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event • Conferences & Symposia

Ways with Words: Exploring Language and Gender

  • Friday, March 4, 2016
  • Knafel Center
    10 Garden Street
    Cambridge, MA 02138
Speaker at "Ways with Words" conference.
Photo by Tony RInaldo

Languages constantly evolve, and reflect cultural practices. They are a fluid reflection of the passage of time, influenced by many factors, including age, class, and gender. This conference will focus on a snapshot of the state of language in present-day society as it relates to, mirrors, and affects perceptions of gender. Four panels of experts, including anthropologists, authors, computer scientists, linguists, journalists, performing artists, politicians, and psychologists, will explore different facets of the interplay of gender and language.

The conference begins on Thursday evening with "Plays with Words," an evening about language and gender in comedy. On Friday, a keynote address and a full day of panels feature discussions about moving beyond binary distinctions, what the Internet and big data analysis can teach us about gender and language, and the role of gender in public discourse. Through comparative perspectives, multidisciplinary approaches, and contemporary examples, this program examines the inextricably related concepts of gender, language, and culture.

This event is free and open to the public.

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Event Videos

Speaker at

Plays with Words


Lizabeth Cohen, Dean, Radcliffe Institute, and Howard Mumford Jones Professor of American Studies, Department of History, Harvard University


Aparna Nancherla, Comedian

ImprovBoston, featuring Sara Burns, Rosena Cornet, Deana Criess, Mike Descoteaux, Gregory Scott Hernandez, and Kelly MacFarland

Glenda Carpio, Professor of English and of African and African American Studies, Harvard University

Moderator: Robin Young, Cohost, Here & Now, WBUR and National Public Radio

Beyond Binaries panel at

Beyond Binaries


Lizabeth Cohen, Dean, Radcliffe Institute, and Howard Mumford Jones Professor of American Studies, Department of History, Harvard University


John Huth, Codirector of the Science Program, Radcliffe Institute, and Donner Professor of Science, Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Harvard University


Rebecca Bigler, Professor of Psychology and Women’s and Gender Studies, University of Texas at Austin

Wesley Thomas, Professor of Diné Cultural Studies, Chair of School of Diné Studies & Law Studies, and Dean of School of Graduate Studies & Research, Navajo Technical University

Bear Bergman, Author, poet, playwright, and theater artist

Moderator: Stephen (Stephanie) Burt, Professor of English, Harvard University

Big Data panel at

Big Data

Ben Hookway, Chief Executive Officer, Relative Insight

Lyle Ungar, Professor and Graduate Group Chair, Computer and Information Science, University of Pennsylvania

Alice E. Marwick, Assistant Professor, Department of Communication and Media Studies, and Director, McGannon Center for Communication Research, Fordham University

Moderator: Rebecca Lemov, Associate Professor of the History of Science, Harvard University

Public Discourse panel at

Public Discourse

Mary Mills, Worldwide Director of Strategic Intelligence, Saatchi & Saatchi

Christine Matthews, President, Bellweather Research, and Cofounder, Burning Glass Consulting

Liza Johnson, Director and Screenwriter

(Presentation by director and screenwriter Liza Johnson is not available due to incorporation of unreleased footage)

Moderator: Kathleen Hall Jamieson, Elizabeth Ware Packard Professor of Communication, Annenberg School for Communication; Walter and Leonore Annenberg Director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center, University of Pennsylvania

Janet Mock having a conversation at

Keynote Conversation with Janet Mock

Janet Mock, Cultural Commentator, Advocate for Trans Women’s Rights, and New York Times Best-Selling Author

Discussant: Moya Bailey, Dean’s Postdoctoral Fellow, Northeastern University

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