Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Write like a man?

Here's a bracing Washington Post essay by Julianna Baggott (who writes as N.E. Body). Interesting to contemplate:

The key to literary success? Be a man -- or write like one.

By Julianna Baggott
Wednesday, December 30, 2009; A13

This fall, Publishers Weekly named the top 100 books of 2009. How many female writers were in the top 10? Zero. How many on the entire list? Twenty-nine.

I wish I were scandalized, or at least surprised. I'm not. I understand the invisible prejudice -- from the inside out. I'm a woman, but I've been a sexist, too.

In my grad school thesis, written at 23, you'll find young men coming of age, old men haunted by war, Oedipus complexes galore. If I'd learned nothing else, it was this: If you want to be a great writer, be a man. If you can't be a man, write like one.

No one told me this outright. But I was told to worship Chekhov, Cheever, Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Carver, Marquez, O'Brien. . . . This was the dawn of political correctness. Women were listed as concessions. In the middle of my master's, a female writer took center stage with a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award -- E. Annie Proulx. Ah, there was a catch. She was writing about men and therefore like a man.

I ran out of things to say about men, however, and began my career writing about women. When I started as a poet, I was told -- many times -- not to write about motherhood because it would be perceived as weak. I didn't listen.

Read the rest.


Joni said...

Great (if appalling) link, Martha, thanks.

Michèle Griskey said...

Hmmm...The conclusions are unfortunate.

I'm afraid I disagree with Baggott's argument for the cause. I'm not sure when she went to graduate school (or where she went), but I know I was encouraged to study the works of female writers and writers who had been traditionally marginalized. As a college teacher, I know studying literature does not center on dwem (Dead White European Male) worship. I don't think academia is to blame.

This is a serious issue and reflective of some gender issues we need to overcome in our culture.

Kjersten said...

Yowsers. Thanks Martha. Plow on fellow women of children's literature. Change can be glacial in speed. But glaciers change a lot.