Maeve O’Brien: Sylvia Plath and the Language of Oppression

Very interesting thoughts about women and silence

The Coven

The English language, the words we use to speak and the texts that we write are a construct and product of patriarchy. This white male language, enmeshed in a colonial and racist history, has been forced upon lands and peoples, controlling how words and expression are defined, conveyed, written or spoken.

Accordingly, for female-identified writers, the act of trying to document their lived experiences in a language born out of what bell hooks calls ‘conquest and domination’, is rife with difficulties.

Adrienne Rich problematised the paradox of how individuals subjugated by patriarchy are expected to write in this oppressive ink in her poem, ‘The Burning of Paper Instead of Children’ where she declares, ‘this is the oppressor’s language, yet I need it to talk to you’. How can female-identified writers hope to communicate any semblance of self or aspect of their lives, thoughts, bodies or emotions in a language that…

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