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Language and Sexuality throughout the Decades.

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Cori Middlebrooks LIN312 (2-3:30pm) November 26, 2002 Language and Sexuality throughout the Decades Both language and sex are controversial issues, and they have drastically changed and evolved throughout the decades. The media has played a considerably large role in this. Women especially have been portrayed through the media by their language and sexuality. Since the 1950's, each decade has brought something new and a little different on screen to represent the outlook people had during that generation towards language and sexuality. Language and sexuality go hand in hand. Without language, one would not have sexuality, and without sexuality, one would not have language. This is because these two things are interconnected. Women often exploit their sexuality through words. They use language to send out the message they want men (or other women for that matter) to receive. On the other hand, it can be looked at from the perspective that one cannot have language without sexuality. This brings about a controversial topic. Similar to the question "What came first, the chicken or the egg?" is the question, what came first, language or sexuality? This issue of gender as performance is discussed in Deborah Cameron's article, "Performing Gender Identity: Young Men's Talk and the Construction of Heterosexual Masculinity." Both linguists, Cameron and Judith Butler, agree that language/speech is a "repeated stylization of the body." In other words, as Butler claims in her book, Gender Trouble , we are not 'feminine' or 'masculine', and those are not traits that we possess. They are merely effects that are produced by things that we do/the way we act. In the 1950's, the United States was flourishing. After World War II, Americans began to settle down, start families, and move into the suburbs. When people look back on the 1950's, they think of the square "family value" programs that some actually thought represented reality. A typical woman in the 1950's had high societal expectations put on her to become a housekeeper and to raise a family. ...read more.


In my opinion, that only attributes that fact that her success has stemmed from her use of language. Sandra Brennan, a critic for the All Movie Guide wrote, "Oprah, who is beautiful no matter what size she is, took a lot of heat from unkind critics who were unable to cope with the notion that a round woman could possibly be considered attractive, intelligent, and vital." When she speaks, she is very understanding and caring, yet at the same time strong and in control of every situation. One of the biggest changes in language and sexuality throughout the decades has been the onset of independence. An independent woman would most likely not have been looked upon as "sexy" during the 1950's or 1960's, but that began to change in the 70's and continued to in the 80's. The 1990's only brought more changes in women's use of language and sexuality. One show that was the first of its kind was "Ellen." There was the infamous coming-out episode that brought about the gay aspect of language and obviously sexuality. This is a perfect example of how the two coincide. Ellen's use of "man talk" only made clearer the fact that she was a homosexual. This concept is also illustrated in Deborah Cameron's article, "Performing Gender Identity. Young men's talk and the construction of heterosexual masculinity." Ellen "came out" on an episode of the show, and she was (as was her language) then labeled gay. Cameron's article brings about the idea that gay refers not so much to sexual deviance but gender deviance, failing to live up to the group's standards of femininity. Most of Ellen's comments on the show are sarcastic. Her humor is a big part of the dialogue that unravels during each episode. This is definitely the case for the fourth episode that aired during the final season. The jest of this episode is that Ellen likes this girl Laurie, and throughout the half hour, Paige and Spence try to give her advice. ...read more.


With the exception of Charlotte at one point, all four of these women are independent, working, sophisticated, sexy women, and it is through their use of language that these characteristics are conveyed. The fact that Carrie is a journalist only makes this clearer. She is columnist who explores Manhattan's world of dating through her use of words. Her strong choice of words and sense of humor appeal to almost every man she comes in contact with on the show. Men are often attracted to her because of her column, which is completely related to her use of language. Samantha and Miranda both are professionals, and their dominating language makes them powerful and often times intimidating to men. Charlotte is the most "stereotypical" of the four. When she married Trey, she was giving audiences flashbacks to the homemaker women of the 1950's. There was a difference though. She never let anyone push her around, even though she was innocent and na�ve. She always stood her ground. This show explores female heterosexual language while these four women pursue love, sex, and happiness. In conclusion, language and sexuality have undergone a variety of changes since the 1950's. Who knows what the future will hold, but I believe that sexuality will become even more obvious and present with time. The correlation between language and sexuality was quite clearly represented by the female characters in the sit-coms of the 1950's, 60's, 70's, 80's, 90's and the twenty-first century. In each decade there was a change and revelation in the way women were viewed. Sources: Cameron, Deborah. 1997. Performing Gender Identity: Young men's talk and the construction of heterosexual masculinity. In: S. Johnson and U.H. Meinhof, eds. Language and masculinity. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell Publishers, 47-64 "Ellen." http://www.geocities.com/Hollywood/1777/info.html "Oprah Winfrey." http://entertainment.msn.com/celeb.aspx?mp=b&c=230966 Walters, Suzanna D. 2001. All gay, all the time. (Ch. 5) All the rage. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 95-128. Wood, Julia T. 1994. Gender and relationship crises: Contrasting reasons, responses, and relational orientations. In: R.J. Rinder, ed. Queer words, queer images: Communication and the construction of homosexuality. New York: New York University Press, 238-264. http://www.cinerhama.com ...read more.

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