Taboo language: gender differences

Here's an interesting gender difference reported by Psychology Today (August 2010). In 1996 the percentage of public swearing by men and women was 67% for men and 33% for women. In 2006, however, the percentages were much more similar: 55% for men and 45% for women.


maestra said...

Some twenty or more years ago, on a very cool summer evening, I had my bedroom windows opened and, around 3 A.M., was awakened by the loud shouting of the “f” word. The entire conversation, if one can even label it that, which took place between my “twenty-something-year-old” neighbor and her date, over a 15 to 20 minute period, was composed of “f..ing this” and “f..ing that.” Every other word each of them spoke was some form of the “f” word, and I couldn’t even believe that each knew what the other was trying to communicate. They were both obviously extremely angry over something that had transpired during their date, but it was rare, in those days, to hear a woman swearing in public or, at least, to such a degree

Nowadays, however, things have changed, as the statistics that Joe offers clearly demonstrate, and it is not uncommon to hear women publicly swearing, almost as much as men. They swear in restaurants, at airport counters, at sales personnel in stores, etc. One woman was even cited for disorderly conduct two years ago, when she cussed in a local Walmart and was then taken away in handcuffs when she continued to do so in the store’s parking lot. I think that one of the reasons why women swear more in public today than they did in the past has to do with the increasing number of women now in previously male dominated occupations, such as construction or the armed forces. It has always been the norm for men in those professions to publicly swear and now women, wanting to be on equal footing, are doing so too. Even in sports, where male coaches and players have been known to publicly swear, there are now more female players and more female coaches. I also think that exposure to other women swearing in the media-in books, in movies, in television shows, as well as the increase in the number of women comedians, has something to do with the increase in swearing among the general female public. The fashion industry has also contributed to the statistics, I believe, as more women are now wearing T-shirts that have profanity and other types of obscene words and gestures on them, because these are now the “in thing” to wear.

In the days of my great grandmother and grandmother, women did not wear pants and only went out in public if they were chaperoned, but today our society is much more lax in its dress code and public behavior than it was even some forty years ago. I recall one day wearing slacks to my college Freshman English class and getting a dirty look from the young male instructor, as normally I wore only skirts or dresses to his classes. And when I showed up for an interview at a local company back in the early 1990s wearing a dress, I was told I would have to “dress down” to work there and “fit in.” Office employees wear jeans, shorts, and sneakers to their jobs; gone are the days of suits, ties, dresses, and high heels. The same holds true for language and speech. Our society is more lax today than it was even ten years ago concerning what it deems to be appropriate language usage, in both informal and formal settings. We now have ministers and politicians, and even some university professors, both male and female, who publicly swear. As wrong, or as offensive as public swearing might be, language and speech are products of the society in which they exist and therefore are always evolving. Some men do not approve of women swearing in public and consider it “unladylike,” and some women, including myself, do not approve of either of the sexes doing it. I do believe, however, that, in a society, which is striving for equality between the sexes, if men can publicly swear, and their linguistic behavior is tolerated and accepted, then the same should hold true for women. And whether or not that right to swear publicly is guaranteed by The First Amendment to our Constitution is a subject for another discussion.

Steeleworks said...

Although I am concerned mostly with web communication, I do not associate with (if I can help it) people who use swear words. If in my presence, I kindly ask that they not use them and with few exceptions, they don't.

One exception is the web. I will not click on to or will click off sites that have even the mildest of profanity.

One way of looking at, for example the S... word, never have in your mouth what you would not hold in your hand.

In some instances, using profanity can be so offensive to some cultures that it could result in bodily harm in some parts of the world.


Best to master our tongues.

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