Mother Tongue is a historical investigation of feminist language and thought, from the dawn of Old English to the present day. Dr. Jenni Nuttall guides readers through the evolution of words that we have used to describe female bodies, menstruation, women's sexuality, the consequences of male violence, childbirth, women's paid and unpaid work, and gender.
Divided into sections about menstruation, lust, reproduction, nurturing, working and aging, Mother Tongue also explores words describing male violence and emerging feminist language ... With painstaking detail, Nuttall chronicles how language controlled by men...codified ideas about women’s behavior and lives ... Touches on the hilarious and the devastating, with ample dashes of an ingredient so painfully absent from most discussions of sex and gender: humor.
Nuttall puts together a lexicon that, like a thesaurus, limits meaning to a few synonyms while seeming to expand it ... It’s striking, then, to examine the negative space in Nuttall’s project of recovery ... Mother Tongue isn’t dishonest, but just like a rushed piece of homework, its mission is overwhelmed by its own sense of exigency.