An Examination on Sociocultural “Marking” of Women – Rhetorical Analysis of “There Is No Unmarked Woman” by Deborah Tanen

1853 words 8 pages
Nicole Carper
Professor M. Keith
English 1101, sec. C20
08 November 2012
An Examination On Sociocultural “Marking” of Women – Rhetorical Analysis of “There Is No Unmarked Woman” by Deborah Tanen What is it that makes a woman a woman, or what makes a man a man? Deborah Tannen, author and Ph.D. of linguistics, investigates this question within the essay, “There Is No Unmarked Woman.” An excerpt from a larger publication, “Talking from 9 to 5,” written in 1994, “There Is No Unmarked Woman” is an effective examination of the social injustice as to why the state of womanhood is “marked” while the state of manhood is “unmarked”, and what this means for each sex. The book itself is a result of real-life research about the conversational
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She explains it in this way: “Each of the women at the conference had to make decisions about hair, clothing, makeup, and accessories, and each decision carried meaning. Every style available to us was marked.” This declaration is significant due to the fact that any way that a man chose to roll out of bed that morning would have been considered “masculine” – unless he chose to adopt traditionally known “feminine” traits. However, each woman attending the conference was expected to make choice after choice in order to appear separate from the baseline (masculine), and in order to distinguish herself from among the other women, too. All styles available for men to adopt are, by nature, unmarked. In order for women to appear feminine, however, they must do sometimes wild and abstract things to their faces, hair, and bodies. It begins to appear here that Tannen is implying that femininity itself is nothing but a three-ring circus, and that women only do these actions in order to be different, and to be pleasing to men and competitive with other women.
After an extensive comparison between the differences of being “marked” and “unmarked”, to aid her argument further, and conceding with her lack of true interest in the biological predisposal to gender identity, Tannen cites the work of Ralph Fasold. In “The Sociolinguistics of Language,” Fasold says that it is not the female gender that is marked, but the male gender that is truly marked.

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