Type: Analysis
Pages: 3 | Words: 783
Reading Time: 4 Minutes

The rationale of reading Tannen’s essay, “I’II Explain It to You” is to be conversant with the difference in the language, way and style of conversation men and women enter into, which would make it easier to understand their attitude, approach, and mindset and help correctly appreciate their viewpoints in the company of men with men, men with women or women in the company of women or of men.

Tannen is a linguist. She is concerned with the origin and development of language. In the present essay however, she gives vent to her findings based on her keen observations in distinctly different situations. She clearly conveys in her essay that there is difference in language used by the two sexes in conversation. She says that women, despite her expertise are not given their due even in the present times when we claim to have made great advancements in almost all the fields and no man can claim superiority over woman the fact is otherwise. Man is still in a position to establish superiority over the females, overtly though. All these are amply reflected in the language used by them in the conversation with marked differences. She narrates some diverse situations, which gave her occasion to arrive at her conclusions. To begin with she tells about a woman how she, while confronted by a producer of programs on TV, was reduced to a patient listener although she had no apparent interest in the topic. So was Tannen herself who chanced to meet RAF personnel who had been in Greece for sometime on the war front. Tannen herself was in Greece and wanted to know about the changes, if any that had taken place since her visit but the gentleman shifted to the narration of his own knowledge of Greek history instead. She had similar experience on another occasion when she had made a reference to the fireflies, which had dotted the sky with pleasant flickering of light all over. He abruptly changed the subject to the implication of the fire lighting of the flies and Tannen was, to her great exasperation, was obliged to give him a patient hearing but dared not stop him from further conversation.

Giving another example of a dinner party, she found the wife attentively listening to her husband’s explanation of the various symbols in the tapestry. She had to give assenting responses in proof that she understood everything he was saying. Ironically, this took place when the party was feminist in conception and was meant to reflect women’s experiences and sensibilities.

Tannen assigns reasons for this part of man’s behavior, which reflected in the language used also. To begin with, she says that men have normally greater factual information about diverse things and their interactional habit gives them the edge over women. Next, she comes out with her thesis that women are more keen about establishing rapport and do not go very far by a display of her expertise even if she possesses one. Men, on the other hand, are usually inclined to flaunt other’s superiority to establish their own. The expertise of women spark resentment and not respect. They thus start giving lectures, even if they had no expertise, even before the women who possessed them fairly in high measure. In his haughty demeanour man does not agree with woman’s expertise and dislikes its display by her as if it was something she should hide and not exhibit it before a man. Man thus tries to control the conversation right from beginning to the end whereas, a woman seems to exercise it in the beginning but gradually sinks to the status of a vanquished entity ceaselessly listening to man whether she liked it or not. In a way she accepts man’s superiority and succumbs to the stiff disposition of man who likes to usurp status who flouts authority of men and women alike to achieve his goal. His sense of self also makes him extra bold and independent whereas, the status-sense of women are dependent and related to other factors, which suggest only a negative view of their being in the world.

Tannen however, avers that both men and women are interdependent. They reflect similar approaches only with differing goals. The differing goals she says are complimentary — man advances his authority and undercuts woman’s.

Tannen concludes that it would be in the interest of both men and women if they could break the different habitual styles. It would profit them immensely if they tried to understand the other genders style. Moreover, she gives a piece of advice to women that they must not be passive waiting for others to give her the floor. She should be assertive and not the habitual listener.

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