Saturday, August 06, 2005

Female Styles and Blogging

Female Styles and Blogging

is an interesting area of study.

As we continue to explore this subject, I will refer to the book Talking From 9 to 5 by Deborah Tannen, Ph.D., published by William Morrow and Company, NY (1994), ISBN 0-688-11243-9.

At this point in the analysis, we're not going to delve into what causes the differences between male and female conversation, dress, attitudes, friendships, and blogs. We're just going to examine the various aspects that differ by gender.

I'm going to quote a somewhat lengthy section from Tannen's book, but bear with me because this is an interesting anecdote. I won't impose on your time and patience by blabbering on in response to it, I'll just quote it, make a few remarks, then let you ponder it all.


Some years ago I was at a small working conference of four (4) women and eight (8) men. Instead of concentrating on the discussion, I found myself looking at the three (3) other women at the table, thinking how each had a different style and how each style was coherent.

One woman had dark brown hair in a classic style that was a cross between Cleopatra and Plain Jane. The severity of her straight hair was softened by wavy bangs and ends that turned under.

The second woman was older, full of dignity and composure. Her hair was cut in a fashionable style...


The third woman's hair was wild, a frosted blond avalanche falling over and beyond her shoulders. When she spoke, she frequently tossed her head, thus calling attention to her hair and away from her lecture.

Then there was makeup.

[snip--Tannen goes on to describe makeup, shoes, jewelry, sexiness of outfit, etc.]

As I amused myself finding patterns and coherence in these styles and choices, I suddenly wondered why I was scrutinizing only the women. I scanned the table to get a fix on the styles of the eight (8) men.

And then I knew why I wasn't studying them. The men's styles were unmarked.

The term "marked" is a staple of linguistic theory. It refers to the way language alters the base meaning of a word by adding something--a little linguistic addition that has no meaning on its own.


Being male is the unmarked case. We have endings, such as ess and ette, to mark words as female. Unfortunately, marking words for females also, by association, tends to mark them for frivolousness. Would you feel safe entrusting your life to a doctorette?


I was able to identify the styles and types of the women at the conference because each of us had to make decisions about hair, clothing, makeup, and accessories, and each of those decisions carried meaning. Every style available to us was marked.

Of course, the men in our group had to make decisions, too, but their choices carried far less meaning....Unlike the women, they had the opiton of being unmarked.

I took account of the men's clothes.

There could have been a cowboy shirt with string tie, or a three-piece suit, or a necklaced hippie in jeans. But there wasn't. All eight men wore brown or blue slacks and standard-style shirts of light colors.

No man wore sandals or boots; their shoes were dark, closed, comfortable, and flat. In short, unmarked.


There is no unmarked woman. There is no woman's hairstyle that could be called "standard", that says nothing about her....if a woman's hair has no particular style, this in itself is taken as a statement that she doesn't care how she looks--an eloquent message that can disqualify a woman for many positions.

(pages 107 - 110)


How does this unfair, materialistic, visual inequity relate to blogs?

Well, one would assume that a female blog would be differentiated in a manner similar to how women's dress and hair styles are differentiated.

One might expect male blogs to be "standard", bland, or at least not very splashy.

Whereas, one might expect female blogs to range in style or design along a spectrum from "sexy" to "matronly"...or from "wild" to "sedate".

Do these attributes apply to male vs. female blogs?

Do the writing styles of female blogs vary far more than the writing styles of male blogs?

Do female bloggers criticize each other for the design, tone, writing, and other aspects, more than male bloggers do to each other?

Do female bloggers expect a female blog to have a specific color scheme, design, or set of features?

Do female bloggers expect other female bloggers to mention their children, personal lives, love affairs, feelings, shopping experiences?

Are female bloggers who deviate from these expectations ostracized, shunned, flamed, or hated?

What's your opinion?

What have you observed or experienced in regard to this?

Post a comment or email me your insights.


[signed] Steven Streight aka Vaspers the Grate



carrie said...

i found that stuff by deborah tannen to be interesting. i want to read that book. one time i took a class called Psychology of Gender. it was cool.

i was thinking, women feel oppressed if they have to submit to a standardized form of dress.

i could see how it might bring some freedom. but, as with school uniforms and the like-- we see that women will find a way to differentiate themselves based on appearance. at the same time, however, many women are clones of one another except for subtle variations.

steven edward streight said...

I love this book by Tannen.

So well written and full of weird anecdotes, like the father and daughter in an private airplane, the father is pilot, they are out of fuel, and he refuses to radio the control tower for help in landing, "I don't want them to know I'm lost".

Pride, vanity more important, for men, than life itself, and more important than his daughter's life. Bizarre.

Women's dress is part of the shadow play or shadow work you mention on your blog.

Unmentioned rituals and observances that silently form the background of oppression.

When a man dresses in a unique style, or even something as mild as a bowtie, he stands out as eccentric.

But women can dress rather wild, sexy, matronly, severe, whatever, more range of style for women, but then again a woman HAS TO have some "marking", some "style" to define herself, else she is considered frumpy or negligent.

Patriarchal exploitation and manipulation is so bizarre, it takes a sociolinguist or anthropologist to see through it all.

We Americans have many bizarre customs, rituals, codes that seem "normal" or "natural"...but are not.

carrie said...

yes, this reminds me of shows on t.v. where the husband is fat and "ugly-ish" (not really, but...) compared to his much hotter wife. [???]