Valerie Bryson
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The sex/gender distinction and the language of sexual violence
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This chapter provides a critical investigation of the concepts of ‘sexism’ and ‘patriarchy’ that emerged from ‘consciousness-raising groups’ in the late 1960s. It finds that ‘sexism’ remains a useful part of feminist vocabulary, but that it is sometimes misused. The chapter argues that ‘patriarchy’ is a more fruitful concept, but that it too must be handled with care. It highlights the concept’s critique of male ‘normality’, its expanded notion of ‘the political’ and its ability to ‘join the dots’ to expose the interconnected nature of apparently unrelated aspects of male power. The chapter ends with a brief discussion of newer terms such as ‘mansplaining’, and a general assessment of the political role of feminist language.

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