‘I’ve been looking at all the ordinary staples of flirting,’ says Julia, ‘like biting your lip and looking away just a second too late, and laughing a lot and finding every excuse to touch, light fingertips on a forearm or a thigh that emphasise and punctuate the laughter. I’ve been thinking about what a comfort these things are, these textbook methods, precisely because they need no decoding, no translation. Once, a long time ago, you could probably bite your lip and it would mean, I am almost overcome with desiring you. Now you bite your lip and it means, I want you to see that I am almost overcome with desiring you, so I am using the plainest and most universally accepted symbol I can think of to make you see. Now it means, Both of us know the implications of my biting my lip, and what I am trying to say. We are speaking a language, you and I together, a language that we did not invent, a language that is not unique to our uttering. We are speaking someone else’s lines. It’s a comfort.’
There’s a fundamental problem I see in a lot of feminist writing. And that problem is WORDS. (Since writing is made of words, this is a very bad problem.)
If you are writing in English, and you want to stand a snowflake’s chance of reaching anyone who isn’t already your exact brand of feminist, you need to respect the consensus meanings and connotations of English words.