A Woman in Life in Grammar

My childhood dream was to be a writer, "Like Hemingway or Tolstoy." I couldn't imagine anything better than being a great man with great stories, spending my life immersed in ideas and surrounded by fellow artists creating their own. I don't know why I eventually gave up that dream and aimed for teaching and then law, but perhaps it had something to do with the fact that giants of literature were almost always men, not women.

Awhile ago, I read an interview with a woman author whose stories have been classified by some as "disposable fluff." In response to the rather harsh criticism she says, "It does seem to me that male writers are taken more seriously just because they’re men, and conversely, female writers have to work much harder to be taken seriously just because we’re women; I don’t have any hard statistics to back this up, but almost every time I open the NYTBR, I become convinced anew. Anyway, it’s a little dispiriting, but there’s nothing I can do about it but keep writing."

Similarly, an article on the dearth of women editors says, "Both sexes see life through a gendered lens. . . but while women are constantly reminded that their views are only partial, men have the luxury—in life as in grammar—of thinking they represent humanity, tout court." I too have experienced this kind of marginalization, and my response to it, conscious or not, can be summed up as follows: "I loved, admired, and identified with them (men). I envied them, too—their power and autonomy, their freedom to be selfish, to walk away, to start over, to get angry, to speak frankly without appearing to give a damn what anyone thinks. Men were assholes, women were victims; men were ­active, women passive. Given the choice, I would have preferred to be an active ­asshole" (Kate Christensen in this Elle article).

It's probably true that there is no male or female language, only the truthful or fake, the precise or vague, the inspired or the pedestrian (this article), but there are many perspectives, some of them distinctively male and some of them unquestionably female. Sometimes I wish I could speak and write like a man, but then it's pretty awesome to be a woman. I hope someday soon, women writers will get their due.