Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Reading, Writing and Feminism.

My husband sent me a link to this article -- The reading iceberg: promoting ‘serious’ male narratives over ‘trivial’ female narratives starts at school

The jist, if you don't want to read it, is that for women educated in the 70s, 80s, and I'll even go so far as to say the 90s (cause I had the same experience then), and frankly men got the same conditioning, that we were taught that great literature, that 'serious' writing was written by men. That anything that had to do with "women's issues", you know, things like relationships, home life, 'feelings', was trivial, sentimental, and a waste of space.

Reading the article made me feel slightly vindicated.

When I was 14, I knew what I wanted to be. I'd known since I was 8. I wanted to be a writer. I wanted to tell stories.

In grade nine we were forced to do some more of that gov't 'standardized testing'. You know, I think teachers HATE standardized testing, I know all my teachers seemed annoyed by it, many gave off the impression they felt like they were doing their students a disservice.

Anyway, grade nine English, we were forced to do a test. Among other questions for the 70 minute class, was to write a story. I've never ever been good at on the spot writing, or anything else - I'm not great with the kind of pressure to perform while being watched, even as a baby, I didn't want to be watched.

The point is, I wrote a story, it wasn't great, but I liked it.  And, like the article said, it was about woman's issues, about a girl coming home, only to a home she'd never known, to meet a father that was a stranger. It was her journey both physical and emotional, but I focused on her feelings, her worry, her fears, and eventually her bravery, her stubborn will to face what would come with her head held high.

I got exactly the response the article talks about. the exact words even. "trivial, ephemeral, sloppy and sentimental." I also got shallow. I know I shouldn't have taken it to heart, but it was so hard not to. Though, to this day I'm still angry and bitter about it. I mean, wth, I was 14! I had 30 minutes. It's hard to come up with a masterpiece on the spot damnit.

I'm rambling again, eh? Anyway, that article makes me think that I was right to think the man that graded my story was biased. Cause he was. I wrote about something he'd likely never cared about, a young girl leaving the only home she'd known to meet a man and responsibilities she'd never expected to have.

This is likely also why there is such a big surge right now (I think?) in women's books, or rather books targeted at women. Not just romance, but horror, fantasy, comedy, heck, even erotica. About women, with marketing meant to get a woman's attention. Too many women of my generation grew up with feminists telling us we were equal to men, we should get equal pay, equal responsibilities, that we could do anything they could. We believed them, but when we went looking for our stories, stories about strong women, brave girls, there just weren't many stories for us. Jane Austen, and Nancy Drew is not a long list.  So the women of my generation grew up, and wrote them. 

What I really want to know, is why are relationships, feelings, emotional journeys, domesticity seen as solely women's issues? Who got to make that call??

I mean, okay sure, most women want to talk about their feelings, and most of the men I know have a hard time talking about theirs... I'm guessing though, that's a lot to do with how we've been raised. But in any case, I can see that being a chick thing, but, emotional journeys, they are what make or break so many stories, they are what make us who we are! How is that a chick thing?! And relationships take at least two.

I really get pissed off when I hear the dwems (Dead White English Men) of the world saying emotionally charged stories are shallow, sentimental, and trivial. There is nothing trivial about an emotional journey, it's tears, screams, heart-wrenching pain, and soul-stealing joy. It's meaty, gritty, raw truth. Damnit.

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