Contrary to popular belief, I have not always been the annoying, politically correct, grammar police individual that I am today. And honestly it hasn’t been plain sailing arriving here. If you find yourself even the slightest bit interested in the women’s movement/ it’s correlation with language, you are in the right place!
As a child I was always recognised as a ‘gifted’ individual (AKA little twat) in English. Less could be said for my maths skills – I guess you can have one or the other. I loved to write, whether it was stories, songs, poems, letters or articles, I would write. So as school passed and A levels arrived, English language was the obvious choice for me. I also had a deep interest in sociology and the justice system. So my options were selected: English, Law, Sociology and Media Studies. All of these subjects had modules about women, gender, representation, inequality and of course feminism. I became so quickly in awe of Deborah Cameron – a feminist linguist and author. She was the central inspiration behind my new love for language and feminism.
Sociology was such an eyeopening subject to study, I couldn’t help thinking ‘how is this an option and not compulsory’. It appeared that I had no idea about anything. I had no idea that the entire world was built on lies; stealing from other cultures and exploiting everyone and everything. It was interesting to learn about the theories, which often coincided with those I was learning elsewhere. The overall gist was the same – the rich men get richer, everyone else just gets used. I suddenly didn’t know how to deal with these feelings; I often struggle with thinking into things too much, and very naively not believing the corrupt and unfair reality. I remember learning about feminist theory in sociology, media and English, I absolutely loved learning about gender differences in speech especially. But again it was difficult to learn that you are already at a disadvantage simply for being female. You learn that you must work twice as hard for half of the reward. It was a disappointing reality for me. I wanted to know everything; I wanted to know why and how and where this came from and why things just are the way they are.
I went on a trip to London with my mum when I was probably 17 or 18, where we took a tour around the Tate Modern art museum. I remember seeing a display all about women and female artists – I loved this idea. And then I noticed a poster titled ‘The Advantages of Being a Woman Artist’ which outlined all the disadvantages of being a woman in the arts – a fantastic, sarcastic dig at the patriarchal world we live in. I then spent way longer than necessary in the museum book shop, finding myself lost in all this knowledge I wanted to acquire. I chose a book called ‘Feminism’ by the iconic Deborah Cameron (obvs!) And I’m pretty sure I near enough read the whole thing on the train journey back home to Leeds.
I got my A levels (after two attempts) and secured a place at uni to study linguistics. I was lucky enough to study something which I absolutely loved; I found a new passion for it at university too. I studied some very interesting modules such as gender, sexuality, child language acquisition, speech and language therapy, multilingualism, teaching English as a foreign language, and many more. Many of these subjects allowed me to research and write essays about feminism, as well as my dissertation which focused on public opinion of the word ‘feminism’ and how its connotation differs from its definition. This really pushed my love for feminism in a new, more niche direction. I read some great books while I was studying, and I would definitely recommend them for anyone inspired and not knowing where to start with feminist reading!
This book is a fantastic place to start! It gives a brief synopsis of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s journey with finding feminism, and how she came to proudly calling herself a feminist. At only 64 small pages, this manifesto is easy to read and not overwhelming. If you don’t read anything else, read this!
This is the first book I ever bought about feminism, and I enjoyed it so much! Although there is a linguistics twang to this, it is still extremely centred around the women’s movement and provides detail about its history. Deborah Cameron is one of my all time favourite authors and I find her style intriguing and pragmatic.
Scar Curtis’ collection of essays in this book are also a great place to start, as they provide an overview into a multitude of feminist issues. Jameela Jamil is FANTASTIC in this book. This was one of the first books I received from my grandmother – so I will cherish this forever. This really inspired me to widen my knowledge and inspired me to join the fight for justice!
Other books I would recommend are The Decent of Man by Grayson Perry, Wordslut by Amanda Montell and The Guilty Feminist by Deborah Frances-White. More academic books I recommend are Feminism, A Short Introduction by Margret Walters and Gender Trouble by Judith Butler.
If books aren’t your thing, I have listened to some great podcasts including ones from Gal-Dem, Scarlett Curtis, Adwoa Aboah and Jameela Jamil. I also LOVED Mrs America on BBC iPlayer! I would additionally recommend some of Stacey Dooley’s documentaries, along with Ellie Flynn’s undercover documentary about multi-level marketing.
My journey with feminism has not been a simple interest and research. It has been a constant cycle of questioning yourself, losing your personality and getting overwhelmed and feeling like packing it all in. Finishing university was the biggest blow to my passion for feminism, as I suddenly found myself with no excuse to keep researching and reading. All of a sudden I was just Niamh, and a huge part of my personality felt as though it was no longer relevant. I was still reading books and rinsing twitter for articles, stories and anecdotes but for what? I had no essay to put them in; I had no-one who cared to listen (or mark my arguments); I had no reason and felt as though I had no purpose. But slowly I realised that you don’t just have to do things for a reason, you can just like things because you like them. And this is what I like. I started this blog to have somewhere to document my findings, opinions and knowledge, in a hope to find some other people to burden with my interests (yes that is you, hehe).
I have been so lucky to know and be taught my some amazingly inspirational women, from my mum and my girlfriend to award winning authors and one of the first women to attend Cambridge University. I really am just inspired by the women around me. I hope you are inspired too! And I hope this post has helped you start your own journey to feminism, and given you some tips on what to read. Thank you for visiting!