The Language of Gender

Student Author(s)

Nicolette DeSantis

Faculty Mentor(s)

Dr. Sarah Kornfield, Communication

Document Type


Event Date



This research addresses how language and gender co-construct. We focus our analysis through three overarching questions: 1) How does language reinforce the gender binary? 2) How does language give power and preference to one gender over another? and 3) What are the long-term effects of reinforcing the binary and/or favoring one gender’s voice over another’s? To facilitate our discussion of these questions, we review key theories of gendered communication, specifically from authors Judith Butler and Adrienne Davis. From there we went on to use three-real world case studies, focusing on women in politics, “bro talk”, and how women conversationally say “no” to sexual advances, as evidence for the ways in which these theories are seen in society. Ultimately, we found that language and gender co-construct in both subtle and glaringly obvious ways that give preferential treatment to one gender over the other. We conclude by developing practical discussion questions and recommendations that will guide undergraduate students as they think through the complexities of language and gender.

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