In chapters such as "The Lesser Value of Women's Words," "Experience Without a Name," and "The Problem is Power, Not Women," Dale Spender presents a compelling and practical analysis of the androcentric construction of the English language: its social context, vocabulary, syntax, history, and usage. Starting from the understanding that "Language helps form the limits of our reality," she examines the male-oriented assumptions of the science of linguistics, specifically the premise of "female deficiency" predominant in earlier research: "When the starting premise is that women lack the forcefulness and effectiveness of men's language, then hypotheses and explanations are formulated to account for female hesitancy." In "Plus and Minus Male" she adds weight to Julia Stanley's earlier, ground-breaking linguistic research - now widely accepted - showing "Masculinity is the unmarked form: the assumption is that the world is male unless proven otherwise. Femininity is the marked form: it is the proof of otherwise." Examples abound: doctor, woman doctor; writer, woman writer. There are literally fewer nouns in English to refer to females; when the female noun does exists, it often denigrates through the use of suffixes denoting "lesser," as in waitress, stewardess, majorette. If you are interested in the English language, make time to read this feminist classic so that you might think, laugh, get mad, get sad, and maybe change the ways you talk and listen. -- For great reviews of books for girls, check out Let's Hear It for the Girls: 375 Great Books for Readers 2-14. -- From 500 Great Books by Women; review by Jesse Larsen
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