Preface

This book is about how we communicate gender and why language and discourse play such important roles in the process. Because my own intellectual training lies primarily in linguistics, that has to some extent led me to look at gender primarily through the lens of language. However, I think a good case can independently be made for the centrality of language and communication to any discussion of gender, or for that matter virtually any discipline. If you accept my arguments that what we call "society," or even more grandly, "reality" itself, is largely constructed and represented to ourselves and others through language, then language and discourse are paramount. In the first chapter I explain why "doing" gender is a dynamic and inherently communicative process and why language is so fundamental to understanding our gendered selves.

Certainly another indication of the centrality of language is its frequent mention in the popular debate on sexual difference. This can be seen by picking up almost any contemporary magazine where articles on topics such as differences in male-female conversation, body language, advice on how women should speak in the workplace, and so on, have become increasingly frequent. Sociolinguist Deborah Tannen's book, which was a best seller for several years, dealt with problems in male-female communication.

The many popular articles and books now being published about the topic of cross-gender communication suggest that men and women are having a hard time communicating with one another. At home, women complain that their husbands do not really talk to them. Men complain that women talk constantly, but have nothing important to say. At work, men say that women get intimidated and offended too easily. They do not

-xi-

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