English Comp. 201
October 12, 2010
Different Aspects of Language
Why is it that people generally stereotype women as emotional and caring? Why are men characterized as competitive and strong-willed? Many people believe the reasoning for these stereotypes can be determined by the language men and women use towards each other. Typically, men have interesting facts or information to add to a conversation, while women enjoy sharing and taking turns with others to demonstrate how they are the same. Today, many people perceive men and women in different stereotypical ways and mannerisms. In an episode of That 70’s Show, one of many female and male language stereotypes is examined when Eric and Donna fight over who should be the stay at home parent. The episode, “Baby Fever” demonstrates the use of language in mixed gender situations. The show portrays women and men in different conversations either acting out against or embracing typical behavior. The show describes the general view of men and women in the 1970s versus the more open-minded view in the 2000s. Since That 70’s Show takes place 30 years ago, a cultural difference allows people of modern time to view this show with certain assumptions about women and men that people back in the 70s did not have. This episode helps people identify and interpret men’s and women’s typical and atypical use of language.
That 70’s Show takes place in a small Wisconsin town called Point Place in the late 1970s. The story follows the lives of six teenage friends and their struggles through high school and relationships. In the 1970’s, people thought of women as stay at home parents while men would go and work and make the money. In this episode, three main conflicts develop relating different language use between men and women. Each storyline depicts men and women using typical and atypical language based on people’s general stereotype of how mixed genders generally act around each other. The first conflict involves Eric and Donna fighting over their parental roles. Donna is the smartest and most masculine of the women. Donna’s parents separated when she was very young. Her father took care of her and raised her by himself which accounts for her “tomboy” attitude. Donna has always acted as a boy because she never truly grew up with a mother figure in her life. Without a mother in her life, Donna became independent and acted out on her own. She saw her dad as a successful business owner and believed she could be like him. Donna has been raised believing she can become anything she wants in life. Unfortunately during this time period, women were still fighting for equality with men. The conflict begins when Eric sees Donna changing a diaper and says, “You know Donna, you’re going to make a great stay-at-home mom.” Donna gets mad and says to Eric, “What is that supposed to mean? How about I work and you stay home.” Eric responds jokingly, “What? Women have stayed home since forever. Why would we change that now?” Donna angrily says to Eric, “Are you kidding me, I’m out of here” while she stomps out of the room. Eric looks at his friend Fez and asks what he did wrong. Fez responds, “Eric, my friend, you have so much to learn about a woman.” In this scene, Donna speaks aggressively and passionately about her feelings on the subject. An essay by Deborah Tannen states that “women who find themselves unwillingly cast as the listener should practice propelling themselves out of that position rather than waiting patiently for the lecture to end” (292). The way Donna uses language in this scene challenges the typical stereotype of how women use language. Generally, women use language to support friends and develop relationships. In this situation, Donna uses language demonstratively expressing her attitude towards this issue. When Eric suggests that Donna would make a great stay-at- home mom, he speaks in a confident and...