Doing gender in conflict talk: an analysis of gendered discourses in a U.S. reality TV show

Chit Cheung Matthew Sung


This paper presents an analysis of gendered discourses in conflict talk by drawing upon interactional data from the U.S. reality TV show The Apprentice. It explores the ways in which women professionals enact their gender identities while engaging actively in conflict talk which is stereotypically coded as ‘masculine’. Specifically, I shall look at the different ways in which they construct their gendered identities by aligning themselves with different gendered discourses. It is found that these woman professionals are shown to draw upon different gendered discourses in constructing their feminine gender identities, namely the dominant discourses of femininity and resistant discourses. The paper also shows that the enactment of gendered identities in conflict talk may vary from one context to another.


Gendered discourses; identity; conflict talk; discourse analysis; reality TV; media

Full Text:



Baxter, J. 2003. Positioning Gender in Discourse: A Feminist Methodology. Basingstoke: Palgrave.

Baxter, J. 2010. The Language of Female Leadership. Basingstoke: Palgrave.

Bucholtz, M. and K. Hall. 2005. “Identity and interaction: A sociocultural linguistic approach”. Discourse Studies 7: 584-614.

Brown, P. and S. Levinson. 1987. Politeness: Some Universals in Language Usage. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Coates, J. 1996. Women Talk: Conversation between Women Friends. Oxford: Blackwell.

Coates, J. 1997. “Competing discourses of femininity”. Communicating Gender in Context. Eds. H. Kotthoff and R. Wodak. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 285-314.

Coates, J. 1999. “Changing femininities: The talk of teenage girls”. Reinventing Identities: The Gendered Self in Discourse: Eds. M. Bucholtz, A. Liang and L. A. Sutton. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 123-144.

Cameron, D. 2001. Working with Spoken Discourse. London: Sage.

Eckert, P. and S. McConnell-Ginet. 2003. Language and Gender. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Farris, C. S. 2000. “Cross-sex peer conflict and the discursive production of gender in a Chinese preschool in Taiwan”. Journal of Pragmatics 32: 539-568.

Foucault, M. 1972. The Archaeology of Knowledge. London: Routledge.

García Gómez, A. 2000. “Discourse, politeness and gender roles: An exploratory investigation into British and Spanish talkshow verbal conflicts”. Estudios Ingleses de la Universidad Complutense 8: 97-125.

García Gómez, A. 2012. “Perceptions of assertiveness among women: Triggering and managing conflict in reality television”. Discourse and Communication 6 (4): 379-399.

Gunthner, S. 1992. “The construction of gendered discourse in Chinese-German interactions.” Discourse and Society 3: 167-191.

Holmes, J. 1995. Women, men and politeness. London: Longman.

Holmes, J. 1997. “Story-telling in New Zealand: Women’s and men’s talk”. Gender and Discourse. Eds. R. Wodak. London: Sage. 263-293.

Holmes, J. 2006. Gendered Talk at Work: Constructing Gender Identity through Workplace Discourse. Oxford: Blackwell.

Holmes, J. and M. Marra. 2010. “Femininity, feminism and gendered discourse”. Femininity, Feminism and Gendered Discourse. Eds. J. Holmes and M. Marra. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars. 1-18.

Lakoff, R. 1990. Talking Power: The Politics of Language in Our Lives. New York: Basic Books.

Litosseliti, L. 2006. Gender and Language: Theory and Practice. Oxford: Arnold, 2006.

Makri-Tsilipakou, M. 1991. “Doing disagreement: The case of gender”. Working Papers on Language, Gender and Sexism 1: 58-87.

Mullany, L. 2007. Gendered Discourse in the Professional Workplace. Basingstoke: Palgrave.

Pines, A. M., Gat, H. and Y. Tal. 2002. “Gender differences in content and style of argument between couples during divorce mediation”. Conflict Resolution Quarterly 20: 23-50.

Preece, S. 2008. “Multilingual gendered identities: Female undergraduate students in London talk about heritage languages”. Journal of Language, Identity, and Education 7: 41-60.

Schnurr, S. 2009. Leadership Discourse at Work: Interactions of Humour, Gender and Workplace Culture. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Schnurr, S. 2010. “Decision made – let’s move on: Negotiating gender and professional identity in Hong Kong workplaces”. Language in its Socio-cultural Context. Eds. S. Muehleisen, M. Bieswanger and H. Motschenbacher. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang. 111-136.

Sunderland, J. 2004. Gendered Discourse. Basingstroke: Palgrave.

Talbot, M. 2010. Language and Gender: An Introduction. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.

Tannen, D. 1994. Talking from 9 to 5. New York: William Morrow.

Vuchinich, S. 1987. “Starting and stopping spontaneous family conflicts”. Journal of Marriage and Family 48: 591-602.


Copyright (c) 2013 Chit Cheung Matthew Sung

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

© Universidad de La Rioja, 2013

ISSN 1576-6357

EISSN 1695-4300