Muted Group Theory


Muted Group Theory is a critical theory because it is concerned with power and how it is used against people. While critical theories can separate the powerful and the powerless any number of ways, this theory chooses to bifurcate the power spectrum into men and women.

Muted Group Theory begins with the premise that language is culture bound, and because men have more power than women, men have more influence over the language, resulting in language with a male-bias. Men create the words and meaning for the culture, allowing expression of their ideas. Women, on the other hand, are left out of this meaning creation and left without a means to express that which is unique to them. That leaves women as a muted group.

The Muted Group Theory rests on three assumptions:

  1.  Men and women perceive the world differently because they have different perception shaping experiences. Those different experiences are a result of men and women performing different tasks in society.
  2. Men enact their power politically, perpetuating their power and suppressing women's ideas and meanings from gaining public acceptance.
  3. Women must convert their unique ideas, experiences, and meanings into male language in order to be heard.

The premise and assumptions leads to a number of hypotheses about women's communication:

  1. Women have a more difficult time expressing themselves than do men.
  2. Women understand what men mean more easily than men understand what women mean.
  3. Women communicate with each other using media not accepted by the dominant male communicators.
  4. Women are less satisfied with communication than are men.
  5. Women are not likely to create new words, but sometimes do so to create meanings special and unique to women.

Muted Group Theory does not claim that these differences are based in biology. Instead, the theory claims that men risk losing their dominant position if they listen to women, incorporate their experiences in the language, and allow women to be equal partners in language use and creation. Language is about power, and men have it.


For detailed information read:

Ardener, E. (1975). Belief and the problem of women and The 'problem' revisited. In S. Ardener (Ed.), Perceiving women, 1 - 27. London: Malaby.

Kramarae, C. (1981). Women and men speaking: Frameworks for analysis, 1-63. Rowley, MA: Newbury House.

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