Lightning talk: 'Mixed Gender Talk' in the UK House of Commons
As a historically male-dominated institution centred around debate and confrontation, it is of no great surprise that the linguistic norms in the UK House of Commons are of a competitive and adversarial nature.
Simultaneously, the "feminization of the media" (Walsh 2001: 22-23) has given discourse about the private, and rapport between public figures and their viewers greater importance, which also requires politicians to employ more collaborative and supportive strategies of communication. As a result, male and female politicians are expected to make use of a variety of different discursive strategies that have previously been marked either 'female' or 'male'.
Drawing upon recent sociolinguistic research, I examine how female and male MPs of the UK House of Commons both use a mixture of linguistic strategies that have previously been coded either masculine or feminine, and how the concept of "Communities of Practice" (Eckert & McConnell-Ginet 1992) can offer an alternative view to the notion of gendered speech styles.
In the context of this research, we will discuss whether 'mixed gender talk' is an adequate term to describe this mixture of linguistic behaviours, or if there are alternative terms that allow us to distance ourselves from the notion of a gender binary.