Speaking Up by Allyson Jule
|Speaking Up by Allyson Jule|
|Category: Popular Science|
|Reviewer: Florence Holmes|
|Summary: An exploration of how language reflects and shapes our notions of gender.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 128||Date: August 2018|
|Publisher: Multilingual Matters|
|External links: Author's website|
'Speaking Up' has a fascinating subject matter - how language reflects and shapes our notions of gender. It looks at our use of language in media, education, religion, the workplace and personal relationships. Author Allyson Jule calls on an encyclopedic body of research from the mid twentieth century to the present day. Reading it, we feel that she has studied everything that has ever been said on gendered linguistics; she references Foucault and the Kardashians with equal rigour.
Particularly interesting in the wake of the 'me too' movement and its huge fallout is Jule's ideas around language and power. She introduces the concept of taking up linguistic space e.g. speaking through others' attempted interruptions, and Caroline Criado Perez' view that men are attacked online for sharing a view people dislike, whereas women are attacked for simply being visible with a view. It's worth noting that while this book typically talks in binary terms about gender, Jule acknowledges that language patterns cannot and should not be segmented cleanly into 'male' and 'female' boxes; to say that there is a feminine style of leadership and to say that it is indirect, conciliatory, facilitative or collaborative, while a masculine style is more direct, aggressive, competitive and autonomous is overtly sexist as well as inaccurate.
Despite the many interesting and nuanced areas of discussion, it feels like 'Speaking Up' is missing half its content. The research is absorbing but it's also dense and leans towards the theoretical. This is not a book to read in a cafe (I tried); it demands the quiet focus you'd give to an academic text. It is repeatedly frustrating to see Jule shed a light on an intriguing piece of research but then move on to the next concept without any suggestions for how we can change norms like the fact women come out as the de facto intimacy experts over men. 'Speaking Up' would be a more relatable and satisfying book if each chapter had a case study of a few pages, a personal experience of the relationship between language and gender. And for those of us who love self-help, real world tips to try would be brilliant - while there are bullet pointed summaries at the end of the every chapter, the sheer quantity of interesting information Jule packs in makes it difficult to come away with any clarity. Of course, as the aptly named 'anti conclusion' says, this is not a subject which should be boiled down to a few neat explanations and do's and don'ts. Having read the book, the reader will likely be more aware of the nuances of language use as we go about daily life but humanising the subject matter would make this a more varied and enjoyable read. Our everyday speech is an important and far reaching enough subject that making it accessible to people should be key, and 'Speaking Up' doesn't go nearly far enough to do this.
Further reading suggestions: Duels and Duets: Why Men and Women Talk So Differently by John L Locke and Language: The Cultural Tool by Daniel Everett
You can read more book reviews or buy Speaking Up by Allyson Jule at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Speaking Up by Allyson Jule at Amazon.com.
Like to comment on this review?
Just send us an email and we'll put the best up on the site.