2.2 Power

Most Third Wave feminists have been influenced by Michael Foucault's theorisation of power (Foucault, 1978). Power is seen as a net or web of relations not as a possession; thus power is enacted and contested in every interaction (Thornborrow, 2002). Power becomes a much more mundane, material and everyday element rather than something abstract and intangible which is imposed from above.  Thus, there is now a concern with the local management of  power relations, the way that individuals negotiate with the status which they and others  have been allotted or which they have managed to achieve, and which within particular contexts they can contest or affirm, through their use of language and through their behaviour. Many feminist theorists draw a distinction between institutional status (that is the status that you are allocated through your position within an institution) and local status (that is the position that you manage to negotiate because of your verbal skill, confidence,  concern for others, `niceness' and so on ) and whilst these are clearly interconnected, it is now often the local status which is focused on by feminist theorists (Manke, 1997; Diamond, 1996) . However, this move away from the analysis of institutional rank to that of local status, whilst important in challenging the characterisation of women as powerless speakers, means that feminists no longer concern themselves so much with the way that institutional rank and gender relate, and the way that the basis on which local rank is negotiated may be heavily determined by stereotypes of gender and gendered practices. This means that the analysis of the speech of men in positions of authority will only focus on the way that their speech is negotiated at the local level and will not consider the way that particular styles are authorised with reference to factors outside the local context.

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