Advertisement

Qualitative Sociology

, Volume 4, Issue 2, pp 126–144 | Cite as

The second sex: Women's place in polling language

  • Sharlene J. Hesse-Biber
  • Ina Burstein
Article
  • 78 Downloads

Abstract

Recent research suggests that gender nouns such as “man,” and pronouns such as “he,· are not generic forms referring to humanity, but often refer exclusively to males. The use of male terms in a variety of role contexts serves to deny females identification with these contexts, and thereby stereotypes the roles of men and women. Public opinion polling, through its use of the questionnaire, represents an important social context where gender-biased phrasing can have an adverse impact on a large segment of society. A content analysis of polling questions from 1936–1973 was undertaken to ascertain their gender representation. Those questions containing gender referrants constituted ten percent of the sample. Questions were analyzed for their gender content in the areas of social, political, and economic life. The findings show a differential use of male and female terms, with the use of female gender most apparent in contexts traditionally defined as female: home and family. When females are mentioned in non-traditional contexts, they appear most often in competition with men. Male pronouns appear exclusively in contexts traditionally defined as male: work and politics. The methodological and social implications of these findings for survey research are discussed.

Keywords

Public Opinion Cross Cultural Psychology Survey Research Large Segment Economic Life 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Acker, Joan 1973 “Women and social stratification: A case of intellectual sexism.” American Journal of Sociology 78:936–45.Google Scholar
  2. Adams, Stacy 1956 “An experiment on question and response bias.” Public Opinion Quarterly 20:593–598.Google Scholar
  3. Bart, Pauline B. 1973 “Sexism in social science: From gilded cage to the iron cage, or, the perils of Pauline.” Journal of Marriage and the Family 33:734–745.Google Scholar
  4. Becker, Sam 1954 “Why an order effect.” Public Opinion Quarterly 18:271–278.Google Scholar
  5. Bernard, Jessie 1973 “My four revolutions: An autobiographical history of the ASA.” American Journal of Sociology 78:773–791.Google Scholar
  6. Blankenship, A. B. 1940 “The influence of the question form upon the response in a public opinion poll.” Psychological Record 3:349–422.Google Scholar
  7. Bridge, R. Gary, Leo G. Reeder, David Kanouse, Donald R. Kinden, Vivian Tong Nagy and Charles M. Judd 1977 “Interviewing changes attitudes—sometimes.” Public Opinion Quarterly 41:56–64.Google Scholar
  8. Cantril, Hadley 1940 “Problems and techniques experiments in the wording of questions.” Public Opinion Quarterly 4:330–332.Google Scholar
  9. Center for the American Women in Politics 1976 Women in Public: A Biographical Directory and Statistical Analysis. Eagleton Institute of Politics, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. New York: R.R. Bowker Co.Google Scholar
  10. Courtney, N. E. and Thomas W. Whipple 1974 “Women in t.v. commercials.” Journal of Communications 24:110–118.Google Scholar
  11. De Boer, Connie 1977 “The polls: Women at work.” Public Opinion Quarterly 41:268–277.Google Scholar
  12. Dominick, Joseph R. and Gail E. Rauch 1972 “The image of women in network t.v. commercials.” Journal of Broadcasting 16:259–265.Google Scholar
  13. Epstein, Cynthia Fuchs 1970 Woman's Place. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  14. —— 1974 “A different angle of vision: Notes on the seductive eye of sociology.” Social Science Quarterly 55:645–656.Google Scholar
  15. Farb, Peter 1973 Word Play: What Happens When People Talk. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.Google Scholar
  16. Gallup Opinion Index 1976 Women in America. Princeton, N.J.: AIPO.Google Scholar
  17. Glock, C. 1952 “Participation Bias and Reinterview Effects in Panel Studies.” Unpublished Ph.D. Dissertation, Columbia University.Google Scholar
  18. Haugen, Einar. 1974 “Sexism and the Norwegian Language.” Paper presented at Society for the Advancement of Scandinavian Study Meeting. Washington, D.C.Google Scholar
  19. Keyserling, Mary Dullen 1977 “Women's stake in full employment: Their disadvantaged role in the economy—challenges to action.” In American Women Workers In a Full Employment Economy: A Compendium of Papers submitted to the Subcommittee on Economic Growth and Stratification, Washington, D.C.: U. S. Government Printing Office.Google Scholar
  20. Lakoff, Robin 1973 “Language and woman's place.” Language in Society 2:45–79.Google Scholar
  21. Laws, Judith Long 1971 “A feminist review of the marital adjustment literature: The rape of Locke.” Journal of Marriage and the Family 33:488–516.Google Scholar
  22. Lipman-Blumen 1973 “Role de-differentiation as a system response to crisis: Occupational and political roles of women.” Sociological Inquiry 43:105–129.Google Scholar
  23. Milman, Marica and Rosabeth Moss Kanter (eds.) 1975 Another Voice: Feminist Perspectives on Social Life and Social Science. Garden City: Doubleday and Co.Google Scholar
  24. Nakamura, Charles 1959 “Salience of norms and order of questionnaire items: Their effect on responses to the items.” Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology 59:139–142.Google Scholar
  25. Noelle-Neumann, Elisabeth 1970 “Wanted: Rules for wording structured questionnaires.” Public Opinion Quarterly 34:191–201.Google Scholar
  26. Oakley, Ann 1974 The Sociology of Housework. New York: Pantheon Books.Google Scholar
  27. Parrish, John 1974 “Women in professional training.” Monthly Labor Review (May): 41–99.Google Scholar
  28. Payne, Stanley 1951 The Art of Asking Questions. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  29. Rogers, Everett M. 1973 “Mass media and interpersonal communication.” in Ithiel de Sola Pool, Wilbur Sobramm, et al. (eds.), Handbook of Communication. Chicago: Rand McNally, 290–310.Google Scholar
  30. Roper Public Opinion Research Center 1974 Survey Data for Trend Analysis: An index to repeated questions in U.S. national surveys held by the Roper Public Opinion Research Center. The Roper Public Opinion Research in cooperation with the Social Science Research Council (December).Google Scholar
  31. Rugg, Donald 1941 “Experiments in wording questions: II.” Public Opinion Quarterly 5:91–92.Google Scholar
  32. Sapir, Edward 1933 “Language.” in Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. New York: Macmillan, Pp 115–169.Google Scholar
  33. Schuman, Howard and Otis Dudley Duncan 1974 “Questions about attitude survey questions.” in Sociological Methodology. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 235–251.Google Scholar
  34. Schuman, Howard and Stanley Presser 1977 Question wording as an independent variable in survey analysis. Sociological Methods and Research 6:151–170.Google Scholar
  35. Smith, Donald E. 1974 “Women's perspective as a radical critique of sociology.” Sociological Inquiry 44:7–13.Google Scholar
  36. Stagner, Ross 1941 “A comparison of the Gallup and Fortune polls regarding American intervention policy.” Sociometry 4:239–257.Google Scholar
  37. Tedesco, Nancy S. 1974 “Patterns in prime time.” Journal of Communication 24:119–124.Google Scholar
  38. Tresmer, David 1975 “Assumptions made about gender roles.” in Marcia Milman and Rosabeth Moss Kanter (eds.), Another Voice: Feminist Perspectives on Social Life and Social Science. Garden City: Doubleday and Co., 308–339.Google Scholar
  39. Tuchman, Gaye, Arlene Kaplan Daniels and James Benet 1978 Hearth and Home: Images Women in the Mass Media. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  40. U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census 1976 Current Population Reports. Special Studies Series P-23, No. 58: “A Statistical Portrait of Women in the United States” (April).Google Scholar
  41. Weiss, Walter 1969 “Effects of the mass media on communication.” in Gardner Lindzey and Elliot Aronson (eds.), The Handbook of Social Psychology 5, Second Edition. Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley, 77–195.Google Scholar
  42. Weitzman, Lenore, J. Deborah Eifler, Elizabeth Hokada and Catherine Ross 1972 “Sex-role socialization in picture books for pre-school children.” American Journal of Sociology 77:1125–1150.Google Scholar
  43. Wheeler, Michael 1976 Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics: The Manipulation of Public Opinion in America. New York: Liveright.Google Scholar
  44. Whorf, Benjamin 1956 Language, Thought and Reality. J. B. Carrol (ed.), Cambridge, Mass., and New York: M.I.T. Press and John Wiley & Sons.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Human Sciences Press 1981

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sharlene J. Hesse-Biber
    • 1
  • Ina Burstein
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of SociologyBoston CollegeBoston

Personalised recommendations