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[Opinion] Words and Women

Posted March. 21, 2004 23:09,   


Commonly, a talkative woman is tabooed both in the East and West. This Korean proverb is also comparatively weak: “If a woman takes power in a house, the family will collapse.” Great Greek philosophers sometimes used distorted logic such as if women speak too much, their wombs will dry up. Patricia Schroeder, a former U.S. representative, retorted against her political enemies who were attacking successful women with their family affairs by stating, “I have both a womb and a brain that function quite normally.”

▷ The ancient Greek democracy was just nominal that absolutely excluded women and slaves. The democracy was purely for and by “only male citizens.” Only a few people who learned the persuasive art from sophists, like today’s instructors at expensive private institutions, could enjoy intellectual superiority and privileges. Back then, articulate words were equal to wealth and power. A group of feminists interprets that the traditional taboo of belittling speaking women comes from a male conspiracy to make words their exclusive possession. They also see that the tradition of disdaining jobs of witches and shamans that use incantation originated from the enormous conspiracy.

▷ The situation now has changed; women’s words are now very influential, probably because of the abundant number of articulate women who received higher educations. Recently analyses are revealing that women’s high tone is more expressive and their narrative story plot is more popular than men’s argumentative one. It is said that the subdued speech style of Ronald Reagan, a former U.S. president who was also once an actor, was the driving force of his victory in the presidential debate over Walter F. Mondale, who was armed with a more complex logic. Deborah Tannen, a linguist at Georgetown University, wrote a bestseller introducing different style of narrations between men and women; men seek power while conversing and women seek harmony.

▷ Major political parties have replaced their spokespersons with females during this important season before the national election. It is not clear yet whether this signifies the leap of women’s power, or simply men’s politically strategic usage of women. Considering the female spokesperson at the previous administration, however, it is not a new concept to see a female spokesperson in the political arena. I hope they will provide fresh air within the political wind of the present politics, which is lacking in communication, with their excellent speaking abilities and words of harmony.

Park Sung-hee, Editorial Writer and Professor at Ewha Women’s University