Sex Roles

, Volume 10, Issue 5, pp 435-443

First online:

When to speak like a lady

  • Susan KemperAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University of Kansas

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The existence of sexually biased stereotypes about the polite speech of men and women was documented in a series of three studies. In Study I, masculine, feminine, and neutral activities were identified. In Study II, the perceived politeness of five different forms of requests was determined. In the final study, men and women were asked to judge the appropriateness of requests by men and women speakers to addressees of either sex. The requests differed in politeness, and requested either masculine, feminine, or neutral actions. These ratings revealed that women are expected to speak more politely than men, regardless of the sex of the addressee or the nature of the requested action. However, men are expected to use different forms for requests for masculine, feminine, and neutral actions and to use different forms of requests for men and women addressees.