On Feminist Writing May 3, 2011Posted by FCM in books!, meta, pop culture, prostitution.
Tags: how to suppress womens writing, joanna russ
i was inspired to write another “creativity” post after finishing joanna russ’s classic “how to suppress womens writing.” i have been avoiding actually doing it though, because i am kinda sick of scanning pages out of books…but what do i know really? i just work here. and unfortunately, for anyone who hasnt heard, ms. russ died last week. boo! its just horrifying to me that so many elder feminists are dying recently…but thats probably another post.
anyway…joanna russ was a (relatively?) well-known feminist science fiction writer. as a perfect (perfect!) example of that, heres the prologue to “how to suppress womens writing” in its entirety:
hello! that first part is priceless isnt it? russ apparently wrote this book, which is nearly pocket-sized although not exactly an effortless read, during a seven-month convalescence, and her intent was to “define patterns” that have persisted over a century or more, in mens minimizing, mischaracterizing, appropriating, ridiculing and erasing womens written work. she identifies 9 general strategies by which this is accomplished, and gives examples of each. now, i am not really that interested in literature, you know, which may have quite a lot to do with the fact that almost all of it has been written by misogynist dudes (though not all of it, as russ notes: it has been a common tactic of women writers to use male-sounding pen-names for example…producing profound works which were initially praised, then instantly downgraded and recategorized once the literary critics realized that women had written them. wuthering heights being a prime example).
no, i am not interested in that kind of writing, not really. what i am interested in is radical feminist commentary, addressing any and all subject matter, utilizing any and all media (currently, i am utilizing short essays and graphics, and am particularly fond of the silly-graphic, but serious ones are good too). and what struck me when i was reading russ’s book is not only how women, as a sexual class, are not supposed to be writing at all, but that the subject matter long considered worthy of both writing and reading about has been pretty exclusively the sick empornulated fantasies (and realities) of misogynist men. obviously, its not just who is doing the writing, its what they are writing about: in particular, “blood and guts and fucking whores and puking in the streets.” fucking. whores. see? a decidedly male point of view, on decidedly manly pursuits: mens first-, second-, and third-person accounts of actively destroying women. this is the history (and the criteria) women writers are up against, when they put the pen to the paper, to write.
so russ enumerates the obstacles women writers stare down daily, and in the chapter describing the lack of female role models in academia and literature, largely due to the erasure of womens work (or minimizing and exceptionalizing it, for example, bookstores carrying only one title from a female author when she has actually written many) she describes her own experience as a writing student in college:
GAH! how did she ever make it through school as an aspiring writer? anyway, it occurs to me that, as radical feminist writers, not only are we women, and women-identified women writing from our perspective as women-identified women (this is who we are) we are also, too, in addition, creating and expounding on feminist subject matter that absolutely crucifies BOTH empornulated men, and empornulation-as-art. and writing, specifically, was never meant to do this. stringing words together was never meant to describe womens reality, and shine a bright light on the ways men actively annihilate us, what that looks like, and to insist that it matters. never. and producing written material for other peoples consumption was never supposed to trigger…womens recognition of a shared plight. the revelation of mens lies. descriptions and evocations of the ways men constantly, constantly harass, threaten, obliterate and annihilate women, and lists and pictures and tips and compassion and…humor. we are laughing at them. oh yes we are.
i almost think this has gotten away from them…could this be possible? of course, as soon as putting the pen to paper to create strings of words meant to be consumed by other people starts to work for us, they will certainly shift the goalposts, and say that writing was never that great of a medium anyway, and video games are where its at!!!111! you know, or something. but look. what is consistently ranked among the top 10–if not the number-one–inventions of all time? everyone knows its the printing press. its quite possibly the (the!) most important invention. of all time. men have been saying this for centuries, and the reason we know they think this (or at the very least we know they say it) is because its written down. in print. they cant deny it now.
so whats the deal? did men not anticipate that womens reality is real? that its real, and it can be described, using words? and being that this is the case…women are now laughing and describing and evoking and calling shit on sick empornulated misogynist men, utilizing the written word. this was not supposed to happen, i dont think. but it is happening.
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