Theory in a Digital Age: A Project of English 483 Students, Coastal Carolina University

Linguistic Androgyny

An interesting linguistic phenomenon is the tendency that individuals have to speak in a more gender neutral fashion in online discourse. I don’t mean to say they refer to spouses as “significant others” rather than “husbands” or “wives” but rather they speak in ways that aren’t necessarily characteristic of their gender. For example, men are more likely to use emojis in mixed-sex conversations than they are when they’re just talking to males because women use more emojis. In this specific instances, it’s believed that males use emojis to tone down perceived aggressiveness or threatening behavior to make themselves appealing to a wider audience online°. This is just one example, but the entire phenomenon is indicative of yet another way the internet and virtual worlds have managed to spectralize gender.

    In  these circumstances the physical body is only somewhat relevant to a conversation when individuals can pretend to be anyone they want to be, so to stand in for things like body language, linguistic features like laughter representatives, capital letters, emojis, and word choice are employed to more effective display their mood and attitude to those they are conversing with that don’t have the traditional advantages of physical presence in communication°. Linguistic androgyny shows a movement towards a more moderate level of masculinity and femininity and the way it can foster better relationship and communication.

    Websites that don’t have an avatar or even an avi picture don’t forefront the gender of the user unless they have, say, a conspicuously gendered username. This can make it hard to determine gender at all in that kind of an environment. This inherent removal of gender and physicality from the communication alters the dynamic of the conversation by pushing towards androgyny in computer mediated communication


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