The 'private language' enjoyed by Julie and Jenny in Michele Roberts's A Piece of the Night signals the focus of my concerns in this article: namely, the way in which much contemporary women's writing is involved in the waving of 'private flags'. I shall be suggesting how some of the key concepts of Mikhail Bakhtin's dialogic theory can be used as a springboard to understand the gendered exclusivity of address that exists in literature by and for women; the dialogic intimacy represented both by female locutors and interlocutors within the text, and between the text and the (,female') reader (i.e., the reader 'positioned as female'}.l I shall propose that this dynamic might help us to re-specify what we mean by 'women's writing' and/or 'feminist writing': texts written not only by women, but more especially written for them. Such discussion will lead me, hopefully open-eyed, into a quagmire of essentialist defmitions: treacherous ground in these postmodern times, but inescapable for those of us who continue to teach courses on 'women authors', or, indeed, to make the sex of the author a criterion of choice in our private reading.