Of Mat and Men: Taboo Words and the Language of Russian Female Punks

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Michael Douglas Furman


Language and Gender, Discourse Analysis, Sociolinguistics, Language and Ideology, Indexicality, Stance, Russian Punk, Ethnography, Pussy Riot


Through ethnographic data and discourse analysis, this article exposes the presence ofsexist practices within an ostensibly egalitarian Russian punk scene in Saint Petersburg.Specifically, this article examines how female punks use mat (swear words like “fuck,”“shit,” “whore,” and “cunt”) to transgress hegemonic notions of femininity, while atthe same time performing a masculine ritual that Russian punks highly value as subculturalcapital. This article examines linguistic practice surrounding mat and demonstratesthat mat is not “male” but instead performs stances of authority and masculinity,which are in turn associated with gender. The article’s close examination of linguisticpractice among female punks helps elucidate some of the ways that punk women attemptto claim authority within a scene that otherwise physically and socially marginalizesthem. By drawing on the ethnomethodological theories of indexicality and stance,the analysis shows how micro instances of mat simultaneously interact with—and drawupon—macro conceptions of the traditional gender order. Because mainstream gendernorms strongly proscribe women’s use of mat, punk women can effectively exploit thiscultural proscription to create distance from mainstream conceptions of femininitywhile simultaneously exploiting their subversion of the traditional gender order to accruesubcultural capital. Rather than separating linguistic practice from macro discourseson gender, this article traces how macro conceptions of the gender order help structure—and are structured by—talk in interaction. As such, this article provides criticalinsight into how micro instances of mat interact with macro conceptions of the genderorder to create an alternative punk femininity.
Article in English.
DOI: 10.25285/2078-1938-2018-10-1-5-28
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