The Languages of Feminism

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Heart has a post up at Women’s Space/The Margins responding to people who mock words like”wimmin,”“womyn,”and”herstory.”Below is an excerpt:

For oppressed people, language is always a site of resistance. The words we use every day unavoidably evidence their origination in cultural contexts in which we were made to be subordinate. Women, lesbian women, are no exception to this. We also know that what passes for”human”history is overwhelmingly male history : history as men have written it, because for millennia, women were not allowed an education, were not allowed to write for publication, were not allowed to hand down their own insights, philosophies, theories, ideas, herstories : yes, herstories : other than by word of mouth. This is why, again overwhelmingly, women’s lives are not represented accurately in the historical documents and writings we have available to us. The word”herstory”is consciousness-raising, in that it draws attention to the fact that recorded history is overwhelmingly male history. I think the word is aggravating for that reason alone: that it forces the reader to think about these issues. Those who defend language and history as they now exist are defending language and history as imagined and created by those who oppressed and subordinated women, racial and ethnic groups, the poor, and other minorities. Understanding this is central to any movement for liberation.

I am ecstatic that there are young radical feminist women who are still intent on honoring wimmin’s language and wimmin’s herstory. I think it behooves those of you mocking the language of feminism, of lesbianism, of women’s culture and spirituality, to do a little research into why and how it was that at a certain point in history, women felt a need to coin these words, to reinvent and reimagine language.

Read the whole thing here. Both the post and the comments it has generated make interesting reading.

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