Language matters. The words we use, and the contexts in which we use them, come with baggage, preconceptions, cultural implications, and potential for misunderstandings. Used well, language can uplift – bringing nuance to conversations, enabling accuracy in policy discussions, and ensuring that people feel welcome and included. At its worst, language can be used to obfuscate, exclude, and offend.
Language can be a lightbulb moment for many people - opening their eyes to how sexism and other discriminations permeate our society. From bristling at ‘ladies’ tennis, questioning gendered nouns in modern language classes, to patiently explaining to grandparents why “we don’t use that word anymore”, examining what we say and why we say it can be a formative experience.
Talking about things, and talking about talking about things, can have a bad rep. The slogan of the WSPU was 'Deeds not Words', after all, and there's definitely a danger that agonising over terminology can stop something before its even begun. But for feminists, choosing and using your words carefully - and being prepared to accept that language changes and we can’t always get it right – is a vital part of fighting for the change we want to see. From the Repeal the 8th campaign in Ireland to current discussions around terminology of racism in Scotland, we know that language can make or break a campaign.
This blog series will explore feminist language, from specific terminology to general reflections. If you'd like to contribute to the blog, get in contact with our Communications and Engagement Manager Alys to discuss your ideas. We can offer a fee for blogs, and will also offer editorial support. And if you're interested in feminism and language, we highly recommend Deborah Cameron's amazing blogs at language: a feminist guide.
We are always looking for new voices on our blog.
Please send us your blogs and we can offer editing advice, and we also have some opportunities for paid contributions.