Gender and Language, Vol 3, No 1 (2009)

Men and emotion talk: Evidence from the experience of illness

Jonathan Charteris-Black, Clive Seale
Issued Date: 28 Aug 2009

Abstract


Evidence is presented supporting the view that serious illness is often interpreted by men as an opportunity for emotional expressivity, contrasting with language and gender ideologies that stress men’s deficiencies in this realm. Comparative analysis of a large matched corpus of male and female interviews concerning the experience of a wide range of illnesses is reported. Illness experience prompts a process of biographical disruption for men resulting in a highly varied verbal repertoire. The analysis focuses on the use of adjectives, showing that, when compared with women discussing similar experiences, some men express high levels of frustration, rely on conventional strategies for expressing emotion such as swearing and a problem-solving attitude towards health - while others use a more self-conscious ‘women’s language’ of feelings that enables them to construct new identities. Such men associate this with the capacity for new and, paradoxically, more powerful performances of masculine identity.

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DOI: 10.1558/genl.v3i1.81

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