This is the manuscript blog; new sections added every few days.
Best read in sequence so start with 1 and work your way through
enjoy, get mad, and comment!
This is the start of my book – WHATS WRONG WITH WOMEN – and I hope to write about two to three blogs a week as I map it out. I’m starting off with what I know – that the English language is skewed against women – and I’m going to look at how it happened – and how it works to ensure that women are in the wrong.
How we need to start changing meanings if we want to be taken seriously and achieve greater authority when we speak.
I’d welcome feedback, suggestions – and experiences from women that help to illustrate the absences in the language – the ‘problems without a name’ that are the everyday realities of women’s lives.
We all know that men’s words carry more weight than women’s. (I used to plea for man to present my research because if HE said it the audience would take it more seriously than when I said that men talked too much!)
As an educator of teachers, in the dark ages before computers were invented, I gave student teachers the same essays to mark – only half of them had female names and half had male names at the top. And the boys got higher marks than the girls whether the topic was football or childcare! (Countless studies since have confirmed this response; both sexes rate men’s words more highly than women’s.)
This value given to men’s words isn’t just going to die out. It has to be called out. And addressed. Even as we become better educated, and more visible in the workplace, while ever a man’s word counts for more than a woman’s – while we are considered to be unreliable and to lack gravitas – we will still have to prove ourselves! It’s a big impediment.
(And by the way – we don’t have a word for it: I have had to describe what I mean – which is one reason why women have a reputation for overtalking a point; because there is no word in the public pace that simply names our meaning!)
In the 1970s Julia Stanley undertook the tedious task of counting and recording the number of ‘slut words’ for women in the English language. She stopped at 220. I’m not sure whether she got to the end of the dictionary or she ran out of patience, but she also found that there were fewer than 20 words that named men as lechers. Even when they engaged in sexually promiscuous behavior – the names that were given to describe the activities of men were often tinged with admiration. (Words like ‘stud’ for example.)
It was very different for women where the long list of slut words was clearly intended to mock, ridicule, shame, silence and cast a slur on women’s sexuality and authority. (How many words can you thin if that name women’s sexuality in a positive and non-problematic way?)
So I’m starting at the beginning; where do words come from, who makes them up – and how do they acquire their meanings? And what does this have to do with women’s quest for equality?
This isn’t a boring topic let me tell you; its enough to make you furious.