Dale Spender Quotes

Words From a Fierce Feminist

Quote: women's humor is part of the revolution
© Jone Johnson Lewis

Dale Spender is a self-described “fierce feminist,” an Australian who wears only purple in honor of the women suffragists.  Most of her publications have been about women and feminism, especially bringing back to public attention women who have become invisible though they made contributions to literary or intellectual history. She’s also written about feminism and about intellectual property and its implications.

 She was born September 22, 1943.

Selected Quotations From Dale Spender

• Feminism has fought no wars. It has killed no opponents. It has set up no concentration camps, starved no enemies, practiced no cruelties. Its battles have been for education, for the vote, for better working conditions, for safety in the streets, for child care, for social welfare, for rape crisis centres, women's refuges, reforms in the law. If someone says, 'Oh, I'm not a feminist', I ask, 'Why? What's your problem?’

• Women are aware that male superiority is a myth and they deal with this knowledge in numerous ways. Their response to 'enlightenment' may range from disillusionment to elation, from masking their feelings in an attempt to hide their disappointment and preserve the myth, to outrightly declaring their knowledge in an attempt to explode it.

• It is because males have had power that they have been in a position to construct the myth of male superiority and to have it accepted; because they have had power they have been able to 'arrange' the evidence so that it can be seen to substantiate the myth.

• Openly questioning the way the world works and challenging the power of the powerful is not an activity customarily rewarded.

• Although there have been many erroneous rules formulated for classifying the world, the ones in which I am primarily interested, in this context, are those which relate to the stratification of females and males.

These are not the only hierarchical forms but they are the ones which I have chosen to concentrate on and explore.

• When women are supposed to be quiet, a talkative woman is a woman who talks at all.

• Women’s humor is part of the revolution.

• Language helps form the limits of our reality.

• It is no small matter that most of the words in the English language are the ones that have been used historically and publicly (spoken and written) by men. And they are a wonderful resource when it comes to white men wanting to describe and explain their world and their place within it. But for women, and people of colour, such words and meanings are slanted.

• In the 1970s Julia Stanley undertook the tedious task of counting and recording the number of ‘slut words’ for women in the English language. She stopped at 220. I’m not sure whether she got to the end of the dictionary or she ran out of patience, but she also found that there were fewer than 20 words that named men as lechers.  Even when they engaged in sexually promiscuous behavior – the names that were given to describe the activities of men were often tinged with admiration. (Words like ‘stud’ for example.)

• I am old enough to have lived in a world without sexism and sexual harassment.

Not because they weren’t everyday occurrences in my life but because THESE WORDS DIDN’T EXIST. It was not until the feminist writers of the 1970s made them up, and used them publicly and defined their meanings – an opportunity that men had enjoyed for centuries – that women could name these experiences of their daily life.

• When it comes to women being wrong, religion has a lot to answer for – above and beyond the embedded imagery that goes with Adam (who actually ATE the apple but was exonerated) and Eve, the temptress who ‘made him do it’. (A fundamental scapegoating pattern in the English language.)

• is it the case that the more women succeed the more domestic violence we witness - or just more reporting of it  (Twitter, 2014)

See also: Germaine Greer Quotations