Note, however, that Kramarae does not assert that women have no power, but instead she argues that they do not have equal standing with their male counterparts
Though we will discuss various aspects of this chapter further, what was your first response to the idea of Muted Group Theory? Is this something that you had ever thought about or considered before? What do you think are some important things to consider and/or remember while reading and discussing this chapter? Considering the television analogy at the beginning of this prompt as well – do you think something is ‘lost in translation’ because of muting?
2) The issue of gender-specific pronouns and terms is highly relevant to muted group theory. You may be perplexed by – or even resent – the implication that gender-specific language is sexist. You might say, “Why do I have to say ‘he or she’ when everyone knows that I include both males and females when I say ‘he’?”
But think about this – how would a male flight attendant would feel if passengers referred to him by the supposedly generic term “stewardess.” Or if, in a face-to-face class, the professor walked in and instead of using the colloquial term, “guys,” came in and referred to their class as “ladies” or “gals”? Men may feel as though they weren’t being addressed or that whatever was being said didn’t apply to them. Would you be brave enough to try this out at work or a mixed group of friends or colleagues? How do you think people would respond? Would they simply tune out the female generic?
Now think again when women are collectively called ‘guys.’ Does this change your perspective? The point is, while both women and men may see this as a more ‘normal’ situation, and thus, both sexes will respond to the male terms but marginalize the female terms to only women.
Consider this and discuss any changed perspective you may have as a result. As you go about your daily business, listen for other examples of gender-specific terms and share them here along with your thoughts about how they are used and whether or not in your opinion they contribute to the idea of the muted group.
3) Going one step further, even the common-place usage of the terms “guys” and “girls” places power in the male camp. While “guys” more likely references a post-adolescent young adult, the term “girl” is a child. Thus, they are not parallel forms of address. The correct linking terms would be guys and gals, boys and girls, men and women, and the like.
Often, students will say something along the lines of ‘but gals is just awkward.’ However, it is awkward simply because we are not accustomed to hearing it. Do you see examples of how unmatched pairing finds its way into everyday usage? For example, segregated sporting events are routinely referred to as the men’s basketball team compared to the girls’ team. Sensitive subjects are denoted as “men’s issues” or “ladies only” (again, a mismatch as “lady” would correctly be paired with “gentleman” or “lord”).
As you go about your business this week, see if you can find any other examples of unmatched pairings and share them here. Also choose someone to discuss this theory with and share your discussion and the thoughts they share. Is this something they have ever considered? Do you think they had a change in perception or behavior after your discussion?
Finally, considering everything you have learned and discussed about muted theory this week and from our class in general, how can you alter your communication to be more aware of it and bring it to the attention of others? More importantly, will you?
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