Midway through lunch one day a young woman asked me if I noticed a difference between the writing of men and the writing of women. The answer is no, but it’s a good question. A writer’s fundamental problem, once her prose is under control, is shaping and understanding her own authority. I’ve often noticed a habit of polite self-negation among my female students, a self-deprecatory way of talking that is meant, I suppose, to help create a sense of shared space, a shared social connection. It sounds like the language of constant apology, and the form I often hear is the sentence that begins, “My problem is ...”
Even though this way of talking is conventional, and perhaps socially placating, it has a way of defining a young writer — a young woman — in negative terms, as if she were basically incapable and always giving offense. You simply cannot pretend that the words you use about yourself have no meaning. Why not, I asked, be as smart and perceptive as you really are? Why not accept what you’re capable of? Why not believe that what you notice matters?
Monday, October 15, 2007
Creative women and authority
Someone posted this NY Times article on a newsgroup of which I'm fond (hint: it has to do with dogs!). It's a little sad to me that young women are still feeling this way, although I certainly empathize:
It was inspiring, though, as well -- because it made me want to move forward in life with more confidence and to believe that my vision matters. And so does yours!