Muted Group theory (A 3 point guide)

The current blogspot will be based on the question “what is muted group theory?”. We will discuss the background of muted group theory, the genesis of muted group theory and the muting methods. Used in muted group theory.

What is muted group theory?

Muted group theory is a communication theory. It was created by Edwin Ardner and Shirley Ardener in 1975. The main focus of muted group theory is the concept of muting and excluding  the marginalized groups on the basis of language use. 

The main idea behind the muted group theory is that the natives of a language are more benefited from the use of the language then the people who have to learn the language usage. 

The term muted is used in muted group theory to symbolize the inability to clearly express themselves through language use due to inequity. 

The muted group theory explains the relationship quality between a dominant group and a subordinate group on the basis of following factors:

  • The language system is mostly formed by the dominant group including the social norms and the vocabulary.
  • The members from the subordinate groups need to learn the language inorder to express themselves
  • Translation of the language by the subordinate groups often distorts the information that has to be communicated as the people in the subordinate group are not trained to articulate the message clearly and without ambiguities.
  • The dominant group may often ignore the voice of the subordinate group that mutes the subordinate group.
  • The language inadequacy thus results in muting of the subordinate group

Background of the muted group theory

The muted group theory was originally formulated by Edwin Ardener in 1968. He formulated the theory basically to ease the anthropologists in reproducing the society models from the women’s perspective when the women of the society were unable to fit to the model of the society developed by men of the society. 

In 1971 Shirley Ardener further elaborated on the concepts of mutism for feminism and explained the ways women face inequality in society.

Kramarae expanded the Ardener’s view of  mutism for women and elaborated the ways that muted the women through the use of male language. She presented the fact that male dominance in a society enables them to enjoy their life as being more autonomous as compared to women. She also focused on the fact that females in a society are addressed and identified with reference to their relations with a male (mrs xyz).  She thus advocated that women were a muted group in a society of man made language.

The key concepts of muteness in muted group theory

The key concepts behind muteness  in muted group theory are as follows :

  • Muteness of a group is not similar to silence
  • Muteness of a group occurs when people find it difficult or are unable to articulate their ideas without changing their language to meet the language of the dominant group
  • Muteness often results due to a feeling of being powerless
  • Muteness makes a group feel  invisible and overlooked.
  • When a language is set by males of a society, women are unable to express themselves because their language use is limited due to the rules set by the men of the society being the dominant group
  • The muted group or the subordinate group in muted group theory is relative to the dominant group
  • The subordinate group often mutes itself without any coercion, thus muting of subordinate group with respect to the dominant group is a socially shared phenomena
  • Muting group theory explains the existence of both the dominant and non dominant groups in a society
  • The muting process in muted group theory highlights the fact that one group among the social group is a dominant group whereas the other group or groups are non dominant. 
  • The muted group in muted group theory is often referred to as the oppressed group in relativity to the dominant group often known as the oppressor.
  • The muted group has concerns regarding the legitimacy of their feelings and validity of their experience as they are unable to articulate their expression,
  • The sense of lack of power and authority often make the muted groups feel at the margin of society.

The muting methods

Following are the muting methods used in the muted group theory based on the trivialization of the lexicon and the speech concepts that are often used to describe women life patterns:

  • Ridicule
  • Ritual
  • Control
  • Harassment


Muting through ridicule is often practiced to overpower the women’s voice and dominate them. Ridiculing includes trivializing the opinions, ideas and concerns of women. Silencing women through ridiculing the women related lexicon is often used in muted group theory.


Often, social rituals are used to mute the women and overpower them by subordinating them. For example, marriage is such a ritual .


Many social decisions of society are usually controlled by men of the society. For example the history records, the media and communication practices are all usually under the charge of men of the society. 

Thus men are seemingly placed on the upper end of authority and women are considered to be at a low social position. 

This strategy is used to mute the women and discourage them to practice their rights as being free rather than make them feel obliged to men of the society who have a control over all aspects of society.


Harassment occurs in all public events and social contexts. It can occur on streets, in markets, in school, in hospitals and in organizations. Men have a greater tendency to naturalize the harassment activity and ignore the experiences of women regarding the harassment.

Verbal and non verbal harassment are both considered as a way to mute the women of society.

Resisting the muteness

The following strategies can be utilized to resist the muteness process:

  • Name the various factors that push women towards silencing
  • Highlight and reclaim the discourse of being a women
  • Create new gender neutral words that are easy to be used by marginalized groups and the dominant groups without any differences
  • Use media platforms for awareness related to marginalized groups.


The current blogspot focused on the question “what is muted group theory?”. We discussed the various aspects of muted group theory, the strategies used to mute a subordinate group and the strategies to resist the mutness process.

Frequently asked questions :Muted Group theory

What is a muted group theory example?

Muted group theory example is that women have to live a life that is defined as per their relations with men. For example a man remains a mr. throughout his life whereas women had a title of ms or mrs as per their relation with men. 

What is the goal of muted group theory?

Muted group theory is based on a man made linguistic system that tends to keep women in their place. The muted group theory tends to change the vocabulary that denotes more power to men. 

Who created the muted group?

Anthropologists Shirley and Edwin Ardener in the late 1960s developed the muted group theory.

What is the first assumption of muted group theory?

Women’s perception of the world resulting from their position different then the positions of their male counterparts with a typically dominant role of men over them is the assumption behind muted group theory.