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Gender and Behaviour

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Language actively reproduces the socio-economic inequalities in society:an exploration of gender power dynamicsin the Gutu District of Zimbabwe

Christopher Rwodzi

Abstract


This paper examines how language usagein society perpetuates and duplicates gender differences. Our relations in society as men and women are determined and expressed by the language we speak. However, language does not passively reflect society but rather actively reproduces the inequalities in society. Language is a cognitive process involving the production and understanding of linguistic communication as representations of feelings, emotions and attitudes. In psychological terms, language includes the human being's cognitive faculty of creating and using language. The paper seeks to explore how language duplicates the inequalities in society. We do not merelyconstruct and maintain social interaction by means of our sense of certain mannerisms, styles and behaviours – both verbal and non-verbal – but also use this to express our sense of identity. This simply means that our everyday behaviours towards and interactions with othersare crucial in creating and maintaining the roles we play, the status we occupy (social identities) and the personalities we feel ourselves and others to have (our personal identities). The inequalities between menand womenin the rural Gutu District of MasvingoProvince in Zimbabwe are perpetuated by the languages the peoplespeak as discovered in a qualitative study conducted in the province.The study used the qualitative research design to investigate the inequalities between men and women as perpetuated by the languages we use.Differences in the economic, political and social status of men and women are advanced by the languages we speak, and mental images are created in support of the different roles we play in society.

Keywords: language and gender, social inequalities, social identity


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