‘How not to answer a question’ revisited
A typology applied to the gendered use of avoidance strategies in Australian political media interviews*
Women in politics in Australia have been in the spotlight recently as their numbers have increased over the last decade particularly with the unprecedented number of women elected in the 1996 General election and also with the 1994 promise of the ALP to increase the number of women preselected in winnable seats to 35% by 2002. Recent research on language and gender has shown that women and men use different discourse strategies when they speak and that women tend to be more ‘cooperative’ in their speech while men are more ‘adversarial’ (Tannen 1993). The context of this paper will be the highly public forum of the political media interview. The hypothesis that women avoid answering questions less than men is tested, showing that women do avoid answering questions less than men. The gendered use of different avoidance strategies is also examined but with no significant difference in the way questions are avoided. The use of prefered and disprefered answers, however, showed a gender difference with women using significantly more prefered answers than men. To define different types of answer and avoidance, the notion of topic used by Gardner (1987) and the Gricean Maxims (1975) are used.
Published online: 01 January 1997
(1995) Equivocation in political interviews: Understanding strategic ambiguity. ACAS Discussion Paper Series, The Australian Centre for American Studies, Sydney, University of Sydney.
Bull, P. and K. Mayer
Di Pietro, J.A.
James, D. and J. Drakich
Keenan, E.O. and B.B. Schiefflin