Muted Group Theory

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Muted group theoryMuted Group Theory has many adherents, but as you would expect with such a politically charged theory, it also has detractors. The critique of the theory revolves around three main points: The theory overly essentializes men and women; the theory exaggerates women's mutedness; and the theory has not received much empirical support. We will briefly discuss each in turn. First, like Standpoint Theory, Muted Group Theory has been criticized for essentialism, or the belief that all men are essentially the same, all women are essentially the same, and the two differ from each other. These critics note that there is great difference within groups; sometimes the difference within a group (such as women) can be greater than the difference between groups (women and men). Some approach this from the standpoint of other influences on communication besides gender, such as status, age, ethnicity, or upbringing. Others disavow the notion of influences altogether, claiming that both individuals and groups are constantly changing through communication. Therefore, any attempt to state what women or men are like falsely "freezes" those groups in time, as if they have a natural, unchangeable essence. This argument was discussed in Chapter 27 in our consideration of Standpoint Theory. Like proponents of Standpoint Theory, supporters of Muted Group Theory agree that there are many groups that are muted and many standpoints. However, being female is a central grouping in our culture, and thus, even though women are not all alike and there is no essential womanness that all women possess, women in the United States are often treated alike. This treatment forms a common set of experiences that allows Muted Group Theory to make generalizations about men and women. The second criticism is related to the first. Some critics maintain that women do speak out in public forums, and they point to women like Hillary Rodham Clinton, Christine Todd Whitman, Condoleeza Rice, and...
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