“Women and Men: Talking, Arguing, Loving, and Politicking” Why? Radio Episode with Guest Deborah Tannen
3:35AM Oct 16, 2020
Jack Russell Weinstein
Disclaimer: This transcript has been autogenerated and may contain errors, do not cite without verifying accuracy. To do so, click on the first word of the section you wish to cite and listen to the audio while reading the text. If you find errors, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include the episode name and time stamp where the error is found. Thank you.
Why philosophical discussions about everyday life is produced by the Institute for philosophy and public life, a division of the University of North Dakota's College of Arts and Sciences. Visit us online at why Radio show.org
Hi, welcome to wide philosophical discussions with everyday life. I'm your host, jack Russell Weinstein, today begins our ninth season on the air. So thank all of you for your loyal support. We begin the new season with our guest Deborah Tannen, talking about men, women and how they use language to communicate. I always define feminism for my students in the same way. It's the claim that gender is a legitimate category of analysis. In other words, feminism as a philosophy is the idea that we gain relevant information by asking how something affects women as women and men as men. This seems commonplace now, but for most of the history of philosophy, frankly, for most of the history of the human pursuit of knowledge, gender difference was invisible. All humans were men, women were just lesser or incomplete. Now, we know now that this isn't true, there are biological differences for sure, but there are also differences in cultural expectation and personal experience. Feminists disagree about how important these factors are, but how much the difference is derived from nature and how much from culture. But whatever the cause, we still don't understand many of its effects. This is true in politics. It's also true in linguistics, the study of language tends to be focused on neurology and on grammar. But less attention is paid to meaning and even less on the way that men and women each impart this meaning. That's exactly what today's show will be about how different genders communicate and how their messages get confused in the process. To a certain extent, we're used to this discussion. Anyone in a heterosexual relationship will be familiar with the complaints that boyfriends and girlfriends hear things differently, that husbands and wives are talking cross purposes and that sibling conversations occur on a very different level than the spoken one. But these are most often dismissed as individual miscommunications. The results of a particular family are specific dysfunctions. One partner is dismissed as crazy, the other is needy. One is depicted as cold, the others too dramatic, someone maybe everyone is simply not listening. If only we could get people to focus and to be clear, all those problems would go away. This demand for universal clarity was inherited from Plato. It's made its way through Peter Abba lard and was celebrated by vidkun Stein. But suppose that language difference is not a matter of mistakes or miscommunications, but rather, laden with gender expectations and reinforced by friends who take sides. What if we are encouraged to speak in these codes? Because if we do, we have more professional and romantic opportunities. And if we don't, we are punished or shunned. See, that's feminism right there. What happens when we make gender irrelevant category of analysis, a whole new world opens up. Language is about more than communication. It cultivates a sense of intimacy and belonging, it creates our understanding of the world. It is as inwardly focused as it is about expressing ourselves. What's the relationship between what someone says and what someone thinks between how one speaks and how one actually is between our communicative successes and our personal imaginations? If every time we speak, we are rebuffed? Does it stunt what we can conceive of? This is the central question of George Orwell's 1984. If we have too simplistic answers to any of these questions, we might end up with fascism. But we might also end up relying on silly and uninformative tropes, like men are from Mars, and women are from Venus. But just as we are concerned with speakers identities, we also have to consider languages audience, how does one communicate to be heard? Our society is obsessed with authenticity, we're continually asking how to best represent our true selves, but rarely talk about how to be understood. politicians do this better than anyone else. Donald Trump is particularly good at it and Hillary Clinton is not. But suppose the reason for their varying or rhetorical success is not that one speaks in a shallow code of racism and the other with a lawyers caution, but that one is a man and rewarded for certain kinds of language, while one is a woman and condemned for the only linguistic tools she is permitted to use publicly. I'm not suggesting these are the only reasons nor that we take them at face value. My point is that feminism as a philosophy that claims gender is a legitimate analytic tool is relevant here. Let's ask and see what happens. On today's episode of why we're going to explore these themes with possibly the world's foremost feminist linguist. She will explain all of this much better than I can. But before we begin, we must acknowledge that her very project is not only informative but important. It is also still radical her popular other books make Gender Analysis look easy, but feminism is still scary to many. And maybe in the context of language, it is scarier Still, if we do learn to communicate better, we will suddenly understand one another more. And when men and women do that, we'll have a hell of a lot of problems to discuss.
And now our guest, Deborah Tannen is university professor in the linguistics department at Georgetown University. She has published 24 books and is best known as the author of you just don't understand women and men and conversation, which was on the New York Times bestseller list for nearly four years. Deborah, welcome to y.
So glad to be here.
We're live this evening and would love to have your questions and comments, you can email us at ask why umd.edu tweet at at wire radio show post on facebook.com slash Why do radio show or join the conversation with our intern Sam at the chat room at flossing public life.org? Or I should say why Radio show.org? And if all goes well, we will be broadcasting via Periscope. And of course why radio show? So Deborah first four years on the bestseller list. I mean, that's that's Harry Potter timeline. I mean, that's amazing.
Yeah, that's once in a lifetime. And I guess not that many.
Is it? Um, I mean, I'm sure it was beyond everyone's expectations. But it's not often that an academic oriented book becomes such a such a best seller, people spend their entire careers trying to do that.
Yeah, that was a surprise to everyone. In fact, there was quite a bit of drama. The book was published in May. By June, it was out of stock, and was out of stock pretty much the entire summer. At that time, publishers had to make decisions once a week about how many copies they would print. And they didn't want to print enough books to meet demand because they were sure it was gonna blow over. And I still remember when I got an excited voicemail message from my editor. We did it we did it. They're gonna publish 25,000 this Monday and another 25,000 next Monday. And then I think we're gonna catch up with it.
So yeah, nobody expected it.
I think part of it is because I was focusing on language. And so many of the books were written by psychologists and in fact, I'm often mistaken for a psychologist, I'm often asked, Do you see private patients? And I say, I have nothing but respect for people who see private patients and who do psychology but my field is linguistics. And I approached it from the, from the perspective of language, how do people use language in their everyday lives? And when the way we use language differs? What are the effects of that on relationships?
You know, it seems to me that focusing on language would help curb some anxiety not to ask you to be a therapist here, but but fit that I know that I was worried that pointing out generic differences between men and women will strike some people as sexist or rub people the wrong way. How do we how do we have these conversations without falling into stereotypes and and without sort of following the worst tendencies that people have when they discuss the battle of the sexes?
Well, well, let me say to start, I was never an expert on gender. And I didn't approach this from the perspective of gender, but rather from the perspective of conversational style, and cross cultural communication. My dissertation and my first book, were comparing New York and it was actually in New York, Jewish conversational style with California. Now, when I wrote about it in academic writing, and in my dissertation and first book, I didn't say New York, Jewish California, although I certainly identified the speakers that way. But I called it high involvement, style, and high consider in a style. And when you realize that what you're interpreting as people's intentions, may really just be a difference in style. It explains what's going on without placing blame. And that's an enormous relief to everybody. And it also from my perspective is real. So let me just give you an example of one of the key things I found in the New York versus California. research that I did, and anytime two people speak, you have to have some way of knowing when the other person's turn is over, and it's your turn to begin. One way that we gauge that is how much pause has been left. How much pause do we think is normal before we assume? Well, I guess you don't have any more to say and so I should take the floor. There was a very slight difference in the length of pause expected by the California And the New Yorkers. Now it happened in this case that it was the New Yorkers that expected a slightly shorter pause. So at a point that perhaps this was a six people speaking so perhaps a California was still California was still waiting for the amount of pause that to them would be normal. Okay, then I know that's okay to take the floor. Before that amount of pause comes, a shorter amount comes that will strike the New Yorkers as well, I guess nobody's saying anything if I want to save the conversation, so it doesn't grind to a halt here, I better say something. And you end up with a situation where one party or one group of speakers is doing all the talking,
you're describing my life. I mean, as a as a New Yorker in North Dakota, I find myself inadvertently interrupting all of the time ago, you know, and I do it on I do it on the radio show at times. But we have a wonderful engineer who can then to edit out the podcast and make me look much more polite. But it's it's what is there a line between what someone would call conversation or language use and what someone would call behavior mean this, I think about, I often tell my students that if you're traveling in a foreign country, you will find yourself bumping into people a lot, because you don't know the subtle turns of the shoulder that indicate whether you're going to go left or right. And this seems like something similar. At what
point does it it's very similar. I think that's a very nice analogy. Because there are definitely kidneys, or you know, movement analogues to all these things about speaking. So not only and, and I say New York and California might be not to go to California, or, but it's always relative, so a California and speaking to someone from Maine, they would be the interrupter, someone from Maine speaking to an American Indian, they would be the interrupter. But in addition to questions of how long pause you leave before turns might be how close you stand when you speak. And it's I've actually had this experience. And you may have heard already, I'm from Brooklyn, New York, I had a colleague from the Midwest, and we would kind of slowly make our way down the hall because I would keep getting a little bit closer to get comfortable, I would back up a little bit to get comfortable. And one point I almost I had to stop him before he backed over a staircase backwards. And it's all very automatic. And of course, this issue of speaking, taking turns is just one small aspect of conversational style. And I can mention many others. So this is how I approached gender and how I did approach gender. So the first book that I wrote for general audiences was called, that's not what I meant. And it was just introducing this idea that so many of the things we think, when it happens to us is somebody else having bad intentions or misunderstanding us or being rude. Often, not always, people are sometimes just rude. But often it could be traced to a difference in conversational style. So I had one chapter there, about gender. And that was the chapter that got all the attention. So I decided, Okay, I'll write my next general audience book. And I was alternating academic books for academic audience, and then one for a general audience. Okay, the next general audience book will be about gender. I did not it expected to take over as it did and to get the to kind of absorb all the oxygen in my life, as it did. But I think it speaks to something. When I was saying, people have different conversational styles, you might be frustrated with someone, but it really is their conversational style. I don't think people it wasn't solving a problem they knew they had. But the gender issue was something that everybody was grappling with. They felt I sometimes asked when I speak to do feel when you're talking to somebody from the other gender, that you're talking to somebody from another world. People often feel that way. And in a way they are because we grow up in different worlds, because girls and boys are treated differently, because they tend to use language differently in their same sex, playgroups. So it was it was speaking to an issue that people already were grappling with. And they felt that they saw explanations of things they had experienced and had worried about and grappled with
was, was there, the equivalent grappling in the linguistics community. We had Carol Gilligan on a couple years back, which was a tremendous experience talking about how women and men have maybe different styles of reasoning and different styles of play. When she first wrote in a different voice, it was a radical departure for psychology was this gender based approach to linguistics also equivalently radical or or was there already, these kinds of discussions going on in the professional context,
the gender and language field was founded earlier 1975, a book by Robin Lakoff language and woman's place, that's generally where the field began that's generally agreed upon with the field began. So my book came along in 1990, it was a bit later. And by the way, Robin Lakoff was one of my professors at origin at Berkeley, where I got my PhD. But interestingly, I really had not it was not her work on gender that had particularly inspired me. She had done foundational work in many other areas, including the concept of communicative style. That was what had really lit a fire under me. And I had worked with so many names on gumpertz, who had worked on cross cultural communication. And I put those two things together, conversational style might take on communicative style, and approaching conversations between women and men as a kind of cross cultural communication. That was not my original idea, either. There had been a short essay written by someone, also, somebody at Berkeley who I had met, also kind of influenced by john Gompers. So I would not say that the ideas and you're just an understand were particularly new. But what's interesting is the feminist linguistics what you were you were talking about the field of feminist linguistics, really didn't come out of linguistics, there really hasn't been a feminist linguistics in the United States, there has been in the UK. And there are a number of linguists who I think would define themselves that way, British socio linguist or linguists, but there really wasn't here, there were people in the field of communication, who were writing about language and gender with a specifically feminist agenda. They started out with the assumption that women are discriminated against and oppressed and then they look to see what role language was playing in that. That was very different from how I came to it. For me, it was a subfield of what affects conversational style. How can it differ from one person or group of people to the next? And how does that lead to misunderstandings? I was kind of starting from the assumption, we all tend to assume that others must mean what we would mean, if we spoke in that way in that context. When conversational styles are relatively similar, that is probably relatively accurate. When styles differ, then probably those conclusions are not accurate. So I was coming at it from a very different perspective. I'm personally a feminist, but I never thought of my work as feminist linguistics.
When when you talk about conversational style, I have this sense of sort of defaulting towards the spontaneous, yet. There's all of these people who have pre established words. So I'm thinking, and I'm sure we're going to talk more about this later on the show. But I'm thinking, right, Donald Trump right now speaks extemporaneously, a lot does not stick to the teleprompter and Hillary Clinton 10s are in her speeches to stick to the teleprompter is the gender effect much more visible for Trump because he's speaking spontaneously or does it also, in fact, the way that people write that they should speak in, in in written speeches, for example.
There's a way that gender is overlaid on everything anyone ever says, and it can't be escaped. We have expectations for the way we think a woman or a man should speak. So anything they say, will either strike us as appropriate because it's what we expect of that person, or we will have judgments about them. That may not may or may not be accurate, because they aren't speaking in the way we expect a woman or expect a man to speak. Maybe this is not a bad time to bring this idea up. A way to put it is that women are faced with a double bind. And Robin laico was the first to write about this. A double bind is really complicated. It's not like a double standard in a double standard. Okay, women are judged by different standard than men, but they can meet that standard or surpass it. Maybe that's not fair. That they have to meet a different standard, but it is a standard that can be met. A double bind is a situation where you have two requisites, but anything you do to fulfill one actually violates the other. And I should say this was any anthropologists listening will want to correct me it was Gregory Bateson, who developed the idea of the double blind. And it was Robin, like, applied it to women in public life.
I'll filter that out of the email, so I'll just ignore those. Correct. Okay.
Yeah, so the anything that Hillary Clinton says, that is self deprecating, seems to put herself down seems to see it sound uncertain, that would be appealing to people, because women are expected to speak that way. But it would make her seem like not a very good leader. If she speaks as a leader is expected to speak, confident talking about what she's done well, and by the way, when you're talking to a roomful of thousands of people raising your voice, suddenly, she's being criticized every place for shouting. And then if you listen to all the candidates, they always shout, you have to when you're talking to them, many people, but it tends not to be noticed if it's a man shouting, but a woman shouting just rubs people the wrong way. So I think this, this affects the way Hillary Clinton is seen, regardless of how she speaks. People are often saying, Well, why don't you tell her how she should be great. The very fact that everyone thinks they can tell her what she should do, I think that in itself, women are subjected to that more than men are. But there really is nothing that's going to be right. Because if she, whatever, whatever she does, is either going to make her seem like a good leader or a good woman. And those are not the same expectations.
And this double bind, isn't, of course, just for Hillary Clinton, right? It's present in relationships. It's pleasant in the workplaces. It's pleasant in any place where women are interacting, in particular with men, but not solely with men, right?
Yes, absolutely. I did an extended study of women and men in the workplace. It led to a book called talking from nine to five. Part of my research there and I recorded I had people record themselves, I shadowed people, I went to work every day in a number of corporations over a period of time. Any place where I did my research, and I would ask to speak to the highest ranking women in the organization. Without fail, I'd be told whether or not she was aggressive. This is this is our leader of our this department. She has a soft touch. This is the head of this department. She's kind of aggressive, but she's really good at what she does. There was always that question, Is she not aggressive? And in other kind of coming face to face with this, when you just didn't understand was published, I was invited to give a talk to the senators and their spouses. Al Gore at that time was in the Senate and he and Barbara Mikulski together invited me. So I did the talk, and they were at that time to women in the Senate.
Deborah, I have to I have to interrupt for just a second. I don't want to ruin a good story. So we have to take a break. When we get back. We'll talk about this story. And we'll go into this question of how do we help people and change people you're listening to Deborah Tannen and jack Russel Weinstein on why philosophical discussions about everyday life. We'll be back right after this.
The Institute for philosophy and public life bridges the gap between academic philosophy and the general public. Its mission is to cultivate discussion between philosophy professionals, and others who have an interest in the subject regardless of experience or credentials. visit us on the web at philosophy and public life.org. The Institute for philosophy and public life because there is no ivory tower.
You're back with why philosophical discussions but everyday life. I'm your host jack Russell Weinstein. We're talking with Deborah Tannen, about gender and communication style and conversation style and specific this particular but we're talking about politics and life and General and and you know, I think when I think about Deborah's work, which I've been familiar with for a long time, because her work like Carol Gilligan was very influential to me. I think about a experience I had as a grad student, I'd gotten back from Vienna, Austria, where I live for a while long term listeners will be familiar with that. And I was living at home for a couple months while I got myself settled, my father had remarried. And he was he had this woman who I won't say her name, and we had some difficulties, and the whole family had some difficulties. And I was reading john graves, men are from Mars, women are from Venus, which is a touchy subject, because gray likely lifted a bunch of Deborah Tennant's work, and I don't want to get into all of that stuff. But I, I read it. And there was this whole chapter about men and women communicating and conflict and how it would be really useful that instead of saying something, you send a letter, and you write it down, and you carefully say exactly what you want to say. And then you send it to the person so that they can sit down and read it quietly, and, and reflect on it. And I did. And it was possibly among the worst advice ever got it in my entire life, it pretty much destroyed the relationship with my then stepmother who is no longer my stepmother. And while we eventually were able to talk very casually and carefully, we never were able to talk at ease again. And I tell that story, Deborah, because I rudely interrupted you before. But there's this theme that people expect your books to play a self help role. And john, someone like john gray advertises himself as a self help person, he actually deputizes people as sort of amateur therapists and gender therapists. And in my experience, you know, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. And so how do you envision mean, what's the self help role of your research? And how do you avoid the prospect of giving people really terrible advice?
Okay, I have so much to say about that example. Let me say, first of all, I don't give advice. And sometimes that frustrates people, but they usually end up thanking me for that. I always say, in order to know what's going to work in an individual situation, you need to know a lot about that situation, who were the people? What are their styles? What's your history? And so anything that will be exactly right, for one will be exactly wrong for another. On the other hand, understanding what the parameters of interaction are, what are the aspects of conversational style? How can things go awry? How can you try doing something differently than you did before. And see if you have a better response, as an example, you have a slightly different sense of pausing. And so you're doing all the talking and the other person is not counter seven before you go ahead and start speaking, you might be amazed that they start to speak with a person who thinks you don't want to hear me talk you only one, hear yourself talk, push yourself to begin speaking a little more quickly. And you might be amazed that they're very happy to stop and listen to you. So once you understand that the impression that somebody is interrupting you with the pressure that somebody has nobody, nothing to say, could be a matter of a slight linguistic difference in length of pause expected, then you have your own ways of finding solutions. So and I'll give you some more examples of that, I have to hasten to say that that advice of writing a letter was patently bad advice on the surface. Because one of the things I found and I write this in the book about the workplace, talking from nine to five, conflicts that had arisen. In these workplaces, when I had done my research, they're always resulted from one way communication, and email, a memo, a message left on voicemail, one way communication, that way, you get deeper and deeper and deeper into whatever line you're following. And you don't get to see the other person's response. So you don't stop. If you were face to face. And you said something that really pushed the buttons of the person you're speaking to, in your case, your stepmother, you would stop because she would stop you. And you would either backtrack or explain why you said it. Or maybe you didn't mean it the way she took it, or maybe you did, but at least you get you wouldn't go as far down that road as you would when you don't see the response and there's no holds barred. So, that that's, that's I would say that that's never a good idea. And I'd like to give a couple more are examples of how just knowing what the problem is you can find your own solution. So one of the issues that frequently comes up it's, it's it's kind of a truism now, but I did write about it, and you just didn't understand and had not really heard about it before I wrote it there. That end of day conversation where a woman wants to talk about a problem, and a man offers a solution, and then she's frustrated, don't tell me what to do. And he just doesn't really want a solution. And then he's frustrated. Why do you want to talk about it if you don't want to do anything about it? And he felt he was actually asked for his advice, why else would you tell him? There's a whole lot to say about that. The role of troubles talk in girls and women's relationships, so that just listening is doing something about it. Because it doesn't have that role in boys, men's socialization, it doesn't feel like just listening is doing anything, and they really want to do something to help. The more serious the problem, the more eager they are to solve it and help you solve it. So many people have said, okay, the solution is to this issue a Give, give advice. Obviously, the one should say, I don't want your advice, I just want you to listen, that is going to drive him completely crazy. If he has no idea why you want to talk about something, if it's not to find a solution. If you both understand the role of talk in the socialization and the formation of close relationships in the different gender groups, then you don't need to be told you know, it. Um, one couple actually said to me, that just seeing this explanation was such a lifesaver in their marriage. And the guy said to me, now she's reading maps. I said, What, what is that to do? And he said, Well, now that you know, we come home at the end of the day, and I understand why she wants to talk. And I and I listen, she that has just been so satisfying to her that she decided she wanted to do something equivalent. I was always frustrated that she couldn't read maps. So she made the effort. There's a goodwill that that grows out of that.
And a quick example, something else that came up that comes up in my book, and that if I'm giving a lecture, I actually have videotapes to show this. When little girls and really girls and women of any age talk to each other, they tend to face each other directly. And, and maintain a direct face to face gaze, listener and speaker, one voice of any age and men, when we talk casually, tend to either sit at angles or even parallel and look around the room and not gaze at each other directly. A direct stare between men and boys often is perceived as aggressive as trying to start a fight. So a sign of goodwill for the boys and guys will be don't look directly and for the girls a sign of goodwill is to look directly. Well, this creates problems. And one of the biggest complaints you hear from women about close relationships with men is He doesn't listen to me. And sometimes that is true. But often it's the not looking at her that gives her the impression that he's not listening. So I had a young woman in one of my classes and she said, Oh that that explains this. She had a guy she was saying and she said, You know, when she wanted to talk to him about something important. He would lie down on the floor, closest eyes and put his arm over his eyes. And she would go bonkers. You know, he's taking a nap. And he'd say, No, no, I'm listening. Good. Once she heard this, it suddenly made sense to her. So she told him about it, you know what she learned in class and, and decided that she was not going to demand anymore that he looked at her because that's what her female friends said. Well, the next time it happened, he started to lie down that and he sat up and he looked at her. And she said, What? To what do I owe this? And he said, Well, now that I understand why it means something to you, I'm going to try to do it.
Oh, that's wonderful. So here's, here's here's, here's a question about from our listeners really about how fluid and changeable these things are both Marcel from Houston, and skip from Fargo asked questions about being transgender and here's how skip describes I think it's a really interesting question. Here. I've heard that a transgendered person getting coached on transitioning from man to woman is advised to appear more feminine by phrasing suggestions as a question rather than a statement. You know, he gives example, do you think we should as opposed to I think we should. First of all, does this make sense consistent with what you've learned about people but sec, but second, as as being transgender becomes more commonly accepted and more open. in society, how much are people who are transgender expected to learn a new and mimic and the other genders, conversational style.
This is fascinating. I have been told that people who are transitioning to read my books as well as others who have written about this as a way to learn how to talk like the other gender. And I love to read memoirs by people who have transitioned because what can be more enlightening than to read the experience of people who have lived as both genders. And they see the difference in how they're responded to when they talk the same way? So absolutely. It seems that this is something that individuals are doing, whether or not they choose to, I think it's totally up to them. If you want to pass that is to be seen as the other gender, then I suppose it's helpful to talk in ways that are expected of people of that gender, although not everybody, not every woman and man speaks that way. I actually, my current book that actually just finished a week ago, is about friends talking. And I interviewed a transgender man, because I was very curious about this. And he said that, because he was socialized as a woman. His approach to friendship is very similar to girls and women's that is, he expects to get together with his friends to talk call to find out things are going scheduled tip walk, take a walk, have coffee. And so his closest friends tend to be other transgender men, who also were socialized as women and socialized that way. And his experience, and this is I wrote about this in my own research, because there's lots backing this up, it's more common among men, not to get together just to talk but to get together to do something, and then talk while they do it. And this is something that parents who have both sons and daughters fine, you can sit your daughter across the table and ask what's going on her life. And she may tell you, but you probably won't get a whole lot out of your son. That way. You might hear more if you take a ride in the car, where you don't look directly at each other. Or maybe you're doing something and talk while you're doing it. So this transgender man's experience was that his friendships, because they were following what he had learned growing up as a woman was a little different from men. Now, I'd have to say here, because I have to say it all the time. There are always exceptions.
And this was this is what I was going to ask
Oh is exception. Can you imagine if anything was 100% versus zero percent. There's no such study. There's no such phenomenon. If you have a study that finds 10% 60% versus 40%, that's a strong finding. So of course, there are men and my husband is one who makes appointments to sit and just talk with his friends, they up to our phone conversations, they take walks and they talk about what they're what's going on in their lives. There are certainly men that do that. We're talking about tendencies and percentages.
I think this is one of the things that was so difficult for me in following through on on the advice from metaphor, Mars, women are from Venus is that when you read his book, you get this sense that all men are identical, and all women are identical. And all relationships have the same problem. And I think what the transgender example illustrates is, it's certainly much more complicated than in everyday life, but it's infinitely more complicated when you're transitioning. And so then I guess the question is, is it simply that one conversational style is to be preferred by one person? Is there? Let me rephrase the question. Is there a bad guy? You know, a lot of times when you talk about men and women in conversation, you people bristle and they think that, well, you're just talking about how awful men are, and they're not good listeners in there. And then you know, they're not responding.
Okay. I never say that. You know that.
I know that. I know, that sounds so so which is why I'm asking the question. Is there is there a preferred conversational style? Or is it just relative to who you are?
I'm glad you asked. I always say, the best conversational style is the one that you as an individual like sharing. Now, it may be that you really like someone who has the same conversational style as you or you might actually like someone who has a complimentary and different style, but it's going to vary. Now, the fact that I don't say women are better, has made a lot of women mad at me. When the book came out. I got As Carol Gilligan did as well, I got quite a bit of criticism. And from both sides, that is from people who said, I shouldn't be saying that women and men are different. And then from people who said, I should be saying women are better, and I'm not. And I and I pointed out having come at this from the perspective of cross cultural communication, I couldn't very well believe, well, you know, English is a better language than French, right? Or Turkish is a better language than German.
Obviously, people like their own language, and if you happen to speak Turkish, you're going to prefer speaking to someone who speaks Turkish than someone who speaks German if you don't know German. But it's not that it's, it's inherently a better language. And I feel exactly the same way about conversational styles and ways of speaking. And all the same things that vary by gender, vary by culture as well. So this issue of indirectness, which you alluded to, earlier, that I guess it was a email you got, or or tweet, that people transitioning from male to female are told to be more indirect. So use a question to get something to do while there is lots of evidence that girls and women are more likely to say, you know, for example, a woman told me, she'll say to her daughter, would you like to clean up your room, and the daughter may or may not clean up the room, but she won't object was the son will take it literally and say, No, I would not like if you make me clean, and I'll clean it, but it wouldn't like to. So yeah, the point that women are more in general, more likely to use questions to express a preference. There is some some evidence supporting that, but it varies very much by culture. So there are cultures in which both women and men will prefer indirectness. There are cultures in which both women and men will prefer direct directness, show, yeah, it can vary by by gender in one culture, but vary by culture as well. And so, to me, it doesn't make any sense at all to say that one style is better. The style that works and is shared is the one that's better.
I'm thinking about two things at once. I'm thinking first of Pakistani, I guess, refugee family that lived with us for a little while, and the relationship didn't go as easily as we wanted to, because there were so many layers of cross cultural conversation, both male to male, and, and, and, and male to female and female to male and, and it was a mess. And I've spent the last year and a half parsa get in my brain. What could I have done better? What could I have done worse? And of course, I don't have enough information to answer that. But I'm also thinking about the question that Jennifer from Washington DC has sent us. And she's asking, ultimately, how generational is this? are the things that you described? She said she liked very much. And she's a therapist. She liked very much your book about mothers and daughters in conversation, and she wants to know, do you think that your conclusions will change with the next generation with millennials? Or are these conclusions things that you feel last from in multiple generations and perhaps many generations?
Yeah, it's such a good question. I had no reason when I did this research to assume that it would not change. But it's now almost 25 years, it is 25 years since the book came out. And I have my students go out and observe conversations and seems like much of it most of it has not changed. Now, it doesn't mean there are no changes across the board. So women in positions of authority, for example, are much less likely to be asked to get coffee. But are they going to be Miss understood because or miss evaluated because of ways of speaking, that seems to not have changed? So, you know, for example, if a woman in position of authority tries to get somebody else to do something by showing respect for their, the work they've done, here's a real example that happened. She had to tell a guy that his report was inadequate. And he had to rewrite it started by saying what was what was good about it, so that he would know his work had been appreciated. Then she told him what he needs to change when he gave it back to her who really hadn't made those changes. And when she asked why he said, Well, you told me it was fine the way it was. So he had misunderstood her starting with what was good as being the main point. And he had heard what he really needed to change as afterthoughts. not that important. Another quick example, woman who owned bookstore, thought she had asked the manager to help the bookkeeper with the billing hadn't done it. So get sits down to ask him, he said, turned out she had said the bookkeeper needs help with the billing house. would you feel about helping her out? And he said, Fine. And he meant fine, he would think about how he would feel about helping her out. He knew she wanted him to do it. But he didn't understand that she wanted him to do it now, he didn't hear it as a command, but as a more general expression of something that might be helpful. So these kinds of things are still happening. And my guess is it's gonna keep happening. Today, a couple words about the mother daughter situation. Yeah. And I was asked her remember by by a journalist at that time, we're both women, how come we have these misunderstandings, whether it's so many other things going on in life other than gender differences. And in a way communication between mothers and daughters is a perfect storm to use, maybe in a bit overused metaphor. So from the point of view of a daughter, here's the person you most want to think you're perfect. She knows you so well. everywhere, all worried that we're fatally flawed. So if our mother sees our problems, then we really worry how bad they must be? Well, from the point of view of the mother, here's the person you most want to help you most want to make sure things go well for her, and a person with whom you look at with the same level of scrutiny that you look at yourself. So the one person who's gonna see the pimple on your face is your mother, and you I think of the woman who said, My mother's losing her eyesight, but she can still spot a pimple across. She's the end, she'll probably follow up with, I saw this commercial for this great cream, you should try or maybe I bought you this cream you should try. And so the mother's desire to make sure everything goes as well as it can for her for your daughter and help her improve, will be perceived as the daughter as she sees me as flawed. And she's always criticizing me. And so where does linguistics come in here? We tend to think or it can only mean one thing. So if I feel criticized, and you say you weren't criticizing that can be true. From the point of view of the mother, I know, I wasn't criticizing I was just trying to help can open my mouth, there must be something wrong with you. The truth is, they're both made. Any suggestion for improvement isn't implied criticism. And implied criticism doesn't mean that it was not also intended to help.
And what I'm thinking of as the father of a 10 year old girl who hears my wife and my daughter have conversations like this, but is there? Are there similar patterns for fathers and daughters? I mean, I know you haven't studied them to that extent, but what what's gonna, what's gonna be, I'm yelling at myself wrestling this question, but but what's going to be the dominant? Really a filter for me to understand my relationship with my daughter that she's my daughter? Or that I'm a male, and she's a female? Is that is that a ridiculous question to ask? Is? That is the question?
Well, first of all, let me say this.
And we only have about a minute left.
Okay, just real quick. So that is one case in which I do give advice, bite your tongue. Don't give advice. Unless it's really, really important.
Okay. Fair enough.
Yeah. But I think I guess what you have to watch for as a father of a daughter, is maybe not to give advice based on what would be the situation with with a son. So you know, if a girl complains about problems she's having with their friends, they probably won't make a lot of sense to you. Because the way the girls punish each other is leaving each other out. Whereas boys will let other boys play, but maybe treat them kind of badly.
So I want you to finish your advice for me, for my daughter, and then if we can go back to this question of the story that you were you were talking about? Al Gore, and his wife, I believe earlier, because I want us to spend a little more time talking about the current political circumstances and Hillary Clinton versus Donald Trump and I have about 50 other questions, too. So but, um, the last thing you said in the live episode was that you had some other thoughts about father daughter relationships that were distinct from mother daughter relations.
Well, I have this two examples of what surprised parents of the other sex because I have talked to women who say they need a self help group from mothers of sons because they don't understand. The sons lives that haven't heard men ask for self help group for fathers of daughters. I think it's something parallel. And so I have a little clip that I show when I talk about Gender, and it's comparing how the boys and the girls talk to their friends. So the conversation among these four little boys goes something like this. They're talking about how high they can hit a ball. And once his mind's up to there, and the second one mind up to the sky, and the third one minds up to heaven, and the last one mines all the way up to God. So clearly, it's competitive. Clearly, they're topping each other. It's frequently said, boys are competitive girls are cooperative, I make the point. Yes. But they're cooperative in agreeing that competition is a fun kind of way to talk. And girls can be quite competitive about outcome who's more cooperative. And but in seeing these clips I've had mothers say to me, it helps them understand their sons. And this one woman said, she was driving in the car, her little boy was in the back with two other little boys. And one of them said, when we went to Disneyland, we stayed four days. And the second one said, we went to Disneyland, we stayed five days. And then her son said, we're going to move to Disneyland. And it was a challenge to her because she thought she should tell them no, you know, we're not going to move to Disneyland. And you shouldn't say things that aren't true. And I said, Don't worry, the boys know you're not moved to Disneyland. But your son won that round. So the tendency or the impulse for women not to understand that topping each other is a game for the boys. They don't take it literally they don't. They don't you don't have to tell them not to say things that aren't true in that context. It's the parallel the two little girls conversation. One of them says, Did you know my babysitter called amber has already contacts and others wears contact lenses. And her friend says, My mom has already context. So my dad does, too. And the first one is so excited. She says the same. Girls seem to really get a kick out of being the same in the way that girls get boys get a kick out of topping each other, completely different. And I've had several men come up to me and say it helps them understand their little girls. So this one said, his little girl was talking to her best friend. And the friend said, I have a brother named Benjamin and a brother named Jonathan. And his little girl said, I have a brother named Benjamin or brother named Jonathan too. And she didn't. He couldn't understand why she would say that. And then I said again, just like what the boys they know. She doesn't mean it literally. It's a sign of goodwill. And in fact, in conversations among women, it's almost expected that you say, Oh, I know I'm the same way. And if you say, Oh, I'm not like that, I wouldn't do that. Then your friend can take offense. You're putting me down,
right? Because it's a judgment. Yeah. Hmm. That is, that is tremendously interesting. And I could I could pull this thread for a long time, but it's my job as the host to keep us on task. And so if you wouldn't mind return to this question. You start the this story, you started talking about Al Gore,
I love to tell this. Okay. So my book you just didn't understand had just come out. And Al Gore was in in the Senate and Barbara Mikulski, friend of his Also Senator invited me to speak and they had a series of lectures for senators for senators and their spouses. Because the Anita Hill, Clarence Thomas hearings were going it's they were the clarence thomas hearings, I apologize. But the Anita Hill thing had just happened. And she was, had raised this issue of sexual harassment that nobody knew about. And it seemed a time to talk about gender. So he invited Carol Gilligan, he invited me at different times, and there was someone else as well. So I gave my talk talked about how women in positions of authority are in a double bind. If they talk in ways expected of women, they are seen as an effective leaders if they talk in ways expected of a leader. They are seen, they're not liked. They don't seem like good people, but really, it's because they're not what you expect of a good woman. And Nancy kassebaum, at that time, was the only other woman in the Senate. There were two women in the Senate, Nancy kassebaum. And Barbara Mikulski, and Barbara Mikulski had this hard charging style. Nancy kassebaum had the soft touch what you expect more of women, and she said, their fellow senators were always saying to Nancy kassebaum, Nancy, you should be more like Barbara and they were always saying to Barbara Mikulski, you should be more like Nancy kind of evidence that a woman can't get it right. That's the double bind. She can't fulfill expectations of a good senator and a good woman. So one was fulfilling expectations for a good woman. violating a good leader, a hard charging senator, the other was a hard charging senator violating expectations for being a good leader. And I write about this in about in a chapter about women and authority in my book, talking from nine to five. And I ended by saying, maybe if rather than to have the senators or women, then every woman will be free to be more like herself.
And that was actually a question that I was going to ask at some point, which is, how much of this conversational style difference is the product of inequality? If and I know and this is a hypothesis, at best, I'm sure. But if we lived in a purely egalitarian society, where men and women were truly equal, which we are far from right now, would the conversational styles be more similar? Is this a product of power relations and other such things,
there is certainly a school of thought that would claim that and to support that there is research showing that if you get people to roleplay courtroom scenarios, if they take the role of a lawyer, a person in power, that person will speak in ways we associate with them. If they take the position of a witness or a defendant, they will take the talk in ways we associate with the person out of power that is women. So that and other research and just I guess ideological arguments, maybe say that the reason women tend to be more indirect is that they have less power. I don't think that's true. We have anthropological research, for example, someone Elena oaks has studied Malagasy. in there, women are the ones who tend to be direct. Men use language in a more flowery, indirect way. And so that's the style that has prestige in that culture. Oh, women are so clumsy with language, they just come out, you know, and same thing they mean, it's men who really know how to use language in this ornate way.
There are cultures in which everybody women as well as men will be indirect. And I actually said this earlier, and others where everybody will be direct. I have had Japanese students in my class, for example, who point out, it's the person in power, that has the privilege of being indirect, because they're going to get their way because of their power. In fact, I had gotten a letter from a man who was quite highly ranked in the Navy. And he told me about his experience when he was in midshipmen. So he's being trained by an officer. And the officer stood in front of the class and said something like, it's cold in here. And the young men nodded. And then he said, Now let's try this again. If I say it's cold in here, you should do something about it. Let's do it. Again. It's cold in here. And they all got up and they went to the window and close the window. He said, this was a lesson that stood us in very good stead. Because the ranking in the military is so clear, we have a derogate typical image of the officers barking orders. Apparently, that is not the norm in the military. All the higher ranking person has to do is let it be known that there's a problem. And the lower ranking person knows it's their job to solve it. So here's I have lots of other explanation of that. But no, I don't think that that's because of the power difference.
And so here's an analogue question that we got from lawan. from Grand Forks. He says, from my experience with people from Christian faith, a lot of people see it as the man's role to take control at the end of an argument and make the decision. His question is, can this be a problem if both men and women assume the role of the man so I guess if I can sort of interpret the question, what happens when two conversational styles are both the authoritative style when both wants to be in command? is is is there just inherently conflict? Or are there ways to negotiate that?
I would say it could be a problem if both want to be in command, couldn't it also be a problem if both are expecting the other person to make the ultimate decision? Right? And this this has been leveled on women's groups, by the way that that sometimes everyone just kind of doesn't want to force anything on anyone else. And so they keep going in circles and no one wants to just make the decision. So yeah, I mean, I think any style can be effective, if it meshes well with the other person style and anything can be ineffective. If it clashes, I have to quickly tell the story I was on a radio show again after the book you just didn't stand was out. And this there was a caller, who said my wife and I agree that there can be only one boss in the house. And that's me. And the host of the show was offended by that. And she gave this long spiel about how nobody should be the boss, and everybody should be listened to, and we should all be equal here. And the man responded, that's what's matter with you, women, you want to dominate us. And she screamed into the microphone. Because she had just said, we weren't what we should be calling you here. And it seemed to me as irrational as it did to her. But then I realized, if you accept his premise, that there can only be one boss in the house, then if you don't want to be the subservient one, then you're trying to be the boss, and you're trying to dominate show, she really was starting from a different assumption. So that that can be a problem.
And this, this, this really seems to resonate with what Hillary Clinton is trying to do, right? I mean, that that I think there are a lot of people who are not sure what to make of a woman on authority, even if they support in principle, right? You can, I would imagine you can support everything that you're saying in principle and support feminism in principle. And still, because this stuff is so intimate and spontaneous and so deep, that you can still be rubbed the wrong way. I know so many people, women as well as men, who described Hillary Clinton as she, they just she just rubs them the wrong way. And this phrase, this phrases is yes. is a substitute for all of the stuff.
Yeah, absolutely. This feeling I just don't like her. I just don't trust her. I think there's two things going on. One is what I've been talking about that she isn't, doesn't have the self deprecating manner that you associate with inspect of women. So that definitely is part of it. But it has also intersected with something I've written about elsewhere. I wrote a book called The argument culture, about how adversarial formats or privileged no culture, it shows up in the press, and it shows up in politics. And it's gotten far worse than than it was when I wrote the book. So it's two things that I think are catching Hillary Clinton in the eye of the storm. The opposition has been no holds barred, attacking, and turning everything into a scandal is what the way they do that. whitewater, if you want to go back to that was a perfect example. That was nothing to it. But the right wing republicans were putting out all this stuff trying to make white water look like a terrible scandal. The Press picked it up, because scandals are appealing. You know, you can have headlines, The New York Times, it's not just the right wing press, The New York Times, at the time had one after another banner headlines about white water. People went to jail, millions of dollars was spent just people were destroyed. It turned out there was nothing to it. But the feeling that with a smoke this fire has been very, very much at play here. And then we start with Benghazi, we know it's happening with emails. The Washington Post just recently had a op ed that completely blown out of proportion it is, but because you keep hearing about all these scandals, you keep thinking people think she must be doing something wrong. And I saw something very parallel in my work in the workplace. Somebody that I talked to said, you know, he came from another division, he came into this division, there was a woman and everybody treated her as if she was incompetent. So he assumed she was incompetent. And then working with her, he discovered discovered she was the most competent person there. There, they were making assumptions about her because she was a woman and because of her style, again, she wasn't putting herself forward. She seemed to be unsure of herself. This is one things I found in my research. women often didn't want to sound certain because that would be boasting. So she would sound uncertain, but she was always right. But he had misjudged her because of the way other people were treating her. And I think that is something that was seeing with Hillary Clinton. The fact that she's always being investigated, even though one after another turns out to be nothing too. It makes people think she must really be doing something wrong.
There's another aspect that I wonder if there were other parallels in the work that you've done. One of the most enlightening pieces that I've read about her candidacy pointed out that when she has a job, and she's stable in that job, her approval ratings are sky high. But every time she seeks another job, anytime she tries to move up the ladder, then her approval levels dive that people think she's very, very good when she's not asking for a promotion. But when she's asking for a promotion, when she goes from a senator to Secretary of State, from Secretary of State to President, then that's what people object to, is that, um, is that unique to her circumstance? Or is that something that you found elsewhere?
But no, it isn't unique to her. And I think it's a very revealing important thing to point out. People who have known her and have worked with her, rave about her, everybody without fail, if she were a fraction of as dishonest and untrustworthy as she's made out to be, she would have made some enemies one in all these jobs that she's done. Quite the opposite. Even the republicans in the senator they rave about her. They, everybody who's worked with her says, she's one of the most hardworking, effective, delightful, successful people they've ever known. There was if you if you Google, Ezra Klein, Vox, you'll see he does a piece about that. He spent the whole summer talking to people would work with her. And they all kept saying how amazingly successful and good she was at getting things done at doing her job. So the two things that happen when she's campaigning, I think are, on the one hand, she has to get out there and chalk herself up. And people get to see these ways of speaking that they don't expect of a woman. So I think that's one part of it. And the other is that the argument culture kicks in, that suddenly the her opponent or political opponent is motivated to attack her. And then the press is motivated to blow up those attacks. When she isn't running for anything. She's just doing her job as a senator as Secretary of State, that motivation, isn't there.
So, so I mean, in the in the back of my head, I can hear some less sympathetic audience members, yes, say, Oh, come on. It can't just be because she's a woman. Now there are some people who would suggest and certainly at certain times, I will say, Yes, it can. But also, what you're suggesting, it's not just that she's a woman. It's also this intersection between she being a woman and this argument culture, that it traps her because she has to participate in one or the other, like the two senators that you were referencing earlier?
Yes, I do think so. And it's not that we don't also attack men in public office, or people running for public office. Absolutely. The argument culture, the attack culture, in politics in the press applies to men as well as women. But the resources that are available with which to attack women are more abundant, and they're right at hand. So the fact that, you know, her constantly being told she yells would be an example of that. All the candidates are yelling, but you don't notice it in the guys until you don't? You just wouldn't wouldn't think to mention it. And this, I think, this kind of in ineffable feeling of just being uncomfortable with her, I think of a woman actually someone quite a journalist commented to me, no, it has nothing to do with her being female. She's just strident. How often do you hear the word strident right, applied to men and the impression of being strident because you're talking in a loud and declamatory way? Is that thing that's required of a person in that position, but is not expected of a woman?
Is there a way around the double bind? Or does she just have to win and power through it? And then the next woman president will have to power through it, and then eventually, over time, this changes culturally?
The hope certainly is that it will change over time. I had an interesting comment by Ruth Bader Ginsburg and, and Sandra Day O'Connor actually was O'Connor who mentioned when she was the only woman on the Supreme Court, she said the press follow her every place. She couldn't make a move without it being written up in the press. But then when Parad ginsburg joined the Supreme Court. And there were two of them. Suddenly, she wasn't a novelty anymore. And they all went away and talked to a job. So the hope is that something like that will happen. When we have 234 women who have been president, maybe that'll cease being a story. But I do think the the double bind will always confront women in positions of authority. Maybe that's why certainly has a part to play in how so many years after the class, after women were moving into management decisions, there are still so few CEOs at the highest levels.
You know, it this this story by Senator Connor is really striking because I said, I recalled in my monologue, this notion very early on, in the history of ideas that men were the the standard, and women were somehow either less less or, or or deformed, man. And the implication in the Sandra Day O'Connor story is that she was a freak. And that it was it was so bizarre to them, that a woman could be a justice that they followed her around to see what she was going to do. And then when it became more normal, they had to acknowledge on some level that that these two women were human beings.
Yeah, I mean, I think I doubted it was thought through that way. But you're right. I think that's a lot of what's going on. There's a feeling that here's the only one let's look at it.
I want to ask a different question. But I just have to, I have to say, this must get so tiresome, not just as a woman who has to face all of this stuff, but as a scholar to revisit this fundamental cultural reality over and over and over again and see the resistance to the community of readers and and and the people in the society to acknowledge the truth. Is it is it exhausting.
I so appreciate your saying that. I feel like I'm being understood for the first time here. Thank you. I wrote an op ed piece in The New York Times about this in 1992 when Hillary Clinton was the wife of the presidential candidate, and was getting attacked, for everything she did, and it was pure double bind. At first, she had a very plain hairstyles, who were just a headband, mousy color hair, she was blasted. So she got her hair styled and dyed blonde. Then she was attacked for being manipulative and trying to manipulate her image. She was called, she was thought to be childless. So because she was keeping her they were keeping their child in the background. So okay, they came out with the fact that they had this child, then she was accused of yuppie overdosing on her daughter. And I wrote this op ed piece, and I called it the Hillary factor, because everyone was talking about what was the Hillary factor going to be this presidential candidate has such an accomplished wife, is this going to be good for him or bad for him. And I made the point, the real Hillary factor was the double bind of faces facing women in public life. In 1998, I wrote an op ed about the argument culture, it was called, they called it the triumph of the Yelp. And here we are 2016. And both apply just as strongly as they did then. And maybe worse.
And you can see, when you watch the Benghazi hearings, and the senators are just going after her and, and, and, and performing for the cameras the way they do, and she just sits there with this look on her face, like, I've been through this before. I'll be through it again. This is just my life. And she was so and I guess that's as a scholar, you're just going to have to read document that over and over and over again.
And as a woman, it is so disheartening, I can't just heartbreaking. And this, this election of all is is so important. What is at stake is so huge. One of the things I pointed out about the argument culture is now talked about as false equivalence. So the press feels that they have to have something to say about both both candidates and so they look for some tiny little thing that Hillary Clinton did wrong, right so that they can balance the literally illegal many illegal things that Trump has done wrong. Late. The latest, of course, is this Clinton Foundation stuff, which is Davis had an op ed piece, appointing out that the Trump foundation really did engage in illegal activity and had misrepresented things to the IRS and were forced to pay a fine to the IRS. There were 20 stories about the Trump foundation. Here's the Clinton Foundation generally agreed widely agreed to be doing huge good in the world. 680 stories about the Clinton Foundation.
It's so disheartening.
The folks at 538 and they're one of their most recent podcasts have an excellent discussion about false equivalence and the New York Times up politics desk. I want to I want to I hope they read it. They anyway, I want to I want to ask a different question, sort of a it's not a thought experiment. But but to give a sense, because of course, our audience members are very, very interested in public philosophy and public humanities and you're doing public linguistics. Can you give us an example of how you would say something? In your scholarly work? Like how you would report it in gender and discourse, for example, or? voice I came up Forgive me, I can't remember the other talking voice talking voices, thank you talking voices? And then how you would translate that insight into your more popular books. I mean, that's, I suspect, that's a hard question. Oh, good. I'll ask it again.
Well, let's start with the word discourse,
right, of course. And I thought that I actually said this to you in an email that, um, that that you could never publish a popular book with the word discourse, no, in the in the title.
In fact, my book which I ended up titling the argument, culture, my title for it was the culture of critique. And I started with the valorizing of critique in academic discourse, where we think that critique that his criticism is more valuable than looking for patterns, or integrating ideas or trying to see what's useful. I have to
interrupt here just a second, because my intern Sam is is in the studio with me, and he's in my Adam Smith seminar. And I have been just hitting them over the head with this that you don't read a text from this critique perspective. Oh, yeah. No, I'm so so this is just just between me and him. This is an opportunity to gloat. So sorry, apologize
can continue. You know, this. This guy, his name is escaping me for the moment. But he says, We're training students to play the doubting game. Let's, that's right. A play. That's a leaving game.
That's a composition textbook. Yes. I can't remember his name. My wife uses it all the time. Anyway. So so so the the, you use the word critique was in the title, right?
Yeah, cuz I traced it to academia, and then went up from there. But yeah, so I can't use technical terms except judiciously. I use it a few and define them. But I wouldn't say discourse, I would say talk. One of my favorite anecdotes here, I was having a conversation with a colleague who told me that he wasn't going to really give papers at conferences anymore, because you really can't say anything in 20 minutes. And then I went into my office played my voicemail, and there was a radio show I was about to be on. And it said, Please keep your answers to 20 seconds, because we have the driving home crowd here. And that's really all they have patients for 20 seconds versus 20 minutes. And I did learn early on talking on TV shows and and radio shows that I can't build up to a point. If I think that I should say the backgrounds ABCD and then get to the point E, I'll never get to the point D I'll be cut off after B. So that's one thing that I've learned. Another anecdote that captures some of this difference. I was early on asked to write an article for a women's magazine and I really got a kick out of the fact that I was able to write an article, all the points I wanted to make were based on this one example, one anecdote, everything came up that was relevant that I thought I needed to say, and they said, you can have a whole article about one example. So I went back and I made up. I made up anecdotes to support the other points. But for an academic paper, it would be elegant to be able to make all the points about one. And so that's really one of the big differences that I feel in my academic writing. I can take a single example and show everything that's going on there. And that's very satisfying.
is is it has there been and this I actually think is is also gendered but is has there been some resistance that that your popular work? Somehow D legitimizes your scholarly work that if you're a real scholar, you would only write these kinds of books. I know that other philosophers have represented this. Rebecca Goldstein, Newburgh, guilty when she was on our show twice. She talked about how novels writing novels completely destroyed her career. And it took her five years to get that back. Is there is there a group that says, Look, if you were a serious scholar, you wouldn't be doing this stuff, despite the fact that I can't imagine how any human being could look at your work and not regard you as unbelievably serious.
I feel very fortunate that I have not been subjected to that. And I have to say that I have talked to many people who have, like me written books for general audiences after doing scholarly work. And they all have been subjected to that. I'm not sure why maybe Georgetown University doesn't have as inflated an image of itself as MIT, Harvard and Princeton. And maybe it's just that people say it behind my back and not to my face. That's possible, too. But I actually have been very fortunate and not directly experienced that.
So what so it's been 90 minutes. And of course, we could do this for another four hours, I've been really good work for, I guess, probably about 1314 years at least. And I would, you know, I'm not expecting our listeners to be around for that long. But um, what? What do we end with? How do we walk away from this discussion? With both the sense of, of what to do with this stuff, how to think about the politics of this stuff, how to recognize the scholarly foundation of this stuff, but also how to balance this with our own needs, our own desires to change and and and respect the other? How do we walk away from a conversation as complicated as this one?
Well, I appreciate your ending with the word respect. And that is always how I end talks that I give. To me, it's all about understanding how language works, and understanding how, what I call conversational style, you don't have to call it that ways of speaking, affect the immediate conversation and interaction and affect the relationships that we have. And that goes for our private conversations, as well as our public ones that we are now using as a basis for choosing the most powerful person in the world. So to me, it is basically about mutual respect. It's about diversity, it's about realizing there isn't one right way to speak. It's about realizing that sometimes the impression that we get of other people based on the way they speak, might not be accurate. And just take a step back, take a deep breath. Ask yourself whether it could be something about conversational style, that's leading you to a conclusion that may not be accurate.
And this includes, of course, recognizing that our very definition of respect may be wrapped up in this, like the guy who was covering his eyes while his girlfriend was talking. He was trying to be respectful. And she thought it is disrespectful. And so even the very notion of the standard that we're looking for, is itself wrapped up in all of
this. No, absolutely. In fact, I often say mine is a rhetoric of good intentions. And I have
liked that a lot.
Yeah. And I have been criticized as saying, Well, what about sometimes people have bad intentions? And my response to that is, well, that's not news. Yeah, sometimes they do. But what's news is sometimes when you think they have bad intentions, they have good intentions, but they're expressing it with a different conversational style. So just realizing that that may be true. Try out the rhetoric, cook good intentions, and see if maybe it'll fit.
When you say that's not news, you reveal your Brooklyn roots. So I feel it. Deborah, thank you so much for joining us on why and thank you so much for taking such a big chunk of your time to help us explore all these difficult issues.
Thank you. It's been a pleasure speaking.
We will be back with more comments right after this.
Visit IPP ELLs blog p QED philosophical questions every day. For more philosophical discussions of everyday life. Comment on the entries and share your points of view with an ever growing community of professional and amateur philosophers. You can access the blog and view more information on our schedule our broadcasts and the y radio store at www dot philosophy and public life.org.
You You're back with wide philosophical discussions about everyday life. I'm your host jack Russell Weinstein. We were talking with Deborah Tannen, about men women and conversation and also trying to negotiate The perils of doing public scholarship for general audiences versus the difficulties for working with a purely academic audience. What kind of help does the truth give us and what especially when the truth is so complicated and so layered gender is such a complicated issue in our society. Gender is so problematic in terms of arguing with one another in terms of self image and images of one another. I was scared about this episode, not just because I'm talking to someone who I immensely respect but also because I knew that whenever I talked about men and women, as a dichotomy, that there were going to be people who thought well, what about transgender folks? Or what about queer folks? Or what about people who aren't necessarily on either end of the spectrum, it becomes more complicated. And so it's very helpful, I think, to think not in terms of strict gender roles, but in terms of conversation styles, and all of the ways in which the conversation becomes more comfortable and becomes more able to work with another person. Deborah Tannen has given us an exceptional library of resources, but ultimately it's for us to interpret it and not to classify all people or all types of people as one thing or another. You've been listening to jack Russel Weinstein on why philosophical discussion about everyday life. Thank you for listening. As always, it's an honor to be with you.
Why is funded by the Institute for philosophy and public life Prairie Public Broadcasting and the University of North Dakota is College of Arts and Sciences and division of Research and Economic Development. The music is written and performed by Mark Weinstein and can be found on his album Louis sold. For more of his music, visit jazz flute weinstein.com or myspace.com slash Mark Weinstein. Philosophy is everywhere you make it and we hope we've inspired you with our discussion today. Remember, as we say at the Institute, there is no ivory tower.