Thursday, February 22, 2007

If you want to be taken seriously does the language have to be inaccessible?

Gosh - its been a while since I posted here - mostly because I have been completing a Masters dissertation which I am please do say was submitted today - It has been very stressful and not something I particularly want to repeat. It's not the topic - I loved doing the research into the coping strategies of trans women and it has really taught me a great deal about the issues being faced by anyone whose gender it not typically male or female - no the problem has been the style of writing required for an academic project.

One of the books I needed to read for this project was Judith Butler's Gender Trouble. I do not know how this book has become a seminal text. OK she has challenged the gender binary and some of the foundations of feminism and is credited as on of the originators of Queer Theory - but no matter how many times I read this - or should I say try to read it - I cannot understand what she is talking about. Feminism probably more than any subject I know seems to have acquired a virtually impenetrable language that must exclude people - I think it was all part of the need for early feminists to be taken seriously - I on the other hand have been schooled in the belief that as the average reading ability of adults in the UK is age 12 - that the level that we need to write if we want to reach people.

It is interesting that most blog posts I read use accessible language, good basic creative English - even where it is clear that the writer is from an academic background - so why is it necessary to switch to heavy going language as soon as the writing needs to be considered academic rather than personal. My research was based on ethnographic research amongst trans people - who spoke and wrote in good clear English - so it did not make sense that my analysis of that material should be in a complex inaccessible language.

I have noticed this same problem when I run public speaking courses - I get people accessing their passion and telling stories which engage the audience and are really interesting - then we switch to a business or academic topic and they go back to serious and boring again. It's no wonder that business and academic conferences are so arduous when the speakers and writers cannot simply be themselves and speak and write from the heart.

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