She now maintains a lively blog at Live Journal, which is sometimes like a seminar as her commentors are fully part of the conversation.
Recently she began a series responding to Deborah Tannen's new book:
my reaction to You're Wearing That?: Understanding Mothers and Daughters in Conversation would be the same as my reaction to her previous books for the general public, and is easily stated, as follows: The language behavior of the set of American-English-speaking adult women as I perceive it does not correspond to the language behavior of the set that Professor Tannen writes about.
The conversation continues:
Professor Tannen and I are, as I've already said, on opposite sides of the theoretical spectrum when it comes to alleged gender differences in spoken American English. (She sometimes appears to have a wider population in mind when she writes, but my own expertise extends only to speakers of American English.) We agree that there are observable differences in gendered speech; we agree that there is a Dominant spoken discourse variety of AE and a Dominated (or Subordinate) one. [Those labels are mine, not Tannen's.] Our agreement ends at that point.
Tannen's position, so far as I can determine from reading her work and listening to her statements in media appearances, is that those differences are linked to gender. Mine is that they are linked to power -- to status and rank -- and that the fact that they seem gender-linked is a statistical phenomenon; because more men than women are in positions of higher status and rank, we routinely observe more male examples of Dominant American English than female ones. My position is that all genders know and use both Dominant AE and Dominated AE, depending on the linguistic environment and circumstances in which they find themselves.
This difference of opinion isn't trivial. When Tannen's You Just Don't Understand[or politics, or the law, or ...]? Well, here's a book that proves I'm right! And you can't say it's sexism, either -- because the author of this book is a woman!"
came out, I said and wrote that if she was correct in her claims we had to immediately set up courses in Male American English for our little girls, starting no later than the first grade; otherwise, the playing field was never going to be level. I found the portrait of AE-speaking adult women in the book offensive. Feminists had spent decades trying to get rid of the "Men are logical/women are emotional" stereotype, and here it was again in Tannen's book. It seemed to me that the book gave every man who perceived things that way the opportunity to buy a copy, approach a woman, say, "You know how I've always said there's no place for women in business
In the third conversation, Elgin objects to two of Tannen's "universal assumptions":
- Many women tell their mothers of minor misfortunes to hear the metamessage of caring [from their mothers].
- Mothers of adult daughters cannot stop themselves from intrusive comments, because of habits built up over decades of mothering.
Elgin and her commenters discuss why those two attributes of mother-daughter conversation are not universal.