Friday, March 25, 2005

Women, Writing.

Oh, here we go again. It's like the "Where are all the women bloggers?" debate... It. Just. Won't. Go. Away.

There is no such thing as Women's Writing. Just as there is no such thing as Left-Handed Writing, Red-Headed Writing, European Writing, Northern Hemisphere Writing, or Writing from the Planet Earth. All of these categories are so large as to be meaningless. Sadly, Women's Writing is the only one of the above repeatedly used as a stick to beat women who write. Either Women's Writing is fluffy and inconsequential, full of romps and buttocks - or Women's Writing is coarse and aggressive and the kind of muck you'd expect from an off-duty stripper in a strop - or Women's Writing is obsessed with plumbing and bleeding and bonding to whale music. Effectively, Women's Writing is whatever has most annoyed any given journalist, commentator, academic, or author in the past few books by women they've read. Sweeping generalisations must be made, insults must be slung, personal abuse is welcome and two or three days of columns and op-eds can be sustained with the merry to-and-fro.

There a couple of problems with all this bullshit "women aren't edgy writers" bullshit.

First: men, for some reason, just get to be men, but women, as individuals, are always a stand-in for Every Woman. So if you get 800 subs from men and 100 from women, and those women's stories are:

40 about women fleeing bad marriages/having midlife crises and bicycling around the world
20 about women and their families/finding marriages/having children/relationships with other people
20 about women overcoming vast personal hardship (including family trouble)
10 about women who take heroin or become prostitutes, and how neat or tragic that is
10 are about women who kick everybody's ass and rage against society like superheroes

Mostly, you'll hear people bitch: "Look at how domestic those women are! Always talking about all those domestic issues like marriage and family!"

But of those 800 subs from the guys:

300 are about men going through midlife crises and bicycling around the world (and/or dumping their wife/job/car and getting an upgrade)
200 are about men and their comraderie in war or with gangs or on sports teams (you know: "real, meaty fiction" like Hemingway would write. Stuff women aren't supposed to be writing about anyway, and if they write about it, there's something definately suspect about them and not worth listening to.
150 are about men who take drugs and how neat or tragic that is
150 are about men overcoming personal hardship (including family trouble)

Only, those final hundred are, of course, "better" than women's literary attempts at talking about personal hardship and life struggle because they're about men overcoming personal hardship, and how hard that is, and there's no pregnancy involved, unless he gets a minor character pregnant and ditches her.

And these stories, because they're written by men, aren't called "domestic" --

They're called "examinations of the human condition."

Men being stand-ins for All of Humanity.

Whereas a woman, of course, is speaking for ALL WOMEN EVERYWHERE ON EARTH SINCE TIME BEGAN!!

But not, of course, for humanity. Women aren't real people. A woman doesn't know how to tell a story about the human condition, even if her main character(s) are men.

How ridiculous would it be, for me to group every male writer into a box and say, "These male writers? It's all about boys with penis envy trading in their wives for cars! How safe! How dull! How domestic! Where are all the edgy male writers? Where are the men writers who really take risks!"


Maybe it means I'm trying to find a "real" reason that I just don't like the book - but am too lazy to find it, so I blame it on the author's gender. Maybe it means I need to be a better reader.

"Women's Writing"... bah.

Be the first to sound off!