If you show students sentences like "Damn right I will" and "I was so cross, I can't tell you", they will usually say that the first one is likely to have been said by a man and the latter one by a woman. This raises several questions, all of them dealt with astutely in this book. First, are these judgements accurate? Second, if the students are right, why do these differences exist (and if they are wrong, where do their stereotypes come from)? Third, are the differences a bad thing? Fourth, if so, what can be done about them?
Feminist questions about language raise basic research issues as well as political ones. It takes skill and sensitivity to cover an area like this, and this book has both in great measure. Margaret Gibbon's critique of the "Men are from Mars, women are from Venus" approach to gender is telling. Linguists looking for a concise introduction to language and gender will also find in the book exactly what they need, especially as it confronts squarely the relationship between this area and social class. I highly recommend this book.
Raphael Salkie is principal lecturer in language studies, University of Brighton.
Feminist Perspectives on Language. First Edition
Author - Margaret Gibbon
ISBN - 0 582 35636 9
Publisher - Longman
Price - £16.99
Pages - 186