In Performative Force, Convention, and Discursive Justice, Rebecca Kukla explores how gender affects speech in practical ways. One example Kukla uses is of members in disadvantaged groups and how belonging in such a group makes it challenging to express themselves properly which subsequently results in further disadvantage. That is all, perhaps, simply an elaborate way of saying that social circumstances affect one’s charisma and performance.
The essay outlines how especially women are disenfranchised because of the performative aspect of speech.
I can relate this to my experience with individuals speaking in groups. There's a type of person that speaks in front of the class and they are usually considerably smart and/or blatantly full of themselves. It is the latter that I do not encounter often and so I do not get agitated in the classes I attend. Although, I can imagine that Harvard and other Ivy League universities around North America have a few of those they’d like to spare for the rest of our institutions.
When we look closely at why we listen and why we engage we can observe a few things: (1) we listen because they’re ideas seem to be persuasive, (2) they engage because they have been celebrated for ‘knowing’ in the past and find pleasure in being known as ‘knowers.’ It might be that these people are wanting to help the professor move on with their lecture and provide lively engagement but I seriously doubt that is always the case.
There is nothing wrong with this only if the reason others do not participate is because of the unempowering nature of not feeling listened to because of these speech hierarchies that exist. In relation to gender, it is less obvious, I would like to say. I say that mainly because it has been my experience in the past that more attractive ladies tend to get the floor more often than classically unattractive ladies. The same applies to men, of course.
The only way to balance this unfair dichotomy is to make sure we are good listeners even when our biology does not force us to listen.
It is sometimes easy (if the speaker is not insufferable) to listen to both attractive and unattractive members of the sex we are attracted to. We should, then, balance it out and celebrate the person because of the idea rather than because of the outlying features they possess.
The world would be a more pleasant place. In the end, attractive people are more likely to be trusted, elected, and listened to, as studies suggest. There is only so much we can do with bias. Nonetheless, if I can sometimes achieve overcoming it then I am sure many others can too.
Before you go…
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I write to keep you thinking and to keep me thankful and reflective. Cheers and until next time,