Sexism In Nneka Umera-Okeke's 'Marked Women'

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Markedness The concept of “marked” can be seen from two different levels: linguistic and literal, one occurring as a consequence of the other. In her study on linguistic sexism, Nneka Umera-Okeke defines markedness as “the way words are changed or added to give special meaning” (9). In linguistics, an unmarked word is the “normal” form of a word, while a marked form would contain a suffix –such as ess, and ed. Moreover, in order to create a better picture of this, one may use the word poet. Poet, the unmarked and male version of a word, becomes poet-ess, marked and female. Ironically enough, an occupation considered feminine still contains sexism that favors men over women. Deborah Tannen, professor of linguistics at Georgetown University, …show more content…
In “Marked Women” Tannen recalls a conference where she examined every woman in the room for flaws in their attires, while men go unnoticed or unmarked. In Tannen’s words, “I asked myself what style we women could have adopted that would have been unmarked, like the men’s. The answer was none. There is no unmarked woman” (132). Not only is markedness present in words, is also present in expectations. For men, no makeup, no exploration of fashion, and using their own last name –just like their words– are unmarked actions. In juxtaposition to men, women are the complete opposite; no makeup, no exploration of fashion, and keeping their last name are all marked scenarios because society has set high expectations for women. Females are supposed to “try” to look elegant and attractive, so they must wear makeup; females must have a variety of clothing, jewelry, shoes, hills –which appear to have become their own category; females must change their last name to show that they have stopped being who they used to be, and “reinvented” to be their husband’s. Also, to finalize her study, Tannen offers a new idea: Markedness in words is an allegory for the objectification of women; once again manifesting that language indeed halts the process of …show more content…
However, for the purposes of this research, the focus –like Marked Women– will be on the negative consequences that it brings on women.3 Modern society has created, through omission and lack of discussion, a culture that considers the female body an object only worthy of providing sexual satisfaction. According to Fredrickson and Roberts, “this sexualization occurs in many forms, ranging from sexual violence to sexualized evaluation” (175). Once again, even though their research focused on all the aspects of objectification, this research is more concerned with the effects of sexualized evaluation –objectification of the female body. For example, in 2009 Nathan Heflick and Jamie Goldenberg published a research conducted in the University of South Florida, where they attempted to find a correlation between the sense of competence of a person, and the fact that Sarah Palin was oftentimes objectified for being a woman running for a high position in government.4 The result was that after scoring Palin on an appearance-based scale, students –regardless of their party association– showed a decrease on intentions to vote for the McCain-Palin ticket. The reason why this is considered to be relevant is because it attests that, because of language and its sexist roots and employment, females are oftentimes judged because

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