Publication details [#5679]

Hegstrom, Jane L. and Joyce McCarl-Nielsen. 2002. Gender and metaphor: Descriptions of familiar persons. Discourse Processes 33 (3) : 219–234. 16 pp.
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This study investigates the extent to which metaphors used to describe familiar or known persons are gendered. University students (N = 461) described someone they know well using metaphors or similes in an open-ended essay. We hypothesized that there will be few gendered metaphors with the attendant gender stereotypes because respondents have access to individuating, personal attributes of the targeted person. Respondents generated 1,648 metaphors, but we analyzed only 32 metaphors used 5 or more times. Those metaphors that were used to describe women significantly more than men were sun, flower, and mother, whereas the metaphor rabbit was used to describe men more than women. Content analysis of the 32 most frequently used metaphors revealed that women are described as cheerful, dependent, and attractive, whereas men are described as strong or sturdy and big or tall. The data speak more powerfully to gender similarity than difference; however, the significance placed on physical appearance for both familiar men and women is noteworthy. (LLBA 2003, vol. 37, n. 1)