Gender Matters - Sara Mills

Gender Matters - Sara Mills

12. Discourse competence: how to theorise strong women speakers

Gender Matters - Sara Mills

Sara Mills [+-]
Sheffield Hallam University
Sara Mills is a Research Professor in Linguistics at Sheffield Hallam University. Her most recent publications include Gender and Colonial Space (2005, Manchester University Press), Michel Foucault (Critical Thinkers Series, 2003, Routledge), Feminist Post-Colonial Theory: An Anthology (edited with Reina Lewis, 2003, Edinburgh University Press) and Gender and Politeness (2003, Cambridge University Press).


The aims of this essay are twofold: to contest some of the theoretical and empirical work undertaken on women’s language that has portrayed women as disabled in speech and to describe how it is possible for women to be strong, competent speakers despite social and discursive constraints. Rather than assuming that strong women speakers are in some ways interacting according to masculine norms, I propose to use the term ‘discourse competence’ to describe speech that is both assertive (concerned with speaker needs) and co-operative (concerned with group needs. In this way, it is possible to theorise strong women speakers without reference to a system of masculine/feminine opposition.

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Mills, Sara. 12. Discourse competence: how to theorise strong women speakers. Gender Matters. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. p. 229 - 240 Feb 2012. ISBN 9781845534967. Date accessed: 18 May 2021 doi: 10.1558/equinox.19775. Feb 2012

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