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Do Men’s and Women’s Perceptions Differ?

The results presented in Figure 6.2 indicate that, in general, both effeminate-sounding men and masculine-sounding men are perceived, when listened to in their NRP guise, as less effeminate, less educated, belonging to a lower social class, less formal, and less intelligent—but not as less friendly. Moreover, Figures 6.3, 6.4, and 6.5 show that, per speaker and in each pair of stimuli, there are significant differences for effeminacy in all cases, depending on the guise. When we separate the responses given by male and female listeners (whose numbers were balanced in the sample), the general picture remains the same (only the responses for the scale of friendliness were not significantly different, in terms of NRP and STA guises). There is, however, an interesting differentiation between the perceptions by male and female listeners in terms of the hierarchy of how significant the differences between NRP and STA guises were for the various scales. Table 6.4 organizes the scales in the order of such significance.

This table indicates that the difference between responses for “more or less educated” depending on the NRP or STA guises was the most significant for all speakers, regardless of the listener’s sex. So, women and men agree that both the effeminate- and the masculine-sounding speakers sound like they have a lower degree of education when they listen to their NRP guise (and a higher degree of education when they listen to their STA guise excerpts). However, all

TABLE 6.4

Differences between female and male participants in the Perception Test

Female Participants

Male Participants

Effem.-sounding

Masc.-sounding

Effem.-sounding

Masc.-sounding

education

education

education

education

intelligence

class

effeminacy

effeminacy

class

intelligence

intelligence

class

effeminacy

formality

formality

formality

formality

effeminacy

class

intelligence

other features vary in rank. With regard to effeminacy, while it comes in fourth or fifth place (respectively for effeminate- and masculine-sounding speakers) for female listeners, it comes in second for male listeners, right along with education, both for effeminate- and masculine-sounding speakers. In other words, the significance between the responses for effeminacy in terms of NRP and STA guises is the second highest in men’s perceptions, but not in women’s.

The order summed up in Table 6.4 suggests that men likely latch on to ideas of masculinity in relation to NRP more strongly than women. Therefore, for men, NRP contributes to a more masculine style of speaking—hence the NRP-filled conversation among highly educated, well-off male rowers in the sports center locker room, presented in the introduction to this chapter. The fact that those male rowers are known as “rich” graduate students actually enhances the aura of masculinity around plural NPs in the NRP form. For men, then, NRP is a useful resource in the expression of masculinity, while for women it may be perceived more directly as an index of lower social class or intelligence. Of course, this does not mean that women will always “dislike” or disapprove of NRP in a man’s speech—after all, NRP is certainly not the only linguistic tool available for men interested in being perceived as more masculine. In addition, it is possible that men are not always invested in a masculine style just to attract the interest of women but also to negotiate a clearer divide between more masculine and less masculine men.

This discussion is also supported by a distributional analysis of the responses for the “gay” box in the second part of the perception form (cf. Figure 6.1). Figures 6.6 and 6.7, respectively, show how many times the “gay”

Women’s responses in the “gay” box

figure 6.6 Women’s responses in the “gay” box

Men’s responses in the “gay” box box was checked

figure 6.7 Men’s responses in the “gay” box box was checked (x) or not (o) by men and women, for each effeminate- and masculine-sounding speaker, when they were listened to in both their NRP and their STA guises. Both men and women check the “gay” box more times for the effeminate-sounding speakers (Jaime and Lucas, when they are listened to in both their NRP and their STA guises). However, men check the “gay” box more often than women when the speakers are listened to in their STA guise. Compare, for example, one of the effeminate-sounding men, Jaime—who was checked as “gay” sixteen times by male listeners, but only eight times by females; or one of the masculine-sounding speakers, Carlos, who was checked as “gay” ten times in his STA guise by male listeners, as opposed to four times by female ones.

A multivariate analysis was run in R, taking “x” (“gay” box checked) and “o” (“gay” box not checked) as dependent variants. It included the participants’ sex, their age, their origin (born and raised in the city of Sao Paulo or not), the guise (NRP or STA) and the overall masculinity/effeminacy of the four speakers as fixed effects, and listener and speaker as random effects. The model also tested for two-way interaction effects between all possible combinations of the listener’s sex, NRP/STA variants, and whether the speaker was effeminate- or masculine-sounding. None of these interactions was selected as significant, which means that the important predictors in the model displayed in Table 6.5 are truly independent of one another. Listener sex is selected as significant even with the inclusion of listener as a random effect in the model, which means that sex overcomes the intraparticipant variation and possible idiosyncrasies, and seems to have a real effect on how many times the “gay” box is checked: more often by men than by women, more often in the STA guise, and more often

TABLE 6.5

Significant factors for the “gay” box responses

Factors

Total Tokens

x %

Weight

Listener's

Men

196

39

.64

Sex

Women

204

22

.36

NP plural

STA

200

44

.72

form

NRP

200

16

.28

Male

Effeminate-sounding

200

46

.73

Speaker

Masculine-sounding

200

14

.26

Input: 0.226

when the male speaker is an effeminate-sounding man. This is a further argument for NRP as a masculinizing feature, especially for male listeners (even if the STA form of plural NPs is not directly perceived as an index of effeminacy).

 
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