In the words of Allyson Jule, Speaking up ‘is designed to be an accessible introduction to academic research’ (x) about the intersections between language and gender. Starting from her own position and story as a female writer, Jule addresses key concepts and terminologies developed in the fields of gender, sexuality, and language. In addition, the book covers specific aspects of gender performances in interactive everyday places. Speaking up is, therefore, a welcome invitation for people interested in understanding the complex gender relations where language plays a central role.
The book is divided into two major parts. The first, ‘Understanding gender and language use’, seeks to situate readers in the ‘basics’ (ch. 1) of the discussion about the use of language and gender. In this part, Jule discusses key concepts, making a quick review about feminism, sex and gender, LGBTQ+ terminologies, and the relationship between language and power, among other important themes. The process of ‘doing gender’ as an important notion to differentiate gender from sex stands out. In the second part, ‘Understanding gender and language use in the world’, Jule seeks to elucidate the uses of language in gendered social roles that are crossed by specific contexts. In this sense, she describes studies about contexts produced in media and technology, education, personal relationships, work, and religion. In her descriptions, we can properly understand how the production of female oppression and liberation are intricately located.
Her work stems from the linguistic turn in the social sciences to address definitions of language and gender. In this sense, the book focuses on the idea of ‘language as gendered’ (19)—that is, language as an activity that builds gender roles and gender expectations. Thus, the book conveys an important message that thinking about language within feminism, or ‘feminisms’ as Jule defends (5), means thinking of language as a key tool to modify attitudes and stop systematic inequalities that exist between men and women.
By understanding gender as something that is being socially constructed in language, Jule presents the study of the relationship between gender and language in several contexts. In the context of media, for example, she presents ideas about the construction of consumer femininity and masculinity that profoundly affects our view of acceptable forms of self-expression and lifestyle. In the field of education, she debates many aspects such as the strategy of silence in the classroom, that may impact future positions of legitimacy and professional prestige for girls. Therefore, by working with the construction of gender in diverse sociocultural models, Jule highlights the idea that language users speak in ways that affect their lives and their cultural identities.
In general, her whole work seems to be an effort to contribute to a more critical view of our own human connections. Speaking up is more than an introduction to theoretical research about language and gender: it is a call to action and transformation of social realities through self-reflection about our own practices.