Dictionary Language

A Feminist Dictionary

A Feminist DictionaryCheris Kramarae,
Paula A. Treichler (eds)

This is a dictionary with a difference. It places women at the center of language and uses definition and quotation to take us on a fascinating journey through the development and use of the English language from diverse feminist perspectives. A Feminist Dictionary illustrates women’s linguistic contributions: the ways in which women have sought to describe, reflect upon and theorize about women, language, and the rest of the world. This is a unique source book that will serve as a valuable work of reference for many years to come.

A Feminist Dictionary, published in its second edition as Amazons, Bluestockings, and Crones: A Feminist Dictionary, is an alternative dictionary compiled by Cheris Kramarae, Ann Russo, and Paula A. Tredichler, and first published by Pandora Press in 1985. It has over 2500 words and definitions from a feminist perspective, forcing us to consider who assembles the dictionaries usually consulted and to ask how the words have been chosen.

Pat: “This week has been real exciting. Got to hear a mentor of mine give a paper on making a feminist dictionary.”
David: “Oh no (groan). That’s scary.”
Pat: “What’s scary about it?”
David: “Feminist dictionaries and such always remind me of a friend who once informed me that history means his story, and that in order for it to include women it must be called herstory.”
Pat: “Well, that may not be the right etymology, but that has been the effect of male historians on the writing of history.”
David: “Yes, but she really believed that was the etymology.”
Part: “You’re missing the point. Though she may not have performed the simple task of using a dictionary, the distinction between history and herstory is a rhetorical one; therein lies its importance. The making of a feminist dictionary is central to redefining our language.”

A Feminist Dictionary / page 13.