How Do Gender Stereotypes from 1973 Hold Up in Modern Media?

Griffin Gamble, Shayan Karmaly, Rahul Reddy, and Michael Zhan

Our team was interested in looking at some speech features that were found primarily in women’s speech in a famous study by Robin Lakoff in 1973. We wanted to see if Lakoff’s findings were still prevalent in today’s media. In our study, we followed two characters, Robin Scherbatsky and Barney Stinson, in the TV show How I Met Your Mother. When analyzing their various conversations with friends throughout the show, we focused on two of the many speech features that Lakoff initially identified – tag questions and intensifiers. We separated their conversations into two social contexts – single-gender and mixed-gender conversations. We were curious to see if the frequency of the speech features would increase or decrease depending on the type of social situation that Robin and Barney were in. In addition, we were interested in the overall frequency of tag questions and intensifiers in Robin’s speech versus Barney’s speech because, according to Lakoff, these speech features should be more prominent in female speech (1973). We found that Barney had more tag questions and intensifiers per line than Robin, but in single-gender situations, Robin had significantly more intensifiers per line.

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