This paper was originally presented at MLA in 1992.
Argumentation style differs
During the course of my teaching, I have noticed a difference in the argumentation styles my students have used in presenting their papers.
Only my female students have ever included examples of personal argumentation in their papers, even when the topic assigned was a business proposal for their own businesses.
For example, Joyce worked on the topic of superior-subordinate relationships in the workplace and included her personal code of ethics for dealing with these situations in her paper. She set this up appropriately and presented an interesting discussion of her personal philosophy and how she arrived at the conclusions she reached, mostly through her religious and career experiences.
Cindy presented a business plan for a cleaning service, work in which she gained experience helping in her motherâ€™s business. One point Cindy made read, â€œA few years ago, I helped my mother clean houses when she started her own business. I also helped her set up appointments and buy supplies.â€
Another student, David, created a business plan for setting up an accounting service. The person who provided most of the information through interviews for this paper was Mr. Hancock. David quoted his advice on starting a business and some pointers for making the business successful in the first year. Nowhere in the paper is it mentioned that Mr. Hancock is Davidâ€™s father.
Overall the women seemed to use more personal supports for their line of argumentation than did the men. This usage fits in with current linguistic theory which says that men do not respect personal anecdotes as persuasion, but see them as intrusive and unnecessary (Roberts, Davies, and Jupp).
Roberts, Celia, Evelyn Davies, and Tom Jupp. Language and Discrimination. Boston: Addison-Wesley, 1992.
To be continued…