Of course, it's perfectly acceptable for her to comment after I do because she's eversomuch more intelligent and articulate and I freely admit I won't pull out even half the juicy stuff that she'll find in this article. My style is more to offer a bite out of the middle of the sandwich, but she will cut up the entire thing and serve it to you in bite-size pieces with those fancy little toothpicks and a nice glass of Pinot Grigio.
Okay, if you read today's first post, you know I didn't get much sleep last night and that I started on the coffee at 5:30 this morning. I've just finished a pot of tea and steeped another one, so maybe I'm a little jazzed, but....
Oh, yeah. I was going to comment on a news item, wasn't I?
Here you go. This is from today's Guardian:
There is no such thing as Women's Writing. Just as there is no such thing as Left-Handed Writing, Red-Headed Writing, European Writing, Northern Hemisphere Writing, or Writing from the Planet Earth. All of these categories are so large as to be meaningless. Sadly, Women's Writing is the only one of the above repeatedly used as a stick to beat women who write. Either Women's Writing is fluffy and inconsequential, full of romps and buttocks - or Women's Writing is coarse and aggressive and the kind of muck you'd expect from an off-duty stripper in a strop - or Women's Writing is obsessed with plumbing and bleeding and bonding to whale music. Effectively, Women's Writing is whatever has most annoyed any given journalist, commentator, academic, or author in the past few books by women they've read. Sweeping generalisations must be made, insults must be slung, personal abuse is welcome and two or three days of columns and op-eds can be sustained with the merry to-and-fro.
I've been waiting a long time for somebody to say that. Even when someone praises the writing of women, what I always hear is, Hey, isn't this great? Women can do this stuff just about as well as men can!
I'm no feminist, but I know injustice when I see it.
When a man writes a novel, he is said to have produced a work of fiction. But women can't write fiction. No, their novels must be labeled "women's fiction". The subtle suggestion is that while men can write novels suitable for consumption by everyone, women are capable of producing only women's novels. I can't tell you how that annoys me.
But I'm sure going to try.
If things had gone a little differently all those years ago and Nicholas Sparks had been born Nicole, we would call The Notebook and A Walk to Remember women's fiction.
If The Horse Whisperer hadn't been written by someone with a Y chromosome, we'd call that book women's fiction.
If A Painted House had been written by Joan Grisham, we'd call it women's fiction.
Are you getting this? "Women's fiction" is not defined primarily by content or style, but by who writes it. Does that seem reasonable to you?
Some will argue that "women's fiction" refers to deeply emotional novels that explore the protagonists' relationships with family and friends, include a lot of self-discovery, and usually give us at least a dash of romance. But notice that the four examples I gave above include all of these elements. And yet we don't call them women's fiction because they were written by men.
You probably know that more than half of all bookbuyers are women. You'd think we'd get (and give ourselves) a little more credit for brains. Why can't we read and write "real" books? Why do we allow ourselves to be relegated to some dim, out-of-the-way corner where we can entertain each other and keep out of trouble?
I'm proposing a rebellion. Let's stomp all over the term "women's fiction". If you want a romance or a "relationship" novel or a book written by a woman, or a book written especially for women, say so. Just don't ask for -- and don't allow anyone to assume you mean -- a "women's fiction" book. That term drops all females -- readers and writers -- into a box that is very difficult for us to climb out of.
What do you say we draw the line right here and now and refuse to hear or speak the words, "women's fiction"? Imagine walking into a bookstore:
Clerk: What can I help you find today?
You: Hi. I'm looking for something in contemporary
Clerk: Ah. Well, the women's fiction is right over--
You: Excuse me. What is "women's fiction"?
Clerk: [shrugging] Fiction written by women for
women. Isn't that what you're looking for?
You: I'm not sure what you mean. Since the majority
of bookbuyers are women, I would imagine that
most of the books in this store were written with
women readers in mind. And all I'm looking for is
a good book. It doesn't have to be written by a
woman. I'm sure men can write perfectly good
books, too. You wouldn't disagree with that, I hope?
Clerk: Uh. . . lady, I just work here.
You: [with a warm smile] Right. So, where's the fiction?
Why don't you give it a try? Throw your little pebble into the pond and see if you can make some waves.