dale spender is a self-described ‘fierce feminist’. She is a prolific author and prominent advocate for women’s rights, having written extensively about the role that language plays in gender inequality (her name is stylised in lowercase in keeping with feminist tradition).
In this interview, recorded in her Brisbane home, dale talks fashion and politics: how she shares a love of powerful style with her long-time friend Governor-General Quentin Bryce and why she condemns the public shaming of Julia Gillard’s wardrobe.
While fashion and feminism have often been portrayed as strange bedfellows, dale has thoughtfully embraced fashion to show her solidarity with women. Since the 1980s she has worn only purple; a colour synonymous with the suffragette movement.
Her personal collection of purple clothing, accessories, shoes and jewellery is an impressive one. In fact, dale’s collection features some very collectable feminist memorabilia (some of her collection has been acquired by museums in Australia and the UK) and a breath-taking range of specially commissioned purple clothing. The Fashion Archives had the impossible task of selecting only 5 items to share here, made only slightly easier by the fact that half of the collection was in storage (it’s on seasonal rotation).
dale has worked with the Second Chance program, which assists homeless women. dale is a member of the board for a number of prominent organisations and institutions, including The State Library of Queensland.
dale started out as a high school teacher before holding a lecturing position at James Cook University, and eventually completing her doctorate. The result of her ground-breaking research was her first book, Man Made Language, published in 1980 after dale’s move to London. The book outlined a surprising revelation about how men and women use language. dale’s extensive research into gendered communication patterns revealed that men talk much more than women, with women generally playing a supporting role in conversation.
Since 1980 dale has authored over twenty books, including For the Record: The Making and Meaning of Feminist Knowledge (1985), Women of ideas and what men have done to them: From Aphra Behn to Adrienne Rich (1992), and Nattering on the Net: Women, Power and Cyberspace (1995). She is currently working on a new book, What’s Wrong With Women?, which will continue the themes raised in Man Made Language.
Published in Issue 2, on September 10, 2013.