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The Deferential Language Of Women At Work

Actress Jennifer Lawrence of "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2" attends the Lionsgate Press Room during Comic-Con International: San Diego 2015 on July 10, 2015 in San Diego, California.  (Jason Merritt/Getty Images)
Actress Jennifer Lawrence of "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2" attends the Lionsgate Press Room during Comic-Con International: San Diego 2015 on July 10, 2015 in San Diego, California. (Jason Merritt/Getty Images)

A comment from actress Jennifer Lawrence is drawing attention to something many women experience every day at work. Lawrence wrote in Lena Dunham’s newsletter “Lenny Letter” about giving her opinion in a meeting in a polite but blunt way:

The man I was working with (actually, he was working for me) said, "Whoa! We're all on the same team here!" As if I was yelling at him. I was so shocked because nothing that I said was personal, offensive, or, to be honest, wrong. All I hear and see all day are men speaking their opinions, and I give mine in the same exact manner, and you would have thought I had said something offensive.

This got the attention of The Washington Post’s Alexandra Petri, who wrote that “‘Woman in a Meeting’ is a language of its own.” She demonstrated some of that language in her piece, “Famous quotes, the way a woman would have to say them during a meeting

Linguistics professor Deborah Tannen discusses the deferential language of women at work with Here & Now’s Robin Young.

Guest

  • Deborah Tannen, linguistics professor at Georgetown University.
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