8. REBECCA D. FREEMAN, University of Pennsylvania
Language in Education Division
Graduate School of Education
University of Pennsylvania
3700 Walnut Ave.
Philadelphia, PA 19104
(410) 788-4404 (home)
To Others Teaching Language and Gender:
In this letter, I will briefly describe my goals in teaching a
course on Language and Gender, the students I have, the
reason for the approach I adopted, problems I have had, and
solutions I have come up with. Spring 1993 was the first
semester I have ever taught this course, and I have been
experimenting with course design. I look forward to talking
with others who are struggling to teach a course in such an
interdisciplinary field, because it seems to me that
interdisciplinary work that aims for social change requires a
new pedagogical approach.
* make students aware of the role of language in defining
people relative to each other so that they will then be able to
use language to position themselves and each other more
equitably. To accomplish this, I wanted to encourage
students to look critically at contexts they were involved in
on a regular basis.
* give students an idea of major issues in the field including
a critical look at 1) representations of women (and other
underrepresented groups) in a variety of contexts,
traditionally by men, more recently by feminists as a
reaction against traditional patriarchal representations, and
even more recently by underrepresented feminists as a
reaction against traditional feminist representations; 2)
binary categorizations, how else might we talk about gender,
i.e. as a continuum?; 3) language in interaction: difference
and/or dominance: e.g. men and women in conversation,
women's/men's language, powerful/powerless language,
women in conversation with women, 4) strategies for
individual and social change. This list is by no means
* provide students with an introduction to tools they would
need to conduct their own research. This would include at
least field-based research, experimental designs, and written
text analysis. I wanted to expose them to discourse analysis
(including narrative, conversation, written texts, metaphors,
attitudes/stance/ideology, positioning, etc.), so that they
would know what kinds of analysis they could do. Each
student then would have to do some kind of discourse
analysis in their project. I wanted to emphasize creativity in
methodological approach in order to attempt to resolve some
of the problematic areas, i.e. what do we mean by context?,
by power?, how do we relate micro and macro levels?, how
do we account for the interaction of gender and culture? etc.
I knew that the majority of my students would be graduate
students. I assumed that some, but not all, would have a
background in linguistics. In addition, I assumed that each
student would have some background academic,
professional, and personal experiences that we would want
to draw on. As it turned out, I had twenty five students who
represent a variety of cultural backgrounds: four
undergraduates, mostly masters level students of TESOL and
Intercultural Communication, a few doctoral students in
Educational Linguistics, and a few graduate students from
other departments. About half of the students had done
some discourse analysis or conducted some original
Since there has been a tremendous amount of work done on
Language and Gender in sociolinguistics, social psychology,
anthropology, social theory, literary criticism, etc., I knew
that any attempt to cover the content of the field would be
impossible. At first, I was having a very difficult time
deciding on course readings, because I was always leaving
out something crucial. Then the reading list was beginning
to become overwhelming. I was also reluctant to choose
which was "the most important", because what is the most
important to me may not be the most important to my
Because of the scope of the field and my goals for the course,
and my assumption of the students' diverse backgrounds
and goals, I decided to take a cooperative learning approach
and organize the course around the students' interests. I
selected the texts for the course because they represent a
wide range of issues, theories and methodologies, and have
extensive bibliographies. The syllabus is in two parts, and is
self-explanatory for the most part.
Generally, I think this approach has worked quite well. I
want to mention a few things that I did which the syllabus
doesn't emphasize, and also point out a problem that I
I asked the reference librarian to organize a special session
for our class when I got the students' preliminary ideas for
projects, which worked beautifully. The librarian put
together an hour and a half presentation, in which she
showed the students how to research their topics on the
library computer system. She also introduced the students
to special resources for Language and Gender. This session
provided the students with the means (including confidence)
to generate their parts of our syllabus (the student-
generated syllabus is clearly explained on the syllabus). If
you have this service available at your library, I highly
I strongly recommend the student-generated syllabus. The
students seemed to enjoy taking on the responsibility, and
have done a great job. Organizing the course this way really
changes the student -teacher role relationship. They
assigned me readings, and they lead the discussions. My job
is to make sure they have covered the issues that I want
them to cover without dominating the discussion, and to help
them synthesize issues (the synthesis papers help in this
part too). Teaching like this is a challenge, but the students
are much more involved in their work and in the class
The only problem I've really had is getting the students to
understand what group facilitation means. Although I
clearly told them that I don't want them to report on their
individual projects and summarize individual readings
(because we don't have time - there are too many students),
and that I wanted them to work together to use their
projects and readings to help them facilitate our exploration
of the larger group theme, they seem to resist working as a
group. I'm not sure if I need to require group products
(more than just the facilitation) in order to get group
process, or if I just need to be more explicit and provide
them with more concrete ideas of options available to them.
Any suggestions for how to get groups to work as groups
without too much teacher imposition would be greatly
Thanks for the opportunity to contribute to this syllabus
collection project. It's a great idea, and I can't wait to see
what everyone else has come up with.
Language and Gender Syllabus: Part I
Course Schedule: Mondays 2-4.
Professor: Rebecca Freeman
Course Description: A critical investigation of the relationship
between language, gender, and social structure which
explores the role of language in reflecting and perpetuating
gender inequities, as well as the potential of language for
challenging and transforming gender relations. Students'
ongoing discourse analytic projects are integral to our
exploration of issues related to sexism in and through
language. Implications for individual and social change are
I. Project: By the end of Part 1, "Issues, Theories, and
Methods: An Overview", each of you will have selected an
issue that you want to investigate in more detail. You can
work individually or in groups. At that point in the
semester, please submit a PRELIMINARY description of the
issue you would like to investigate, and the kind of approach
you would like to take. Your projects will then form the
basis for our course.
II. Research Proposal: By the end of Part 2, "Methodological
Approaches", each of you will submit a research proposal
that includes a problem statement, brief literature review,
and an outline of your methodology (data collection and
analysis). Please include discussion of any problems you are
having or anticipate having, and a general schedule so that
you can be sure to allow enough time to complete the
III. Syntheses. Based on your preliminary proposals, I will
divide the course into three to five sections that correspond
with your interests. Let's say, for example, that several
students are interested in investigating some issue related to
Language Socialization. There will be a section of our
syllabus (to be organized when I receive your preliminary
proposals) dedicated to Language Socialization. At the end of
the section, each of you will be responsible for writing a 2-3
page synthesis of your thinking in response to the articles
we read, the issues we discuss, your life experiences, your
Each synthesis will be due the week following the end of a
section so that you will have opportunity to reflect and
integrate. Your syntheses and my responses will then
become a kind of dialogue journal between student and
IV. Group Discussion Facilitation: As mentioned above,
when each of you proposes an idea of the issue you would
like to research for your project, I will organize the course
into sections. Each of you investigating an issue related to,
e.g, the section on Language Socialization (if there is one), will
form a group who will be responsible for facilitating our
exploration of that section. At that point, your group can
decide which readings from our texts or outside readings
you want to include. I will then provide a new syllabus that
outlines the course.
Your group will get together and organize your group
facilitation. While there is a lot of flexibility in how your
group approaches this task, there are two requirements:
Each group must work together as a unit to facilitate the
class's understanding of the general theme (as opposed to
individual presentations of a reading and of each project),
and each group must bring data to help the class explore the
issue. Outside of these requirements, you could, for example,
raise questions about the readings, talk about further
reading you are doing, your own experiences, your research
projects etc. Your group will decide together how to best
approach the issues/data you are working with in more
detail in order to facilitate all of our learning.
Cameron, Deborah (ed.). 1990. The Feminist Critique of
Language. NY: Routledge.
Coates, Jennifer. 1986. Women, Men and Language. New
Todd, Alexandra Dundas and Sue Fisher (eds). 1988. Gender
and Discourse: The Power of Talk. Norwood, NJ: Ablex
Thorne, Barrie, Cheris Kramerae and Nancy Henley (eds.).
1983. Language, Gender and Society. Rowley,
Massachussetts: Newbury House Publishers.
PART I: ISSUES, THEORIES, AND METHODS: AN OVERVIEW
Week 1: Introduction to the course and to each other.
Week 2: Issues, Theories and Methods : An Overview.
Cameron-Introduction: Why is Language a Feminist Issue?
Coates- Part One: Introductory.
Todd and Fisher-Intro: Theories of Gender, Theories of
Thorne, Kramerae and Henley- Introduction, and A Second
Decade of Research.
* Please bring approximately five questions to class. The
questions can be about the readings specifically, or about
observations you've made that the readings stimulated.
Your questions will help me see how you are relating to the
reading, and will form the basis for our next class discussion.
Week 3: Continued discussion of Issues, Theories and
* Please hand in your PRELIMINARY idea for your project.
PART II: METHODOLOGICAL APPROACHES
Week 4: Library Tour
First hour: Generate individual and group bibliographies.
Second hour: Divide into groups and beginning discussing
readings/approaches for your group facilitation. You only
need to pick a few articles (e.g. 2-4) for the entire class to
read and discuss. For the facilitation, your group is
encouraged to draw on your individual projects, and help the
entire class synthesize the ideas that you cover.
Week 5: Methodology Part 1: Field based design.
Readings: In T, K & H: Nichols, Fishman
In Todd and Fisher: Davis, Goodman
Coates: finish book.
Goal of discussion: a critical look at methodology. Some
discussion of issues is fine, but not the primary focus at this
point. To be facilitated by students with experience in these
Week 6: Methodology Part 2: Experimental Design
In T, K & H: McKay
West & Zimmerman
Week 7: Written Text Analysis:
In T, K & H: Penelope & Wolfe
In Todd & Fisher: Cultural Discourse
Read a few of the readings in either Cultural Discourse or
Institutional Discourse. Try to pick ones that look the most
relevant to your project.
DUE: Group Syllabus: required and recommended readings.
Week 8: Research Design small group workshop.
Bring Research proposal to class.
For the majority of the class, you will work in pairs or small
groups to discuss your research design and any problems
you may be having. I will give back the group generated
syllabus, and we'll get ready for facilitation of topics.
Week 9: BREAK!
Language and Gender Syllabus: Part 2
After the syllabus, you will find a brief description of each of
your projects. Please use each other as resources in working
on your projects in any way you can.
Week 10: Group Facilitation 1
Naming and Representation Part 1: In the Medical Profession
Facilitated by Lisa, Jody, Brenda, and Heidi.
Binion, Victoria Jackson. 1990. "Psychological Androgyny: A
Black Female Perspective." in Sex Roles, vol. 22, nos. 7/8,
Brown-Collins, Alice and Deborah Ridley Sussewell. 1986.
"The Afro-American Woman's Emerging Selves." in The
Journal of Black Psychology, vol. 13, no. 1, pp. 1-11.
Stone, Linda. 1992. "Cultural Influences in Community
Participation in Health." in Social Science Medicine, vol. 35,
no. 4, pp. 409-417.
Ussher, Jane. 1991. "Madness and misogyny: My mother and
myself.S" in Women's Madness: Misogyny or Mental Illness?
Amherst: University of Massachusettes Press. pp. 3-15.
Week 11: Group Facilitation 2
Naming and Representation Part 2: Other Areas of "High
Facilitated by Rae, Karen, Kate M., Rebecca, and Nacha.
In Cameron: Schultz (pp. 134-147)
Kramarae and Treichler (pp. 148-159)
Elgin (pp. 160-163)
In Todd and Fisher: Penelope (pp. 255-273)
In Cameron: Hofstadter (pp. 187-196)
Week 12: Group Facilitation 3
Cross Cultural Perspectives
Facilitated by Ellen and Noriko
deAnda, Diane. 1984. "Bicultural Socialization: Factors
Affecting the Minority Experience." in Social Work, March-
Hong Kingston, Maxine. 1975. "A Song for a Barbarian Reed
Pipe." in The Woman Warrior. Vintage International. pp.
Inn, Kalei. "Assessment of Self-Concept: Bilingual Asian-
American Children." in Asian and Pacific American
Perspectives in Bilingual Education. M. Chu-Chang (ed.).
Schweickart, Patrocinio. 1986. "Reading Ourselves: Toward a
Feminist Theory of Reading." in Gender and Reading, E.
Flynn and P. Schweickart (eds.), The Johns Hopkins
University Press. pp. 31-62.
Chan, Sucheng and Ling-Chi Wang. "Racism and the Model
Minority: Asian-Americans in Higher Education." in The
Racial Crisis in American Higher Education. P.G. Altbach
and K. Lomotey (eds.).
Chow, Esther Ngan-Ling. "The Feminist Movement: Where
are all the Asian American Women?" in Making Waves.
Faithorn, Elizabeth. 1986. "Gender Bias and Sex Bias:
Removing Our Cultural Blinders in the Field." in Self, Sex
and Gender in Cross-Cultural Fieldwork. T. Whitehead and
M. Conaway (eds.), University of Illinois Press. pp. 275-
Gibbs, Jewelle Taylor and Gloria Moskowitz-Sweet. 1991.
"Clinical and Cultural Issues in the Treatment of Biracial
and Bicultural Adolescents." in The Journal of
Contemporary Human Services.
Smith-Hefner, Nancy. 1990. "Language and Identity in the
Education of Boston-Area Khmer." in Anthropology and
Education Quarterly, vol. 21, pp. 250-268.
* Synthesis 1 Due.
Week 13: Group Facilitation 4
Interaction Part 1: In the Classroom
Facilitated by Ako, Rachel, Julie, Kristin, and Kate L.
"Sexism in the Schoolhouse." in Newsweek, February 24,
"Sexism in the Schoolhouse." in U.S. News and World Report,
March 9, 1992.
Judd, Eliot. 1983. R"The Problem of Applying Sociolinguistic
Findings to TESOL: The Case of Male/Female Language." in
Sociolinguistics and Language Acquisition. N. Wolfson and
E. Judd (eds.), Newbury House.
Tannen, Deborah. 1992. "How Men and Women Use Language
Differently in Their Lives and in the Classroom." in The
Wolfson, Nessa. 1989. "Language and Sex." in Perspectives.
Bem, Sandra and Daryl Bem. 1973. "Does Sex-biased Job
Advertising 'Aid and Abet' Sex Discrimination?" in The
Journal of Applied Social Psychology, vol. 3, no. 1, pp. 6-18.
Week 14: Group Facilitation 5
Interaction Part 2: In Conversation
Facilitated by Hae Sook, Hi Jean, Kim, and Miriam.
Holmes, Janet. 1990. "Politeness strategies in New Zealand
women's speech." in New Zealand Ways of Speaking
English. A. Bell and J. Holmes (eds.), Multilingual Matters
Ltd. pp. 252-276.
Shapiro, Johanna, Ellen McGrath and Raymond Anderson.
1983. "Patients', Medical Students', and Physicians'
Perceptions of Male and Female Physicians." in Perceptual
and Motor Skills, vol. 56, pp. 179-190.
Simkins-Bullock, Jennifer and Beth Wildman. 1991. "An
Investigation into the Relationship Between Gender and
Language." in Sex Roles. vol. 24, nos. 3/4, pp. 149-160.
Week 15: Language and Gender Synthesis.
Class discussion which will synthesize what we have
covered, and emphasize issues and methods for future
* Synthesis 2 due.
* Final project due.
STUDENT PRELIMINARY TOPIC LIST: ARRANGED BY
Group 1: Naming and Representation in the Medical Field.
Lisa: Representations of childbirth in midwive's texts as
compared to physician's texts.
Brenda / Heidi: African-American women in conversation
about their bodies.
Jody: Women and depression.
Group 2: Naming and Representation in other areas of "High
Rae: Compare New Church publications and sermons during
three periods for representation of Lillian Beekman, a
controversial woman in the church.
Karen: How are women represented in rap music?: A
comparison of male and female rappers.
Kate M: Feminist Dictionaries: A comparative study.
Rebecca: Gender representations in advertising.
Nacha: Representation of women in the original and most
recent Peruvian constitutions. A critical look.
Group 3: Cross-Cultural Perspectives
Ellen: Beliefs and practices about literacy, gender, and
culture among two generations of women in two
Cambodian families. How the women view themselves and
their emergent literacies.
Noriko: Japanese-American women's stories about growing
up biculturally with respect to gender identity.
Group 4: Interaction Part 1: In the Classroom
Ako: Gender relations in a Wharton Business School class.
Rachel: Differences in the way men and women speak out in
class; the comments they make, questions they ask, how
they form their questions, and teacher's responses in an
Arts and Science class.
Julie: How teachers and ESL texts deal with sexism in
language. How are the teachers and curriculum practicing
or avoiding sexist language use.
Kristan: Looking at language socialization of ESL
kindergarten students in ESL classes with respect to
gender identity; among students at play and/or in official
Kate L: One intermediate speaking/listening in ESL class.
Possibly looking at politeness phenomena.
Group 5: Interaction Part 2: In Conversation
Hae Sook: Gender differences in language use among Korean
Hi Jean: Relationship between changes in Korean social
structure and women's language use in conversation.
Kim: Male/Female doctors' language use with patients.
Miriam: Gender differences in politeness strategies in
conversations with members of two New Zealand
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