Gender, talking and The Traitors
Language | A Feminist Guide
by debuk
1M ago
Spoiler alert: if you haven’t yet watched episodes 1-6 of The Traitors UK but you plan to do so, don’t read on I didn’t watch the first series of The Traitors (I’m not generally a fan of reality shows where people compete for money), but the buzz it generated made me curious enough to start watching the second, which the BBC is showing this month. It’s now reached the halfway mark, and I’m still watching: if you’re interested in how people talk, and in how gender affects group interaction, it offers plenty of food for thought.    In case anyone’s unfamiliar with the format, here’s a ..read more
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2023: forward to the past?
Language | A Feminist Guide
by debuk
1M ago
It’s that time again: the time when commentators of all kinds look back at the last 12 months, and pick out what they see as the most significant trends or the most memorable moments of the year. This blog’s annual round-ups have tended to be variations on a few well-worn themes; the details are different every year, but the overall trends are much the same. In that respect, as what follows will make clear, 2023 was fairly typical; but one thing several of the issues I’ve picked out have in common (something the title of this post alludes to) is an oddly “retro” vibe: they’re cases where an ol ..read more
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Remembering Dale Spender
Language | A Feminist Guide
by debuk
2M ago
Sometimes on this blog I write about feminists who had interesting ideas about language before the 21st century: women like Suzette Haden Elgin, the linguist and science fiction writer who created a women’s language, Láadan, and Marie Shear, the editor and language commentator who defined feminism as “the radical notion that women are people”. I write about these women knowing that many readers won’t have heard of them; their stories illustrate how easily the work of women can fade into obscurity and be forgotten.      This post is about someone who understood that problem ..read more
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Don’t keep ’em crossed: how not to get ahead in advertising
Language | A Feminist Guide
by debuk
3M ago
The photograph below, taken at Manchester Piccadilly station earlier this month, shows an installation commissioned by North West Cancer Research to encourage more women to get screened for cervical cancer. Which is, of course, a worthy goal; cervical cancer screening can save lives. But when I first saw this photo, what I mostly felt was rage. I was so angry, I immediately reposted it with a critical comment on Twitter/X. Evidently this struck a chord: within a couple of days my tweet had racked up 134K views and prompted numerous replies from other women who found the installation “awful ..read more
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Daddy’s home
Language | A Feminist Guide
by debuk
3M ago
It’s a truism that all political careers end in failure. But last week the former prime minister David Cameron–a man whose career we might have thought was a textbook illustration of that principle (he resigned in 2016 after calling and then losing the referendum that led to Brexit)–made an unexpected comeback. In his latest rearrangement of the deckchairs on the Tory Titanic, Rishi Sunak appointed Cameron to the position of Foreign Secretary. This didn’t please everyone in his party, but some Conservatives were delighted to learn that, in one MP’s much-quoted words, “Daddy’s home”. That react ..read more
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You cannot be serious
Language | A Feminist Guide
by debuk
3M ago
Last week the Covid inquiry heard evidence from Dominic Cummings, the self-proclaimed genius behind the Vote Leave campaign who became a powerful figure in Boris Johnson’s administration, and from Helen McNamara, the deputy chief civil servant (and highest-ranking woman) in the Cabinet Office. They had worked together during the early phase of the pandemic, but to say they did not get on would be an understatement. In one of the WhatsApp messages which were apparently the government’s preferred mode of internal communication, Cummings ranted: …if I have to come back to Helen’s bullshit…I will ..read more
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Zombie fact-checking
Language | A Feminist Guide
by debuk
4M ago
On Twitter/X not long ago I saw a thread about a training session which someone had just run for a group of professional women. It had focused on the problem of the Over-Apologizing Woman–a staple of this kind of training, and one I’ve written about before (if you missed it, see here, here and here). But what caught my eye on this occasion was a statistic the trainer had presented: in the course of a lifetime, the average woman will apologize 295,650 times. This number piqued my curiosity because it’s so precise: not “around 300,000” or “over a quarter of a million”, but exactly 295,650. Purve ..read more
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Lost words and hidden histories
Language | A Feminist Guide
by debuk
7M ago
Among the first feminist books I ever read was Sheila Rowbotham’s Hidden from History. It was one of many attempts by feminists in the 1970s to write women back into a historical record which was partial in both senses–incomplete and distorted by male bias. Rowbotham notes in her preface that filling the gaps had required her to piece together scraps of information found by combing through secondary sources: women, for the most part, had lacked the means to write their own stories. The fact that women’s own words have so often gone unrecorded, or else been lost, discarded and forgotten over ti ..read more
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The new imitation game
Language | A Feminist Guide
by debuk
9M ago
In the early days of this blog (which is eight years old this month) I wrote about Ashley Madison, an online service for people seeking opportunities to cheat on their partners. It turned out to be a scam, taking money from men to put them in touch with women who, for the most part, did not exist: they were invented by employees and then impersonated by an army of bots. Linguistically the bots were pretty basic, and some men became suspicious when they received identical “sexy” messages from multiple different “women”. Most, however, seem not to have suspected anything.   I thought of thi ..read more
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2022: the highs, the lows and the same-old-same-old
Language | A Feminist Guide
by debuk
1y ago
2022 was a year when I didn’t do much blogging. That wasn’t because there was nothing to blog about, but more because I had too much other stuff going on. So, as it’s now end-of-year review season, here’s a round-up of some of the events, debates and news stories that caught my attention during the last twelve months.   In January the Scottish government agreed to pardon those Scots–most of them women–who had been executed for witchcraft several centuries earlier. Some felt this was just a PR exercise, designed to burnish Scotland’s progressive credentials, but it did raise some questions ..read more
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