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Performing Gender Identity: Young Mens Talk and the Construction of Heterosexual Masculinity

By: Deborah Cameron Project: Amanda Beckman


S A college student, Danny, conducted an investigation on

the informal talk proposing that mens talk is competitive and centers on impersonal topics such as the exchange of information such as sports statistics.
S The author, Deborah Cameron, looked at the data that

Danny had collected and realized that while it was correct, it was only partial; meaning that his data collections were shaped by expectations.

The Conversation


Demographics: white, middle class, Americans, 21, same college, same social groups Danny omitted that the second biggest theme in the conversation was gossip

Gossip discussion of several persons appearance, dress, social behavior etc. that not present but known to the participants.

Discussion of gays

View of gays as aliens indicates that the group defines itself as heterosexual and puzzled by homosexuality (gays, why?) (Cameron 52)

The Conversation Ctd.

The criteria of being gay had little to do with the peoples sexual preferences or practices. S One might have thought that a defining feature of a homo would be his lack of interest in hitting on women. Yet no one seems aware of any problem or contradiction In this exchange (53) The group may view being gay as not a sexual deviance buy a gender deviance (failure to measure up to the standards of masculinity).

Irony group is discussing the antithesis of masculinity yet is gossiping which is close to the stereotype of womens talk


S It is unhelpful of linguists to continue to use models of gendered

speech which imply that masculinity and femininity are monolithic constructs, automatically giving rise to predictable (and utterly different) patterns of verbal interaction(62).
S Gossip is relevant for us but in our society is considered feminine

and men, therefore avoid it or disguise it as something else


Talk about basketball players is not considered gossip because it doesnt concern appearance or social behavior

S Speaking about sexual exploits with women or repulsiveness of

gay men can be argued to be the most appropriate way to display heterosexual masculinity


S Complete and describes the idea of mens practice of

gossip through a critique

S No generalizations are made S Explanation is based on data rather than personal

opinions and experiences

S Linked to other linguists findings


S I agree with Camerons assessment that the conversation

collected was a performance of gender possibly aimed at displaying heterosexual masculinity by discussing sexual exploits and the repulsiveness of gay men. However, if the conversation were changed to a discussion of the way women as a whole dress or express themselves would this no longer be an adequate expression of heterosexual masculinity? What about talking about a specific woman in particular?

Cameron, Deborah. "Performing Gender Identity: Young Men's Talk and the Construction of Heterosexual Masculinity." Language and Masculinity. Ed. S. Johnson and U. H. Meihof. Cambridge: Blackwell, 1997. 47-64. Print.