In Conversation with Soraya Chemaly
A brash, enlightening, and wildly entertaining feminist look at gendered language and the way it shapes us, written with humor and playfulness that challenges words and phrases and how we use them.
“I get so jazzed about the future of feminism knowing that Amanda Montell’s brilliance is rising up and about to explode worldwide.”—Jill Soloway
The word bitch conjures many images for many people, but is most often meant to describe an unpleasant woman. Even before its usage to mean a female canine, bitch didn’t refer to gender at all—it originated as a gender-neutral word meaning genitalia. A perfectly innocuous word devolving into a female insult is the case for tons more terms, including hussy—which simply meant “housewife”—or slut, which meant “untidy” and was also used to describe men. These words are just a few among history’s many English slurs hurled at women.
Amanda Montell, feminist linguist and staff features editor at online beauty and health magazine Byrdie.com, deconstructs language—from insults and cursing to grammar and pronunciation patterns—to reveal the ways it has been used for centuries to keep women form gaining equality. Ever wonder why so many people are annoyed when women use the word “like” as a filler? Or why certain gender neutral terms stick and others don’t? Or even how linguists have historically discussed women’s speech patterns? Wordslut is no stuffy academic study; Montell’s irresistible humor shines through, making linguistics not only approachable but both downright hilarious and profound, demonstrated in chapters such as:
Slutty Skanks and Nasty Dykes: A Comprehensive List of Gendered Insults
Piss Off Bro: Linguists Explain What Locker Room Banter Really Is
How to Embarrass the Shit Out of People Who Try to Correct Your Grammar
Fuck it: An Ode to Cursing While Female
Cyclops, Panty Puppet, Bald Headed Bastard and 100+ Other Things to Call Your Genitalia
Montell effortlessly moves between history and popular culture to explore these questions and more. Wordslut gets to the heart of our language, marvels at its elasticity, and sheds much-needed light into the biases that shadow women in our culture and our consciousness.
Amanda Montell is a writer, video content maker, and linguistics groupie living in Los Angeles. Her writing has appeared in Marie Claire, Woman’s Day, The Rumpus, and Time Out magazine, and she is a staff features editor at online beauty and health magazine Byrdie.com. She is also the creator and host of the web series The Dirty Word, which airs on Jill Soloway’s Wifey.tv and has been featured in Glamour, Bustle, Refinery29, Hello Giggles, and Bust Magazine. She graduated magna cum laude from New York University with a degree in Linguistics.
Soraya Chemaly is the author of Rage Becomes Her: The Power of Women’s Anger and is an award-winning writer and activist whose work focuses on the role of gender in culture, politics, religion, and media. She is the Director of the Women’s Media Center Speech Project and an advocate for women’s freedom of expression and expanded civic and political engagement. A prolific writer and speaker, her articles appear in Time, the Verge, The Guardian, The Nation, HuffPost, and The Atlantic. Follow her on Twitter at @SChemaly and learn more at SorayaChemaly.com.
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