My friends and I have been reading two papers in Language and Gender*:
Deborah Tannen: Talk in the Intimate Relationship: His and Hers and Senta Troemel-Ploetz: Selling the Apolitical
The first describes the differing expectations of men and women in informal conversation, illustrating the subject with samples of conversational analysis. The second is a ferocious critique of Tannen’s merely descriptive approach, on the grounds that it fails to politicize the subject. It does not join the feminist battle to gain equality by changing men’s behaviour. While I sympathize theoretically with this criticism, my own lifelong experience of political activity (Labour Party, union, community and, most recently, tenants’ movement) makes me all too aware of the difficulty of such a commitment to feminism. Many of one’s most valued colleagues in the conflicts with employers, Government or landlord are also unenlightened in regard to their attitudes to women. My problem in tackling them about their behaviour is that it diffuses the energy that one can bring to the battles one is jointly fighting. It is hard to fight on two fronts at the same time and runs the risk of losing everything.
Or maybe I am just getting old!
*Language and Gender ed. Jennifer Coates