Speaker: Amaya Gandy

'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. Furthermore, I shall demonstrate that the use of 'mixed gender talk' is currently benefiting male politicians to a greater extent than female politicians, particularly when it comes to media reception.

Linguistic changes may not be the direct solution to the issues of gender in our society, but the analysis of linguistic behaviours does help to reveal power structures and how they are maintained. Additionally, the concept of Communities of Practice can help to find and examine the roots of gender notions and point us to where work and change are required.

I am an undergraduate History and English student at the University of Heidelberg and an advocate of intersectional feminism. Through my work, I try to shed light on unequal power relations in our society and give voice to those who are oppressed or unheard.


E-Mail: amaya.gandy@gmail.com