signifying gender

Arnold Zwicky zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU
Tue Oct 15 22:23:09 UTC 2002

Margaret Talbot, "Men Behaving Badly", in the 10/13/02 New York Times
Magazine, examines men harassing men and the search for legal remedies
to it.  On p. 54 she considers who gets picked on:

  Often the men who are targeted and later bring claims
  of harassment are the weakest of the herd--younger,
  smaller or more effeminate than the men they work with.
  But this is not always the case.  Sometimes a big guy
  who's a seasoned worker is picked on anyway...

A case in point is pipe welder Joseph Carlton.

  Carlton was not some weedy college boy.  "Joe's a big,
  good-looking country guy, maybe 6-foot-5 and 250 pounds,"
  says his lawyer... "The secretaries in my office called
  him the Marlboro Man."

But his physical presence is not enough to make the point.  Talbot
goes on to mention Carlton's girlfriend and previous work at
construction sites and shipyards.

Even that is not enough.  There is still the evidence of language:

  "I like to weld," Carlton testified.  "That's what I've
  always done.  And I like to do a good job.  But I ain't
  never had nobody grab me."

None of that prissy standard variety for Carlton.  No, he speaks (and
is represented here as speaking) nonstandard English, which in this
context signifies not ignorance, lack of education, etc., but instead
toughness, authentic masculinity.

arnold (zwicky at

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