There is a ton going on right now with the holidays but I managed to finish five books this month for the November reading list. This was a great reading month and I’m really excited to share one of my newly favorite books, Wordslut. I think it’s no coincidence that I read Wordslut and Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions in consecutive order. Both books touch on gender politics and linguistics and the similarities are striking. In her introduction, Gloria Steinem writes about language groups of Native Americans and how “their characteristics include women’s right to control their own bodies, a matrilineal line of descent, male participation in child-rearing, and equal value placed on male and female activities-say, hunting and gathering or agriculture. Old languages also tend not to have gendered pronouns of “he” and “she.” People are people.” This directly ties in with the gender linguistics Amanda Montell discusses in her book, Wordslut. It’s all so fascinating and should be required adult reading for men and women.
Looking back, I can recall my own experience with gender inequality. Truthfully, I don’t have to look back too far. I remember working as a Pharmacist in a large retail chain and gender disparities revealing themselves in subtle ways. Some customers would ask to speak to the Pharmacist and when I said that I was the Pharmacist, they couldn’t conceal their shock that a 5’3′ woman was responsible for their care. They had assumed it was the 6’2” male technician working next to me. I suppose these examples are subtle in nature but they are one of many. They are everyday situations that have a significant long term effect on all of us.
Below, five books I read for the November reading list. If you’re like me and are also avoiding being outside at all costs, this post is for you. I also included books I’m currently in the process of reading for the December reading list. If you love one of these books and decide to make a purchase on Amazon, scroll down below for a chance to win a $500 Amazon gift card as a holiday thank you. Good luck!
November Reading List
Wordslut, by Amanda Montell
I had to place this book first on the list because it was phenomenal and a must-read. I have been recommending it to all my friends and posting it as often as possible on Instagram stories because it’s just that special. Amanda Montell is a writer and linguist who wrote a book all about deconstructing language and presenting the historical truth and relevance behind words like “slut” and and “bitch” in the most humorous way I have ever read about these subjects. She also goes into the way some women speak and how society has marginalized women who speak with vocal fry or use fillers such as “like” in everyday conversation. She reviews inherent biases people have and what changes we can make as a society to empower one other instead of trying to tear each other down for what we perceive are inferior mistakes.
One of my favorite moments in the book is when the author uses her linguistics expertise to convince someone from a different background from hers to consider thinking more broadly. She was working as a nanny for an Upper East Side family in Manhattan when she said the following to the little girl she was watching and her friend, “So how did y’all’s French test go?” The friend’s mother was horrified and told Montell that she was using terrible English. Furthermore, she told Amanda that people will think she’s stupid. Amanda’s response:
“Actually,” I offered, sliding back across the seat. “I like to see y’all as an efficient and socially conscious way to handle the English language’s lack of a second-person plural pronoun.” The mother raised an eyebrow. I continued, “I could have used the word you to address the two girls, but I wanted to make sure your daughter knew I was including her in the conversation. I could also have said you guys, which has become surprisingly customary in casual conversation, but to my knowledge, neither of these children identifies as a male, and I try to avoid using masculine terms to address people who aren’t men, as it ultimately works to promote the sort of linguistic sexism many have been fighting for years. I mean, if neither of these girls is a guy, then surely together they aren’t guys, you know?”
The mother gave me a skeptical smile. “I suppose,” she said.
“Exactly!” I carried on, delighted to have been given an inch. “There are other interesting alternatives: I could have said yinz, which is standard in Western Pennsylvania and parts of Appalachia, but I personally don’t think it rolls off the tongue quite as nicely. All things considered, I simply find y’all to be the most fluent solution to a tricky lexical gap. I also know that the word is highly stigmatized, as it’s associated with a certain geographical region and socioeconomic background, much like the word ain’t, which, by the way, was actually used abundantly among the English upper crust in the nineteenth century.”
I’ll let you read the rest of the book to find out the mother’s reaction. You’re going to want to read this so you too can be the “sharpest word ninja in the room.”
With chapters like “how to embarrass the shit out of people who try to correct your grammar” and “women didn’t ruin the English language-they, like, invented it,” you will not be disappointed. If I didn’t have about fifty books I want to read in the next year, I would read it again right this moment. I saw on the author’s Instagram page (is it strange that I follow her on Instagram? Maybe) that she’s in the process of writing a new book and I am here for it.
Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions, by Gloria Steinem
Originally published in 1983, Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions is just as relevant today as it was four decades ago, for better or worse. The book is a collection of essays from Gloria Steinem’s career as a feminist leader. Steinem’s work like “Ruth’s Song (Because She Could Not Sing It)” and “I Was a Playboy Bunny” are difficult to put down. We have heard so much about the author and her work as a political activist and womens’ rights leader. Actually sitting down and reading her work was an entirely different experience. She has a way of writing about complicated subjects in a relatable way that makes you start thinking how everything ties into your own world.
“If a woman spends a year bearing and nursing a child, for instance, she is supposed to have the primary responsibility for raising that child to adulthood. That’s logic by the male definition, but it often forces women to accept raising children as their only function, keeps them from doing any other kind of work, or discourages them from being mothers at all. Wouldn’t it be just as logical to say that a child has two parents, therefore both are equally responsible for child rearing-and the father should compensate for that extra year by spending more than half the time caring for the child? Logic is in the eye of the logician.”
This concept is certainly relevant in today’s world. I’ll leave you with these words by Steinem, “finding language that will allow people to act together while cherishing each other’s individuality is probably the most feminist and truly revolutionary function of writers.”
Good Clean Beauty, by the editors of goop
I’ve always had an insatiable curiosity for beauty and skincare and it has only amplified since I started blogging. Since having my daughter in 2015, I’ve been curious about clean beauty. When the editors of goop came out with a book describing beauty from the inside out, I was immediately intrigued. The authors focus on the importance of diet, exercise, sleep and beauty products that ultimately affect your exterior appearance. Beauty is complicated and there is an entire $532 billion dollar and counting industry devoted to selling you the latest ‘it’ product.
With increased transparency and sustainable alternatives, the industry is changing. A single lipstick won’t make you smarter/prettier/stronger. However, knowing where your products come from and how they are made and how to take care of yourself from the inside out will certainly make a difference in your overall wellness.
I’m not at a point where I 100% follow a clean diet and beauty routine but I’m working on it. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to fully eliminate caffeine, eggs or white rice, but I appreciate the knowledge and research in this book that can help me make decisions that are best for myself and my family. If you’re interested in learning more about clean eating and clean beauty, read this book!
You’re Not Lost, by Maxie McCoy
I discovered this book when I went to the Pennsylvania Conference for Women in October and heard Maxie McCoy speak on a panel. If you’re thinking about making a movie in life but not quite sure how to do it, McCoy offers a guide with advice and actionable steps to help you make the move. When I read it, I was feeling a bit stuck and received great tips for getting out of a rut and better focus on my goals. There are also exercises scattered throughout the book so you can tailor the advice to your specific situation. I haven’t done them yet but I plan on going back and completing everything. I love a good women’s leadership book and this was no exception. For more books from the Pennsylvania Conference for Women, check out this post.
“‘Busy’ is complete bullshit, and if you distract yourself with it, you miss the personal discovery that occurs during your ascent.”
Copywriting, by James Stone
I bought this book to learn more about effective copywriting and although I did learn a few tips here and there, I thought it was a high-level overview and lacked concrete and valuable advice. It was also filled with spelling and grammar errors, which I thought was particularly egregious for a book on copywriting. Pages 60-80 are almost incomprehensible and I read it with frustration as I tried to get through all the typos. I really wanted to like this book and learn something new about copyrighting but it just didn’t do it for me.
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