Category Archives: Language, Gender, and Power

Language, Gender, and Power: The politics of hegemony and control in South Asia

Review by

Jahan Ara Shams

PhD Schoalar, UMT

Shahid Siddiqui, the author of this book is working as Vice Chancellor at Allama Iqbal Open University Islamabad.  He has his PhD in Language Education from University of Toronto, Canada. His areas of interest are socio-cultural aspects of language, gender, freedom, educational change, and critical pedagogy.  His books provide a comprehensive, compact and comprehendible reading and are widely read and quoted in educational circles.

The book in hand, “Language, Gender and Power”, is a scholarly work in which the author skillfully incorporated the proverbs, fairytales, jokes, songs, advertisement, and nursery rhymes using both conventional and unconventional sources. Dictionary definitions are given with contextual explanations of the terms. The author analyzed the interrelationship of language, gender and power. Language is defined as power to change which influences the role of gender in society. Gender is explained as a social construct which determines the roles, expectations and opportunities for women and men. The author has given the history of language and its relationship with gender while discussing works of Jesperson (1922), Lakoff (1975), Spender (1998), and Judith Butler (1990) as a base and starting point of this discussion.

The book comprised of twenty chapters which are categorized into six parts. Some glimpses and highlights of all six parts are given below. In the first part of the book language is defined as social phenomena. Fairclough (2001) is quoted to show how language is related to society. According to him:

“…..there is not an external relationship ‘between’ language and society, but an internal and dialectical relationship. Language is a part of society; linguistic phenomena are social phenomena of a special sort, and social phenomena are (in part) linguistic phenomena” (p.19).

Power is defined as a complex concept and Gramchi’s point of view about power is given as base to start the talk about power and then the explanation of power by others and Foucault are discussed, as according to Foucault

“…it defined how one may have a hold over others’ bodies, not only so that they may do what one wishes, but so that may operate as one wishes, with the techniques, the speed and the efficiency that one determines. Thus discipline produces subjected and practices bodies, ‘docile’ bodies” (1995; p. 138).