‘He Do the Police in Different Voices’: On Speech and Language Policing

“And I’ll tell you another thing about the way women don’t Talk Proper …”
Filippo Lippi, Man and Woman at a Casement. New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to speak, as T. S. Eliot puts it, ‘in different voices’. We use language as an index of belonging. At the moment, there’s an idiolect, which I’d like to imagine would immediately tell me whether or not I’m in the presence of the sisterhood. ‘Silencing’ is the new favourite Participle Of Oppression for all parties. Fourth wavers talk about language as a form of literal violence. Radfems say unsisterly things about fourth wavers and bite our tongues. We all thank the goddess for Rebecca Solnit coining the term ‘mansplaining’, and Deborah Cameron writes brilliant critiques of all the idiotic pseudo-scientific arguments that all misogyny would disappear if only women would learn to Talk Proper and adopt the diction equivalent of a fine natural baritone.

This feels recent, but actually, language policing isn’t new. Medieval advice literature is full of it – they have a special verb, ‘rabelen’, which means ‘garbling, usually of prayers’. Clerics constantly warn their charges against speaking too fast, dropping syllables out of words, ‘over-skyping’ (not what you think, but skipping over words by accident), saying words without the proper heartfelt emphasis, singing out of tune, and gossiping, slandering, lying and swearing. There’s even a demon, a sort of anti-patron-saint of Language Policing, known as Tutivillus, whose job is to gather up mis-spoken syllables and out-of-tune notes into his sack, keeping them as evidence against the guilty party. My favourite story involves a young medieval monk on the wind up, who, when it was his turn to set the psalm, started three notes higher than the usual. The older monks found their voices unequal to the strain and dropped belligerently out of the litany, and the chronicler of this distinctly unfraternal episode concludes, conveniently, that “it was all the work of the demon”.

You might think that this delightfully batshit advice has nothing to do with gendered forms of speech – after all, the point is that younger monks can still hit the high notes and older monks feel crabby that they can’t. Or you might think that it’s an interesting reflection on medieval masculinity that a high voice could be a point of pride. But the context is key here. This advice is actually found in a text addressed exclusively to women. It’s called The Myroure of Our Ladye and it was written for a group of nuns. Subtly, this text gives its audience a message: there’s something wrong with a voice that’s at the high end of a man’s normal pitch. There’s something wrong with the voices of most women.

That’s a theme I’m coming across a lot – most recently, here. The piece is by Naomi Wolf, and boils down to ‘women, who are younger than I am and considerably less brilliantly feminist, allow me to patronise you with poorly understood generalisations about linguistics’. The subtitle includes the unforgivably trite, finger-wagging warning “you’re disowning your power”. Now, to me, power is something you have, and exercise, in relation to other people. You cannot single-handedly ‘disown your power’ (unless, I suppose, we’re talking BDSM. Let us never talk BDSM). What Wolf means is, women, you’re being treated badly but I’m going to assume the fault lies with you.

Now, I could just have put this out of my mind and linked to the pretty comprehensive take-down of language-policing by Cameron, which I’ve already mentioned. And I did link. But I also got stuck on one sentence, which attempted to give a measurable, concrete example of women letting themselves down with their silly ladyspeak. Wolf writes:

“At Oxford University young women consistently get 5% to 10% fewer first-class degrees in English – and the exams are graded blindly. The reasons? Even the most brilliant tend to avoid strong declarative sentences and to organise their arguments less forcefully.”

There is so much wrong with this that it makes me slightly inarticulate with fury. Oh, who am I kidding? It makes me want to type numerous strong, declarative sentences, most of them liberally sprinkled with my most masculine of profanities. You see, this chain of logic presumes that blind marking of exam scripts means that the problem is with the students’ work. Not that academics might (shudder gasp!) be fallible human beings who bring in unconscious bias to their syllabus, their setting of questions or marking of scripts. Nor that – and I think this is the hard truth – it may in fact not be possible to design a non-misogynistic English degree. But these issues are serious.

Say you’re an academic setting the questions for next summer’s final exam. There are obvious pitfalls (which people mostly try to avoid, but don’t always manage): Do you pick questions on Geoffrey Chaucer, John Gower and John Lydgate, or Christine de Pizan, Marie de France and Julian of Norwich? Do you use quotations from Paul Strohm and Derek Pearsall or Jill Mann and Carolyn Dinshaw? Then there are slightly less obvious, less avoidable issues. Shall we have a question (or questions …. imagine ….!) on women in a paper on medieval literature? Will that prime female students to remember that, throughout most of English literary history, women have been oppressed and mocked? Will it prime them to realise that people have been making oh-so-sadly-practical arguments, like Wolf’s, about women acting as their own worst enemies by talking too much, too little, too this, too that, for centuries? If we have a question on women’s bodies, or sexuality, or violence (all good, popular topics), will it be particularly fun for the women who’ve real-life experience of what Rachel Moss bitingly terms ‘Chaucer’s funny rape’? I could go on, but you see the problem. When women write those blind-marked exams, they do so surrounded by an academic conversation that has very little space for women, and in which much of that space is full of uncomfortable reminders of women’s unequal status through history.

This is all before we get to the real issue. The quotation presumes that what ought to be rewarded in any good student is ‘strong, declarative sentences’ and ‘forceful’ arguments. This is … well … problematic. ‘Chaucer is the greatest English poet’ is a strong, declarative sentence. It is also utterly lacking in nuance, understanding of English literature, and awareness of the past century of scholarship. In short, it’s shit. And an essay made up of such strong, declarative sentences would also be extremely tedious. Language policing is a very blunt tool. And, increasingly, I notice how much it fails to hit anything even resembling its target.

The other day, a friend of mine sent me an article to read. Written by Karen O’Donnell, it argues that a form of speech that’s often derided as being feminine – expressing emotion – is crucial to the progress of academia. She explains:

“I am currently writing a PhD and in one chapter I touch upon a sensitive issue that is very close to home. One of my supervisors encouraged me to think about whether or not I would be able to defend this part of my work without getting emotional. My other supervisor encouraged me to think about why being emotional might be seen as wrong and whether I wanted to challenge that perception.”

This rang true for me, too. Increasingly, what I write about in my research, and what I teach, is pretty close to home. And it is emotional, and it should be. I want to speak – in ladyspeech or not -because these issues matter to me. A few weeks ago, I went to a conference, which was ostensibly about manuscripts. But – and I really should have blogged about this before – it was also incredibly unusual in terms of the way gender issues were playing out, both in papers and amongst the people there. If I can count correctly, out of 127 people, there were 41 men and the remainder were women. My friend Carissa Harris gave a brilliant paper about sexual violence against women, which is still playing over in my mind. But what I loved about this specific conference was that, having listened to a paper on gendered sexual violence, we didn’t have to switch politely back into impersonal academic mode – there were too many women sharing other stories, calmly acknowledging that this is a personal as well as an academic issue. And the personal, emotional aspect of that debate was made so much more possible because of the weight of numbers: there were enough of to acknowledge each other’s experiences as emotional, personal, and valuable.

Why do I mention this? I mention it because the first metaphor that springs to mind to describe my experience is ‘speaking the same language’. I wanted to imagine we were all speaking an idiolect, a special language, a coded set of terms that helped us to understand each other’s points about misogyny and rape, survival and women’s experience.

But, really, we weren’t. We were simply speaking. What felt new, was that we were being heard.

When O’ Donnell writes about being ’emotional’, part of what she is talking about is breaking a silence. Her research will require her to give voice to an argument, reflecting experience and emotion, which is not part of the established academic conversation. We could – and the language-policing types would – argue that perhaps she should find a way to have this conversation in suitably ‘academic’ language, to remove the overt emotion from it. But then, it wouldn’t be the same conversation, and it might not even convey the same experience and argument. It would be leaving academia a little bit narrower, a little bit less honestly representative of women’s experiences and perspectives.

What’s needed is not a broader academic language, nor a space for women to speak in the ways women speak. We need a space in which women can be heard. Those women at Oxford, who are struggling to be heard, are not struggling (I trust and believe) because of their lack of ‘declarative sentences’. In the article Wolf wrote, the answer was right there: in the experience of Professor Elleke Boehmer, when women try to speak up “male students speak first and second and even third.”

Women are discouraged from speaking up by myriad pressures that tell them their voices are less worth hearing – pressures that reduce their voices to twittering sound (as I’ve said before), or to meaningless feminine noise. We’re pushed to believe this fiction that women’s speech is always excessive – too high, too fast, too loud, too much – simply because women’s speech is a reminder that women exist to speak. For some people, there will never be a ‘right’ way for women to speak – so we need to speak up anyway.

101 thoughts on “‘He Do the Police in Different Voices’: On Speech and Language Policing

  1. An extraordinarily fine essay. You know I’ve been reading and enjoying you’re work a while, and I think this may be the best essay of yours that I’ve read. You wove seemingly disparate threads into a tapestry of deeper, richer meaning, showing me a new way to think about women and language, women and speech.

    “For some people, there will never be a ‘right’ way for women to speak – so we need to speak up anyway.”

    Breathtaking in its simplicity and its blunt honesty. A call to arms in 21 words. Brilliant. I would very much like to include that sentence, with attribution, of course, as one of my signature quotes, if that would be acceptable. If you prefer not, I will simply save it to my important quotes file, words that I seek out when I need to be encouraged to continue whatever the struggle is.

    Thank you.

      • Added to the list, and I thank you. As a gift in return, I offer this lovely statement by the actor, Julie Harris: Sometime after she turned 70, Julie Harris was asked what she’d do today if she learned the world would end tomorrow.
        “I’d go to the theater.”

  2. Interestingly, T.S. Elliot relied on his wife’s edits (and typing) and poetic additions to make his poems excel. He also helped put her away in asylum due to her “hysterical” menstruation cycles which included excessive bleeding and so required the couple refrain from sex… some of his most dismal yet famous poems spring from his disgust with his wife who was more creative and intelligent than him… He truly profited as a writer because of her…

    • How did I not know this?! I knew about the asylum but not the editing (though I should have guessed). That is so awful, and so unsurprising. I hope you feel it makes the quotation more appropriate, rather than making it seem insensitive (could go either way). Thank you for this.

      • I see how it could go either way… but I didn’t think the quote insensitive. It does seem more appropriate to your article and all the more complex for it.

        T.S. Elliot used his wife’s emotional swings and genius-intelligence and writers-input (word choices and arrangements) to construct his poetic works, and the Wasteland is very reflective of his feelings about his relationship at that point with her (all while misunderstanding women’s health).

        She stayed incredibly devoted and maybe in some denial about being put away by him (with help from her male family members) and he never parted from his banking income. He was a poet yes, but also he was a banker. It was just as important to him.

        He felt keeping her as a wife (even if in asylum) was a duty to god (and that he was being punished after being misled into the marriage, in his opinion) but this gave him a righteousness or “discipline” to his life work.

        After her, menopause, she never had the manic bouts again… which were partly physiological and partly due the duress of the age where hysterectomies were preformed due to “hysterical” women meant for repression and suppressed roles… voices… etc.

        Thank you too!

      • I feel that I should stop calling her “his wife” and say her name was Vivienne Haigh-Wood Eliot. She was her own person. Apologies for neglecting that. Thanks again for the article.

      • That is appallingly sad. But also, not surprising. On a side note, I’m still amazed how many women comment that their GPs don’t take women’s mental health very seriously when it seems to be connected to hormones (or hormonal contraception, these days).

        Excellent point about using her name, too – I will remember that.

        Thank you.

      • That line from The Wasteland is a quote from Dickens’ Our Mutual Friend and though I’m no expert on Dickens I suspect how he treated his wife could give TSE a close run for his money (sadly). He wrote of his own wife in a letter to a friend: “Catherine is as near being a donkey as one of her sex can be.”

  3. I can’t help but think of your last post where I was arguing with one of your other readers and told her she was being emotional in her use of rhetoric when telling me “I drank the koolaide” of Jim Jones… as if I’d been brainwashed due to my defense of Trans gender people. Was I “policing” a dialogue for this “cis” woman, and “cis” women because she was using her own set of facts and defending opinion over fact and so I called her out on this as an emotional tactic? Was her using loaded language against me being portrayed as the victim of a “brainwash” to make her (non factual) point about trans people better “sisterhood” for using emotion than my emphasis of tolerance?

    I use to win debates in high school based on emotional presentation… and I learned the facts didn’t matter as much to the panel of judges. This bothered me, but I learned about the power of emotional sway to be sure.

    I haven’t actually found majority-women’s forums more supportive due to listening to one another. It’s more like women are supportive of the women who are saying what they want to hear, and joining narrow interest groups to hear each other within those groups.

    In any case, interesting article… and one I will reflect more on. Thanks for taking the time to write about this. It redefines the whole need for “trigger warnings” somehow if we are feeling a greater need to be our “emotional” selves, no?

    • I think we do all ‘police’ each others’ speech – and that’s partly what I’m referring to at the beginning, the way it is easy to police other sisters’ speech (NB: writing that, I am thinking back to the time when someone writing ‘sisters’ in this context would have made me laugh uneasily, which is a kind of policing, but I figure these days I need all the sisters I can get). I partly wanted this post to make people think about that, but it is incredibly contentious and difficult.

      I’m lucky, though, because I *have* found women’s groups to be incredibly supportive – and not just of people who say what the group consensus likes. I also have friends whose politics differs hugely from my own, and we get along, and we learn from each other. I started out thinking I wouldn’t define myself as a radical feminist, and there were debates I felt passionately about. My views shifted, but I still know a lot of the women who disagreed with me (and now my views have shifted, some of us disagree where before we agreed!).

      But, the kind of woman-to-woman language policing I was thinking more about was happening at this same conference of mine. I’d hear these women speak – and these are women who are incredibly clever and knowledgeable and eloquent – and they’d finish, and then say ‘oh, I felt so bad about how I said x’ or ‘oh, I didn’t feel I said y very well’. And I read Debbie Cameron’s article – I saw it at about 2am on day three of the conference! – and the penny dropped that we were spending time worrying about this when we could have been talking about the content of the conference itself. I think the point in the Guardian article I quoted, by Elleke Boehmer, is similar: women students may be losing out not because they speak ‘wrongly’, but because their time is taken up with self-policing (in the case she describes, self-silencing) and they don’t get the practice in. It’s a whole wide structure designed to keep women from speaking up enough, and part of that structure is about getting us to focus on how we speak, how other women speak, and not why women aren’t being listened to.

      So I think, sending the debate back to focus on how women interact is something we have to resist.

      • Goodness, that was an essay and I still haven’t commented on the best bit:

        *It redefines the whole need for “trigger warnings” somehow if we are feeling a greater need to be our “emotional” selves, no?*

        This, absolutely! I feel a post about trigger warnings coming on.

      • Thank you for this reply. I am confronting, more often than not, how I am “supposed to” deliver my content rather than what actually matters about the content (which is the content) and it’s infuriating.

        I appreciate your article speaking to this “policing” and your clarifications to me.

        It’s true the focus on our interactions as women has been a tool of division.

      • Oh… and I hope you do a “trigger warning” post! I’d be very interested in reading. 🙂

  4. Very amused by the Naomi Wolf commentary – I heard her give one of the Amnesty lectures at Oxford many years ago, when she INFURIATED the audience with her anecdotal belief in the awfulness of Oxford. We were all ready to listen to challenging stuff, but not when it was pulled out of her own bottom in front of us.
    The only worse (funnier) lecture I’ve heard was in the same series, given by Shere Hite.

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  6. Just wanted to awkwardly drop in and let you know that I really appreciate this post. It’s given me a lot to think about in terms of policing voices, specifically the self-policing that I’m sure so many like me have internalized. I’ve been looking into uptalk and vocal fry lately as well and it’s amazing the number of things people will come up with to say women are speaking wrong.

  7. This is so true – I have been educated up to an MSc and am currently a Secondary School teacher. Throughout my academic career, I have always felt restricted in terms of writing – the accepted norms of ‘good’ writing has created a kind of mental block with regards to expressing my opinion. In formal essay writing, it is not acceptable to be meandering, passionate or subtle with one’s opinion, and I agree that the academic community is losing out because of these restrictions.

  8. It’s difficult to be succinct when euphemisms have attached themselves to my favorite words like barnacles; I’ve only meant to speak about one of my ordinary shipwrecks. Ghostly unspoken words haunt me, like dead metaphors, and when hot words are cool, I’m moody in the shards and splinters

  9. Hey you got freshly pressed! Congrats! I told you you were up there with Margret Atwood and Jay Macpherson, didn’t I???? You didn’t believe me.
    But then I read you next post and realized I’m your fan-girl! drats! Am I foiled or just lucky? Anyhow, I love your work(s) and await them all eagerly. Again I say… I’m not flattering you. Because I’m not. Just drawn. And no need to reply. I just wanted to say, congrats on being freshly pressed and yeay! Someone with a brain is being featured!!!! It’s a good day.

    • Hi there Mary, Glad you checked out Jeanne’s site!

      Donald Trump is running for president in the U.S. and has sexualized and insulted, and degraded the female moderator of the first Republican debates, after he used a female celebrity to crack jokes about making mysogeny acceptable, funny, etc. for a presidential candidate… and the men in this country certainly don’t want a woman in office.

      Our voices might be heard protesting him, but he is dominating the media… and profiting on his usury of women, and not his listening skills.

      It’s not really a question of censorship, but of accurate representation… And it’s about ownership not a space for opinions. Every good empire gives the masses room for their opinions… because it makes them think they are making progress, while they continue to take what they get…

      Anyhow, not to argue with you at all, and I hope you’re doing well.

      It’s not a “surface” problem.

      • True true, it’s structural!

        And it’s in part to your work that we can read and become more clear about the historical structures.

        Thanks for teaching and writing. You help immensely.

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  11. Manner of diction and overall tone does does influence how I react. It’s the same reason why I would rather talk to a woman than a man. Voices tend to be nicer, there isn’t a competition for masculine dominance. What does that say about me? Does that mean I’m a control freak that would much rather talk to women because I subconsciously think their voices are weak?

    Hopefully not, but maybe I’m a product if my environment more than I would like to think.

    • Howdy Mr. Deadman,

      It means you haven’t spoken to very many women.

      It means you don’t chose to speak to the ones who would challenge you, and maybe select men in the same way… if you reflect a little about confrontation/conflict and your preferences for it.

      Your binary or generalized view of women’s tone, diction, and manner, is like a call to arms, fella.

      Women’s “voices tend to be nicer” means we have a problem Huston.

      • I suppose you can say I have a problem. Something systematic, even. Tone of voice has a lit of influence. A deep, stern voice and dictation can be intimidating. Why is that? Would you say you’re immune to such influences?

      • Hello again Mr. Daedman,

        I would say that women are told they are “angry” when they express legitimate problems, in order to peg us as “hysterical” or “scary” or “imbalanced” in order to take us less seriously and or not consider us at all. It’s expected of and admired in men (in general) to express themselves with bravado, machismo, and saber waving and women are expected to be always the “grace” to balance and support the hyper-masculine rather than to question it and rather than to be assertive (also generally speaking) and that this self-policing by women and encouragement of it by men (such as in your comment) that it goes well beyond simple civil conversation and lilting sweet tones… and into a gender-role that is massively oppressive.

        Sure most of us prefer or like certain tones and manners (subjective) and that respectful, diplomatic and or compassionate/ types are where we might find comfort or coaxing/convincing compared to the intimidating-stern… or whatever. It’s true that fear doesn’t last as an effective way of ruling or influence as it’s too exhausting, but revolution is evolution and it usually requires a wider range of emotional and vocal options.

        Am I immune to deep stern voices? You mean do I fall weak and become paralyzed? Submit? Naw, generally (if it matters to me) I go head on. I am capable of nuances but I’m not afraid to express myself at the risk of turning men off.

      • Where I was coming from may be a bit different. I want men and women to express themselves and talk and tell their story. I just have my guard up more when it’s a voice that carries overly masculine overtones, the stereotype for some muscle dude that would probably try to physically intimidate if given the chance.

        I don’t normally get that sense when speaking with women, even upset and agree women. I don’t take what is said personally, and do my best to calm them down.

        Unfortunately, with limited information I have to rely on patterns and expected behaviors when assessing for my own safety.

        But, bottom line is gender isn’t a factor for me when trying to get information. Women tend to talk more and have more information as the stereotype suggests.

      • You are hung up on the presentation, Mr. Deadman. And that’s the problem. While you are busy trying to “calm” the women down, for your personal comfort, you fail to hear them and miss the actual point and content. That’s either your lack of skill or your actual intention.

        Women tend to talk more in your experience ( you claim) and with more information, probably because as you’ve said, you back away from men and or become “guarded” and then of course prefer certain types of women. You are effectively policing informational voices to your satisfaction (males and females) so that you have the “most” say.

        What you are really expressing is you are open to a narrower range of peoples ideas and contributions. You don’t like dissonant notes… (stay away from Raga and Jazz… Hip Hop doesn’t belong in your world…) You have a “type” you go for. They talk a certain way. It pleases you. They respond to you being in control…
        They calm down… and like fastening a yoke to a bulls head so the horns can do no harm, you create an easier victory for yourself. You dominate the story through (maybe) a passive aggression.

        I have no idea why you feel so unsafe in your conversations. I’m not a big fan of “trigger warnings” because I prefer not knowing what I’m going into and then finding out how I respond as a purist. But maybe you need to take care of your wellbeing and that’s what you’re expressing in oh so many sexist ways.

        You do and are taking it personal, btw. If you “expect a pattern of behaviors” and rely on that, you’re plugged into your baseboard (reaction), not mine.

        I see that there’s a link to a book to read from Jeanne the author of this post… Her recommendations are stellar and I hope you take it on. I know I will be.

      • And you seem hung up on the idea of using presentation and calming “the women” down.

        I work as an investigator that assess the household and family. In order to my job properly I need everyone, male and female, to talk. If people do not talk, or refuse to disclose information, then it really impairs the investigation.

        For worker safety and for nuance, presentation is important. You can assess the flow of an interview with changes in tone and dialect. It’s also why you would probably not order take out in a demanding, yelling voice. They’ll react in a certain way.

        I attempt to calm both men and women down when they start becoming aggressive during an interview. Now, it doesn’t always work.

        I think that you got the wrong impression. That I want to keep women within a certain tone and dialect. I stated that I prefer to interview women over men, because men tend to be more aggressive and on guard. Those two traits require a tad more work. But male or female, it doesn’t matter. I’ll interview everyone to understand the family dynamics.

        I’m sorry that there tends to be differences between men and women that echo that of the stereotypes.

      • You’re right, though. It is about control, controlling the flow of the interview. A game of asking questions, gauging emotions, and listening as pieces of the narrative come together.

      • Mr. Deadman, as an investigator of some kind where your job requires negotiating dangerous (what domestic violence? ) situations you are dealing with a situation you’ve been hired to control in the first place.

        That system or place of employment that has hired you is already built on sexism, racism and a whole plethora of other biases… which make certain peoples more vulnerable to the patriarchal controls and stereotypes. It doesn’t necessarily mean your helping them.

        The policing of voices is very real in America… and the encouragement of hyper-masculinity which you are saying you are against is only being reinforced by your assumptions of gender roles.

        I understand you need to calm people down in order to help them in your profession. But if you don’t address what the anger is about, what it stems from, and only squelch it to get past the immediate danger that you perceive, you’re building a powder keg.

        Anger isn’t coming from nowhere. It isn’t an emotion that surfaces to be calmed down. It is energy that is useful when changed into action. Not silenced. Not calmed. But vital and moving and evolutionary action. It isn’t stuck. It’s mobility. It doesn’t last, it’s a catalyst.

        Less fear and more understanding of anger would benefit your work. The people who are angry do need to be heard. Not simply calmed. We don’t need pacifiers.

        Not to take away the merits of your job or the need for it… and as I don’t know the specifics and it sounds like a case by case gig, it would behoove you to be less stereotypical when noting patterns and behaviors. That’s a true block towards helpfulness. Stereotypes don’t fly. They make it worse.

      • I’m sorry, but this is utter nonsense – it’s patronising and sexist, and we need to stop pretending it’s true.

        Try reading Deborah Cameron’s work – The Myth of Mars and Venus, or her excellent blog (here: https://debuk.wordpress.com/).

      • It means you haven’t spoken to very many women.

        It means you don’t chose to speak to the ones who would challenge you, and maybe select men in the same way… if you reflect a little about confrontation/conflict and your preferences for it.

        Your binary or generalized view of women’s tone, diction, and manner, is like a call to arms, fella.

        Women’s “voices tend to be nicer” means we have a problem Huston.

        Well said! Agree.

  12. You’re persistent, Deadman, No doubt. Sadly, you had no chance of making your point. Reading the original post should have told you that it’s not about communication or mutual understanding, unless that we means all understand that women are good and men are not. Remember the Alamo? You’re standing in it.

    • I am not sure why you think the original post was about ‘we’ (men? women? small dogs?) understanding that women are good and men are not.

      But, you know, this is an overtly feminist blog …

    • Hi Kenny Nines… I remember you very well from other sites. You are a troll here. Go away. Your sisters deserve a better brother. The women you meet a better friend. Go away troll. Away.

    • Kennynines… YOU KNOW We fought on other sites before and that’s THE only reason you defend Deadman and try to demean this author. What a cheap and obvious shot you take. Why don’t you come meet me on my on turf you stupid sucker?

    • I mean, Kenny nines, the black lives matter movement is right when they advise: don’t engage the trolls… but come fight me… mutha fucka out in the bright of the day light… you coward. On my ground.

      You got nothing on Jeanne. NOTHING.

  13. Let’s not play dumb. Then again, let’s do. If you can’t see why someone might see your writing as sexist, then game over, you win. There is some good news, though. Even a broken clock is right twice a day and even the most hidebound bigot is capable of making a point now and again.
    Please don’t go to that place where I must not know very many women because I do. Most of them have achieved more in their academic and professional lives than I ever will and the rest, like me, do their best to make good lives for themselves and their families. I have a mother and four sisters who were all, at one time, married to “Men” who were completely unworthy of them. I have personally been used up and thrown away by “Women” who proved equally unworthy.
    I will not argue that there is no gender inequality regarding financial, professional and social issues. I will, however, assert that there is no inequality regarding issues of character. Address these issues and watch the others go away.

    • Actually, I can safely say your entire response to the article, feminism and this author is sexist, paranoid as a male and therefore entirely absurd Kenny Nines.

      “Let’s not play dumb” you wrote. And I say to you, How dare you write this to a college professor who can translate Latin, you FOOL? You nincompoop?

      Your issues are personal. You do not need to throw your pity pot around about why you resent women.

      Your character is showing and you don’t “now” women you pre-concieve them. For an artist that would be called a lazy eye. In this case you need to Listen. And stop being a prick.

      This author is not responsible for your “attraction” and why you decide to go “away”.

      That’s sexists and demeaning linguistically. For shame Kenny Nines. As a man I am embarrassed for you.

    • Hey there again Kennynines again… I just wanted to remind you where we met… on that hyper masculine site about carrying the gun… pro military… where the U.S. soldier was trying to temper you all… as in military men versus civilians… but it ended up on that site VERY VERY VERY okay to rape women…

      So you watch your step fucker.

    • Okay I went back thru the freshly pressed section and here’s the link to the military blog we met on Kennynines and where rape culture is in fact tolerated and promoted by men and women (mothers and wives) who do not listen and in fact perpetuate a culture of abuse: http://carryingthegun.com/2015/01/14/veterans-when-i-ask-you-about-things-can-you-not-be-a-condescending-dick-about-it/

      in case you don’t remember how the military and hyper masculine men and their wives helped frame, misunderstand and contort me… and here is one of the wonderful sources of your problems as a troll… as a man… as brother… as a friend… and as a human.

      Resenting women and going against feminists and creating your own version of man-reality as you defend Mr. Deadman “criminal investigator” who will gladly cater to and pander to and perpetuate stereotypes so he can police language and calm down women and “oh woe is me, sorry if that makes me sexist” is not gonna pass the reality test. You MUST be smarter. We like SMART people here.

      Jack asses need not apply.

      • Hi Kate… that carry the gun blog is one of the worst and most abusive to women as a binary gender role thinking place, and altho Donald (is that his name?) is a popular recommended site on wordpress because… um… arms sales???… and superpacs ??? and ISIS??? and Nukes??? and debtor nation??? nation economy based on war pro soldier hoo hah… B.S. and and and republicans and Koch brothers and rupert murdoch and phil knight and football season and um… mansplaining…networking???? Avoid Kenny Nines of the planet dickwad and worry not his blip on the radar.

        Carry the Gun will call you a man hater for not supporting the troops like a good wife and condemn you if you are not a mother. Stay away from fuck wad kenny and his kind. He deserves no attention. And no validation as a troll. He’s already dead.


      • Yeah, I know carry the gun is one of the worst pro male-soldier-get away and validate war and sexism- blogs Tabby and That’s why people need to know who Kennynines is… and if he supports a dumbass like Mr. sexist Deadman… I don’t mond taking a proverbial bullet so the readers know who is trolling and for HOW LONG. Me and Kenny have history. AND He’s worthless. He has no discussion to contribute. He will only tear women down. He’s a binary thinker. I don’t need to tolerate him here on Jeanne’s blog and no one else needs to either, I’m just pointing him out as part of a systemic problem in the online world… that blames women for their own resentment and envy.

      • true.

        it’s because Jeanne was freshly pressed and Kennynine’s is an opportunist not a real reader or thinker in any forum.


      • Katherine, I really appreciate you taking the time on here. That link is really disturbing, and I’m not sure what to make of it. So thank you for taking the time to set things out.

      • I apologize if I’m bringing too much personal into this or to your blog. I’ve been battling sexism and rape culture online for too long and often to my own “peril” on certain blog sites. I thought it important at the time to stand up to things, and then to point out trolls to others… so they can avoid my pitfalls and or figure out how to unify. But I do not wish to connect you or others to the disturbing… or bring more trolls so I hope my presence doesn’t do that.

        Please let me know if I’m overstepping or making things too uncomfortable or whatever.

        Thanks for your reply and continued work.

      • No, not at all!

        We’re all in the same fight. I am glad you wrote so eloquently, because I was a bit lost for words.

        Thank you.

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  15. Dear Jeanne,
    I am very sorry for disturbing the peaceful discussion in your blog with my deliberately provocative post. You should be able to have a discussion about the subject of your choice without a whole lot of bullshit and other peoples drama. I am responsible for that, and I would like to thank Katherine for calling me out.
    If it’s not too much like talking about work and, if it is, I won’t take it personally at all but I would love to talk with you about medieval history. I have been doing a fair amount of reading over the past few years, mostly political and military. I’m sure I could learn a lot from your perspective and scholarship but I digress.
    I hope you will accept my apology and that there can be good will between us.

    Sincerely yours,

    Kenny Nines

    • Hi Kenny Nines… I just read your comment to Jeanne… and you will find a great teacher of medieval history through poetry, art, tapestry, and latin translation thru her. You will see where women are depicted “between the lines” and where they have been left out… I recommend you go back to her older posts and then keep reading, if you haven’t already.

      I hope you’ll expand your reading also to the modern posts of hers that discuss feminism and rape culture, the sex industry, and how those relate to her essays about medieval works.

      I consider her one of my best teachers. Her writing helped me over a year ago… confront my own attitude about self-defense when it comes to rape… I hope you’ll discover that post too. She literally changed my life for the better. There is no more valuable teacher than the one that can sensitize you to the real while teaching you where we came from.

      Best of luck to you in your own learning, reading and seeking, Kenny Nines.

    • Howdy Kenny… so how about next time a woman is being completely messed with on a military site like “carry the gun”, you don’t join in with the rape culture and validate or assist? How about instead you stand up against the status quo? Or validate the rape survivor who supplied endless amounts of facts for the “military sheep-wives” and hostile military men? Because Katherine was battered on that site. She was told she had no place to speak there because she was a “civilian” and that is policing women’s voices to boot! (which Jeanne’s article is about btw) as well as they didn’t listen at all as they framed her… Her father was in the navy as were her aunt and uncle, cousins… Her grandfathers were in the army… and her grandmother wanted to know if she too wanted to be one of the “daughters of the revolution” which is in fact military family and service. But they all dismissed her when she spoke about the military rapes and what war does to an entire family. She wanted to help victims of abuse. And she got abused on that site ridiculously or told to not bother since it was no use. Because of the “code of silence” military men take about rape… everyone helped online abuse, family abuse and obviously rape culture. We need to change that military culture. We need to not perpetuate/maintain our debtor economy on war and a standard of global rape.

      So cool, you want to read about medieval times. They got to rape and pillage too.

      But you Kenny Nines, need to apologize to Katherine more directly for me to let you off ANY hook. You helped the rape culture on Carry the Gun. So now where do you and I stand as I too “call you out” in front of one of my beloved teachers? Because I love this woman’s work. It means something to me. And it better damn well to you which goes beyond reading. It’s a human connection to women. We are human. Not objects. Not fodder. Please tell me you’re on board for real Kenny Nines.

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  17. Sorry for the late reply. I have been on vacation with only my phone to connect to the internet and my large shaky fingers make typing on a touchpad rather difficult.
    Thank you so very much for having the vision and empathy to see the sincerity of my apology and for inviting me to remain as part of the conversation. Very sadly I must decline. If my reasons interest you at all we can communicate through some other medium (or to talk about medieval things, if you wish). If not, I get that too.

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  19. Reblogged this on NoelG and commented:
    I first read this a couple of week sago, and I have kept thinking about it. The thoughts on ‘strong declarative sentences’, is particularly making me me think. Firstly, that I too don’t like them, and secondly, how often do I use them, nonetheless.

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