The obvious irony in this illustration is that although both the male and female students are offering the same information, the information is better received from one more than the other. The cartoon illuminates a salient difference in the way many women speak compared to the way many men speak. While it may seem humorous at first blush, a closer analysis of this language differentiation reveals how Women’s Language (Lakoff, 1975) contributes to women’s consequential subjugation and oppression. The female student’s choice of words when she is giving driving directions does more than communicate how to get from point A to point B; it communicates her place within a social hierarchy, deference and subordination in relationships, a desire to collaborate, and a need for corroboration of what she knows to be true. The humor here is at the expense of the female student and her inability to clearly communicate, a stereotype unintentionally perpetuated by Women’s Language.
As deleterious as this may seem, Women’s Language is an excellent tool for bringing people together, for showing respect and politeness, and for showing others they are valued. It is beneficial for team building, for networking, and for leveling power differentiations.