Gender stereotype as a vehicle for social change?

The case of the Kong Girl


  • M. Agnes Kang Lingnan University
  • Katherine Hoi Ying Chen University of Hong Kong



gender stereotype, indexicality, evaluation, stancetaking, reappropriation


The Kong Girl stereotype has been circulating in the media since the mid-2000s. The indexical process of associating social meanings to the Kong Girl label becomes heightened in situations of uncertainty and change. Kira Hall uses the term ‘indexical dissonance’ to explain the state of identity under globalisation. In this paper, we identify three strategies by which more ‘positive’ representations of Kong Girls emerge: (1) the Kong Girl label shifts in semantic meaning; (2) the specific Kong Girl qualities taken as stance objects shift; and (3) the Kong Girl label is reappropriated. Through these strategies, we show how the meanings associated with a gender stereotype may be co-opted in emerging discourses of social change.

Author Biographies

  • M. Agnes Kang, Lingnan University

    M. Agnes Kang is an associate professor in the Department of English at Lingnan University. Her interdisciplinary research focuses on areas of discourse and identity, including gender identity, and interactional sociolinguistics. Her articles have appeared in Journal of Language and Sexuality, Discourse and Society, and Journal of Sociolinguistics, among others. She is currently serving as President of the International Gender and Language Association (IGALA), and some of her publications can be downloaded from:

  • Katherine Hoi Ying Chen, University of Hong Kong

    Katherine Chen is an assistant professor at the School of English, the University of Hong Kong. She is a sociolinguist and linguistic anthropologist, specializing in language ideologies, language and identities, multilingualism, and sociolinguistic documentary film. Her current research includes the language and identity of return migrants in Hong Kong; a study of the multilingual and multicultural Indonesian Chinese diaspora in Asia; and a co-authored project (with Agnes Kang) on gender stereotypes of Hong Kong women. See more at


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How to Cite

Kang, M. A., & Chen, K. H. Y. (2017). Gender stereotype as a vehicle for social change? The case of the Kong Girl. Gender and Language, 11(4), 460-481.