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The Language of Gender and Time

Updated on September 29, 2014

A Fashion Model Challenges Norms

"Ladies And Gentlemen"? Why not, "Gentlemen And Ladies"?

The phrase "Ladies and gentleman!" in the familiar public address challenges conventional ordering, but it supports other ideas mentioned: societal norms, labeling, and most especially, relationships of association.

The obvious, 1950s type of American norm regarding women, or the general patriarchal idea of men being the sophisticated bread-winner, desirable because of abilities, and women being the loyal companion, desirable because of their physical appearance, is definitely true here. The address does not say, "women and men," but rather, it uses synonyms that have a social resonance and weight. A "lady," is associated with a female who is "well-behaved," or "dressed appropriately and elegantly." It is a label supporting a societal norm. This societal norm can also be understood as a negative by many now, a label of submissiveness. The opposite would be "whore or slut or tramp," but in reality, one of these labels supports its contrary and vice versa. Put more clearly, the only difference at times between a "lady," and a "whore," is that one woman conforms to traditional gender stereotypes of female submissiveness to male norms, and the other acts more independently. Thus, in "ladies and gentleman," the ladies is placed first to make the females seem like the treasured prize. The men, according to the cultural-difference approach, are there to "prove themselves" to the woman, who are the beautiful prize. And of course, one naturally imagines the person at the microphone saying this address as a man, acting in accordance with the dominance approach. He is the "sweet-talker" mentioned in the text, that treats women graciously only to accomplish his motives.

Morevoer, it is a relationship of association, to express ownership and the owned. The book uses the examples, Walt's wife, as opposed to Marge's husband. Here, the lady is put first as a form of flattery, but the implication is this: the females are the primary audience; the men are the primary performers. The women are there to watch whatever men do, whether they like it or not, they do not have much of a choice. It is an example where "women are defined in terms of the men with whom they are associated..." done through a mechanism of sweet-talking "in order to win over or seduce the women" (255).

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