Published online by Cambridge University Press: 28 December 2016
What we call things is important—it reveals what we think about the world. What we call ourselves, however, is even more important. It reveals ideas and assumptions about identity, gender, community. It helps us to see where we fit in in society; what we understand our purpose, our role to be; the kinds of activities we undertake. In a history where women have been largely barred from higher-paying, traditionally male occupations, the way in which women in particular use terminology to lay claim to skills and expertise in counterpoint to a generally male-dominant culture speaks volumes about the ways in which women see themselves and their relationship to their work. As Erica Jong puts it in her feminist essay, The Artist as Housewife, ‘naming is a form of self-creation’.
The idea for this article was developed after hearing a lecture given by Tim Whitmarsh at the Oxford TORCH Lecture on Gender, Literature and Culture, ‘What is Women's Writing?’, at Oxford University on 9 May 2014. My sincere thanks go to Emily Greenwood, Gregory Nagy, Tim Whitmarsh, Irene Peirano Garrison and Joshua Billings for their insightful comments and advice, as well as to the anonymous referees at Ramus for their extremely helpful feedback; any remaining errors are my own.