Through this essay, Lakoff aims to reveal the “euphemistic, never-aggressive way of talking” that many women feel compelled to use, and how this can be detrimental to women professionally and socially.
Lakoff brings up the dangers of “tag questions,” which are a mixture of non-assertive statements and questions. For example, instead of saying, “The weather is bad today,” one would say, “The weather is bad today, isn’t it?” Rather than making an assertive claim that the weather is bad, a tag question lets the other person to make the decision. Tag questions show a lack of confidence and “allow a speaker to avoid commitment, and thereby avoid conflict with the addressee.”
Larkoff’s tone is somewhat angered, but also very academic. She uses examples from history and the professional world, especially in her discussion of the term “lady.” She notes that “lady” or “girl” commonly replaces “woman,” because this term was historically seen as too sexual or embarrassing. By supporting her claims with examples of common phrases, and keeping an academic tone, she avoids sounding like simply an angry person who wants to stir up trouble. In doing this, she gives herself ethos and shows that she is not just making claims; real change in ways of speaking needs to happen.
The essay seems to end very abruptly, and leaves the reader no advice on how to combat the idea that women must have polite, nonabrasive ways of speech, but simply states that “In more ways than one, it is time to speak up,” but about what exactly? A lack of a suggested solution is a problem with many activist essays; however, as Olivia Short pointed out in our discussion, this piece was written in the 1970s, what is often considered the start of modern feminism, this essay would have been groundbreaking and likely the first of its kind. At this point a solution may not have been clear.