Muted group theory

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Abstract

The motivation behind this report is to research the muted group theory, for the purpose to spread the finding to students taking the level 200 communications paper, this theory may be used in the final exam for this paper so there is a large necessity for the finding to be correct. While it is hard to understand the interest in this feminist theory there is an underlying interest fact for both male and female students.

The problem in this report is the misunderstanding on the theory, the name itself is misleading, giving a misconception that it has something to do with the physical inability to speak.

The way this problem was solved was through a collection and evaluation of various books and articles related, n some cases mildly and others majorly, to the theory.

The result from the research that was done was that, in short, the muted group theory is a mental problem where through the dominant group of a culture the mute group is forced into alliteration.

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This theory is important; it points out the obvious ideas about female cultures and explains reasons behind what they are, how they become that way and who makes it happen.

Introduction

The purpose of this report is to gain the knowledge of what the mute group theory is, who researched the theory, why they did, how it contributed to the way we communication and what is the future for this theory.

The intended way in which this will be achieved is through researching the theorist's findings and collectively reporting on them, in a way in which my audience will understand.

The limitations of this report were mainly funding, to gain access the most of the theorist's articles, paid logins were required, or the funding to buy books that aren't readily accessible. Another limitation was the catalogue at the Whitireia library, while there were an abundance of feminist related books there was a limited amount related to this in particular theory. The ability to read an index, I found myself looking for a replacement book in the last few days when I realised that the one I was using had nothing to do with Kramarae. Lack of knowledge, towards the end of the time I had for the report I discovered that Kramarae had a different name for a period of her research. Lastly, time management was a major limitation.

The methods used to research this theory were books from the library, articles from Proquest and articles researched from the internet.

In this report you will find a literature review, the findings, Conclusion, a summary of points of information and a critique of the theory.

Literature Review

Two Books

Belenky, M. F. (1986). Women's ways of knowing: the development of self, voice and mind. In Introduction (pp.4-17). New York: Basic books.

Kramarae is used in the introduction chapters as an example into the background of the study. In this section the author discussed the feelings of women not being served adequately on their needs as women, the idea that women find it harder to establish themselves in roles of authority, talking about the suggestion that women as often unheard or ignored in most situations even when they feel that they know something important that should be shared, along with the feeling of being ignored they feel they are being discouraged from practising any intellectual line of work that is typically male dominated as it is seen as being ‘unfeminine' and unreachable with what women are suppose to be capable of.

It is an unspoken idea amongst the male culture that women should e seen but not heard.

Even now in the modern world, where things have supposably changed it is still relatively rare to find females in roles of authority.

I found this book to have the third largest amount of detail on my theory from the books Whitireia library had to offer. The first being Readings in Feminist Rhetorical Theory the second being my text book.

I was disappointed with the lack of direct mention of the mute group theory. I found that I had to read between the lines to gather anything helpful from this book. Not helpful, was the fact that in this small section of a chapter the author was using a multitude of examples from various theorists to explain herself.

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Griffen, C. L., Foss, K. A., & Foss, S. K. (2004). Readings in Feminist Rhetorical Theory. In Cheris Kramarae (pp. 8-44). Thousand Oaks, Calif: Sage Publications.

The chapter of this book devoted to Cheris Kramarae opens with a background of her development of education and how she became interested wit this theory.

Moving on to the first section ‘Proprietors of language' this section discusses the idea that in a male dominated culture the language is developed by male without consideration of females (the dominate group develops the language without consideration of the mute­­ group).

The next section is titled ‘women as a way males/dominate groups inconsideration of the female/muted groups forces the compression of the muted group to begin with, i.e. having no connection to the culture dominate norms pushes the group deeper into decline.

The third is ‘a visiting scholar' talks about the oppression of past female scholars and their research making the present research redundant and repetitive if it had been openly accessible.

The next ‘Do we really want more control of technology' discusses the possible idea that technology cold release the muted group by giving them the opportunity to be a part of the new language developed with the new culture the technology is producing, also the sceptical again this idea.

The final chapter titled ‘Feminist theories of communication' discusses the multiple other female theories, these are all directed solely towards female culture while most non-feminist theory doesn't take this into account and results in misleading and dangerous ideas in relation to women's experiences.

I found that the majority of this chapter didn't directed related to mute group theory more about feminist theories in general and relating them quietly to the mute group theory. But the points that are discussed are interesting while only slightly topical. Being only written five years ago found it did appear rather outdated when talking about technology.

Two Database Articles

Cheris Kramarae. (2003). Women, Work and Computing / Unlocking the Clubhouse: Women in Computing. Review of medium_being_reviewed title_of_work_reviewed_in_italics. NWSA Journal, 15(2), 207-210. Retrieved August 17, 2009, from Research Library. (Document ID: 423976331).

This article is a response to an earlier article on the relationship between women and the computer industry

The article points out that the percentage of women in this industry is declining but the is little know of why the original article was about Ruth Woodfield, Jane Margolis and Allan Fishers research into this mystery.

They conclude with the reasoning of the culture of computing still being male dominated, there is still the potential though, for female to break through this.

This article discusses the idea of genderless universe allowing a theoretical ‘reset' on the idea on society in the virtual world this is plausible but in the physical it is impossible in regards to male superiors over employees, also many dominate group fear the idea of gender bending they do not want to be deceived or loss there power. This idea does not seem like it would conclude with the potential goal set foreword.

Finally two points are pointed out that were missed from the initial article, there was no mention of race issues in obtaining degrees and secondly that the females that do pervade in this industry are stereotyped hostility with underserved labels.

I found this article less than helpful in comparison to the other reading I collected, while it was written by the theorist herself there was little to no mention directly on the mute group theory, which I expected from the title. Although there are many points that I myself would relate easily to her theory.

Cheris Kramarae. (2005). Muted Group Theory1 and Communication: Asking Dangerous Questions. Review of medium_being_reviewed title_of_work_reviewed_in_italics. Women and Language, 28(2), 55-61,72. Retrieved August 17, 2009, from Research Library. (Document ID: 974623021)

Kramarae explains examples about mute group theories mainly on the constraints of women due to the donate male group ‘belittling' their intellectual property, and academic works, she explains about how language is male oriented and is subjective against women. She also talks about the relation of other cultures and races with the mute group theory.

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She then movies on to the history of muted women for the past 500 years and how when she first started working on her theory it was radical and topical, people were interested and fascinated but now this not so interesting, she puts this up to the fact that the world must be changing and fixing itself through technology, changing the definitions of the original male defined language with less discomfort in the words that are used commonly in society.

After that she compares standpoint theory with mute group theories, both theories relate the different in gender perception to their differing experiences and affects of their views. Empathy towards others and trying to see others views could help solve many group problems. Mute group theories looks at groups while standpoint looks at the individual.

Later she points out that by trying to use the group theory; results can easily turn into essentialism by trying to not miss a viewpoint of a group you can look over another.

This article was written by Cheris Kramarae herself, talking directly about her very own theory, by my option I would say that makes the article very accurate. It was a Journal from Proquest.

Two Internet Articles

Baer, J. (2009). Muted Group Theory by Cheris Kramarae. Retrieved August 18, 2009, from University of Colorado at Boulder web site: http://www.colorado.edu/Communication/meta-discourses/Papers/App_Papers/Baer.htm

This paper refers to both theorists Kramarae and Ardener (female and male), and describes there different approaches.

Ardener seeing women as being constructed differently causing differences in the way they act. Defining muteness as being lower in status than the dominate group.

Kramarae differs, defining muteness as the lack of power a group holds. She says that women a perceived as not only holds. She says that women a perceived as not only being less powerful, but also as a group use a different language than the dominant group. This language to men is harder to understand as it is not worth it. Muteness is a dominant-group created problem.

The next section is a case study explaining a work situation where there are two males and four females. Where the two males and one of the females are higher positions and the other three females are there assistants. The female that is in a higher role is there through conversion to the male manners to gain their acceptances, by relation her assistant was also accepted by the males and they listened to both. The other two female assistants were treated as lesser valued workers, while they acted like females they were treated as well by their overheads, but their ideas in relation to the work were ignored or suppressed to gain the clients respect.

The last section is the critique of the theory. The writer of this paper tends to agree with the proposed ideas with the muted group theory. Making points on her own evidence that for the 25 years Kramarae worked on muted group theory there was little change and nothing very big. Not much change in the way women are viewed between 1970's and 1990's.

This paper was very relevant to the mute group theory, it compared the two theorists and gave a real life example, although it would have been more interesting if it was written by a male instead of another female.

McLaughlin, D. (1999). Research report on Edwin Ardener's “Belief and the Problem of Women”. Retrieved August 18, 2009, from Oak University Website http://oak.cats.ohiou.edu/~dm419397/mgres.htm

This is a report on the Edwin Ardener's article ‘Belief and the problem with women'.

The author D.McLaughlin reports on this simular theorist to get a further view of the theory.

Ardener and Kramarae share the same ideas of the theory, that women or the muted group are muted by the unfairness in their language from the male or dominate group. The differences found in the theorist are that Ardener splits his theory in two parts, technical and analytical.

Technical, in which the point of man-made language falls, women that cannot communicate through this dialect are outcast as inarticulate.

Analytical, in which women have to work harder in society to provable and must change to fit the male norms. This was researched through the observation of the Cameroon tribes, where females would have to participate in ‘rite s of passage' rituals including seclusion, tests and rapes. Once past, they would be rewarded with respect and acceptance from the males.

Ardener's; idea of women is that their ultimate goal is to achieve the respect of male to be on a ‘level playing field'.

The author concludes with the idea that this comparison is a symbolic look at our male dominated society in regards to the Cameroon tribes, that women everywhere must adjust their ways to achieve male acceptance.

I found it interesting to read the male theorists take on the mute group theory, although I was disappointed by the fact that there definitions were incredibility simular, I did find that his comparison of the western culture and Cameroon tribes helped me understand the ideas that arise though his take on the theory. While the article was on a male theorist it was written by a female student, I would be more interested to get a purely male take on the theory.

Findings

Background Of Theorist

Cheris Kramarae was born 1938 in South Dakota. Throughout the sixties and seventies she gain a B.S. degree in journalism and English, an M.S. degree in journalism and English and a Ph.D. in speech Communication, she then went on to teach in the speech Communication department at the University of Illinois. She then focused her work in the structure and use of language.

Outline Of The Theory/key Issues

To define muted group theory, the muted group must first be defined. The muted group are not technically mute, but though the language their culture supplies them with, are unable to articulate themselves to the extent of the non-muted or dominate group, the dominate group being the superior group of people in the culture that hold the power to the decisions that define the culture, they take little to no consideration to the non-dominant or muted groups in their culture when creating the norms, through which pushing the muted group further into recession. The muted group theory is the theory through which this group occurs, with the dominate groups invention of the language without the thought of the recessed group. The mute group differs from the dominant though their experiences and perceptions of these.

Kramaraes' theory is mainly feminist oriented, the mute group being woman and the dominant being men. Women are seen in society as lower beings compared to men, seldom involved in promotions in the workplace when there is another alternative along with examples like being tricked into being kept ‘in their place'.

Application Of The Theory

With the rate technology is advancing Karamaraes' vision for the next steep of her theory is the movement into online communication interaction. Her idea is that online a person can be genderless, making communication uncontrolled by the muted group theory to abolish the norm of sexes getting different treatment according to their significance in society. To be treated other than mindless helpers to the dominant group, men, women must change the way they are perceived by men to be accepted by men, when they are accepted they then gain the respect of men and are treated like they belong to the dominant group, the way this is done is that a woman must adopt the characteristics of a male, using their language the way it was intended by the dominant group and copying there mannerisms. With the advances through technology, the internet has provided us with the environment and means, though with Kramaraes' vision of the need to lose the female mannerisms to be accepted. With the new networking tools web 2.0 provided us with we can know create a new unbiased driven characters with sites like second life and games like world of Facebook. The dominant group however despise this idea, they are terrified at the idea that the power could shift, even the smallest degree so that muted groups proposals could be seen as important, or even more important than the current dominant group, hating the idea of even the possibility that Kramarae could be right they would never accept that women have their own personal language, to the dominant group all they are concerned with is power and how to use it against people.

Evaluation Of The Theory

Kramarae believes that women are the westerns cultures muted group of our culture, they are the repressed group driven into illiteracy through the actions of the dominate male group of our culture, creating the language we are forced to use daily through the raw fact that there is now alternative means to communication. To be accepted and pull themselves out from the depths of the male created recession, they must gain the respect of males through copying them and gaining acceptance into their dominant group. Kramarae hopes that this could be over come through the use of technology, changing our culture from dominant and muted groups to one large genderless group.

Conclusion

The reason this theory is important in society is it raises issues about the female culture, how they are formed through their experiences, and since their experiences differ from males they shape differing norms then males and since males norms are society norms, females not fit in.

Do you find yourself questioning the way you're seen in the world? Are you naturally part of the dominant culture that will end up in a highly respected job role? Or are you part of the muted group being ignored while others are getting the recognition that you deserve? Or you in the dominant group, after gaining the respect from you new pears by throwing away the traits of your natural muted group?

Will the future bring the genderless society that Kramarae wants? It's hard to tell, but from the little mention of this theory since the 90's it seems that perhaps it's already happening.

A Summary Of Points Of Information

  • Kramarae focused her work in the structure and use of language.
  • The mute group are the non-dominant people in a culture, unable to articulate themselves to the extent of the dominant group. In western culture this is the female group.
  • Dominant group are the power holders of the culture, making the decisions that define the culture. In the western culture this is the male group
  • The dominant group defines the culture to their norms.
  • The groups differ mainly upon experiences and how their perceptions are formed through these.
  • Kramaraes' theory can be applied to online communication interaction
  • Online a person can be genderless
  • Genderless meaning that the rules and norms of their group are abolished.
  • To be accepted by the dominant group, members of the muted group adopt the ways of that group.
  • The ways of the dominant group being the way they use the language and their mannerisms.
  • The genderless communication is can be applied through networking sites that are now readily accessible to anyone, for example Facebook or second life.
  • The dominant group are concerned with this idea and find objectionable the idea of losing the power that they currently can use against people.

A Critique Of The Theory

When I began my research of this theory I thought that it was totally different from what it actually was. I had no idea that I was expected to research a feminist theory of with I am morally against. But once I studied Kramaraes findings I found myself confused about my opinion upon the theory.

I got angry at the idea of this theory, I am not a stereotypical female in theory, and I participate in many male typical hobbies and in general am a bit of a ‘tom boy'. So when I read Kramaraes generalisations about the female culture it annoyed me that I was supposed to fit into this generalisation. I found myself ranting at people about how this theory was so close minded and did not take into account the people who do not fit into these categorises.

Once I had finished researching my topic I was still annoyed but from a different position, I was now able to agree with the theory on many levels, it makes sense. The idea was females being put lower in importance in this culture and the males being the decision makings, it's true as all the years ago when these norms were established women we discouraged entirely from pursuing any type of power oriented positions. Now days it's changed, women can gain these powerful positions and that all fits into Kramaraes theory, to get to these positions women must change their ways to gain the respect from the dominant group, adopting the characteristics of the males. I don't want to accept it but I guess that my ‘tom boy' mannerisms can fit into this as trying to gain the respect of the males that I associate myself with.

This theory was discovered by a female, most of the articles I read on the theory were written by females, the article I read on male viewpoint on the theory was written by a female. I think it would have been much more interesting to have more male inputs into this theory. It is my opinion that a male student should have been assigned this theory to research.

Glossary Of Terms

Dominant: the state that exists when one person or group has power over another; "her apparent dominance of her husband was really her attempt to make him pay attention to her"

Mute/ muted: the equaliser of the dominant group, with a dominant group there is always the muted group. When one person or group has power over another, the power is taken away from the muted group to retain balance.

Group: any number of entities (members) considered as a unit

Theory: A hypothesis that has withstood extensive testing by a variety of methods, and in which a higher degree of certainty may be placed. A theory is NEVER a fact, but instead is an attempt to explain one or more facts

Culture: the attitudes and behaviour that are characteristic of a particular social group or organization

Genderless: Without an associated gender

Facebook: Facebook is a free-access social networking website that is operated and privately owned by Facebook, Inc

Second life: is an online 3D interactive virtual reality program which resembles console video games such as Final Fantasy, but is almost entirely built and influenced by the people who use it

References

Belenky, M. F. (1986). Women's ways of knowing: the development of self, voice and mind. In Introduction (pp.4-17). New York: Basic books.

Griffen, C. L., Foss, K. A., & Foss, S. K. (2004). Readings in Feminist Rhetorical Theory. In Cheris Kramarae (pp. 8-44). Thousand Oaks, Calif: Sage Publications.

Cheris Kramarae. (2003). Women, Work and Computing / Unlocking the Clubhouse: Women in Computing. Review of medium_being_reviewed title_of_work_reviewed_in_italics. NWSA Journal, 15(2), 207-210. Retrieved August 17, 2009, from Research Library. (Document ID: 423976331).

Cheris Kramarae. (2005). Muted Group Theory1 and Communication: Asking Dangerous Questions. Review of medium_being_reviewed title_of_work_reviewed_in_italics. Women and Language, 28(2), 55-61,72. Retrieved August 17, 2009, from Research Library. (Document ID: 974623021)

Baer, J. (2009). Muted Group Theory by Cheris Kramarae. Retrieved August 18, 2009, from University of Colorado at Boulder web site: http://www.colorado.edu/Communication/meta-discourses/Papers/App_Papers/Baer.htm

McLaughlin, D. (1999). Research report on Edwin Ardener's “Belief and the Problem of Women”. Retrieved August 18, 2009, from Oak University Website http://oak.cats.ohiou.edu/~dm419397/mgres.htm

Griffin, E. (2009). A first look at communication theory (7th ed.). In Muted group theory of Cheris Kramarae (pp. 454-465). New York: McGraw Hill.

Bibliography

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