Because it’s a new year, and because I’ve been writing tons of things, and not publishing any of them at all, I’ve decided to write about myself, and what I think I should write about. It’s spurred on by an actual incident in my life! Come and get to know me.
I was having an email chat with my brother, and I was talking about an article I had read in a newspaper, and how it was wrong in my opinion, and how there’s so much more on this topic, and he naturally asked what was wrong.
In an hour I had put out about 500 words out on this topic, because it’s absolutely fascinating and I want everyone to know about it and how it might affect them in the future, and I just want to write about it a lot, and it really is genuinely fascinating.
And then I realized that I have all this knowledge that I can easily write about that I will probably never write again about because no one cares. My poor brother was probably overwhelmed. Or at least, nobody in my circle of acquaintances cares, and I’m too shy to find anyone who would read it, and besides that, I kind of have a vagina. And… this sort of stuff isn’t the sort of stuff women like me write about.*
I suddenly started to feel bad about myself. Why did I think I had the authority to write about this subject? Why did I think anyone would care? Was it gross that I knew so much about this? Was my research on this just a way to puff myself up, to show that I’m important because I know Stuff with a capital S? Shouldn’t I be doing chores instead of writing, anyway?
So I follow up on this long, researched email, with another email that I feel a lot more comfortable sending. “Am I crazy to want to write about this?”
Yeah. I feel a lot more comfortable asking people if I am mentally ill than I am revealing that I have any sort of knowledge on any topic other than myself.
Why is this? It’s partly personality, of course. But there is a bigger issue. Most of the people who write about politics or foreign policy or religion or sports or medicine or mountainclimbing or theater or movies or, I don’t know, pumpkin-growing are men. I tell myself that women who write about these things and who gain readers are well-connected or young or attractive or all three, and I’m none of those, at least in my more self-pitying moments. More realistically, it’s harder for a woman to enter the community where people read these works. It’s predominantly male and involves such things as degrees and a decent personality. There’s no reason for me to write something that nobody will ever read. Or, if they read it, they’ll think “well, she’s a bit odd about this, why does she bother” or “how are her tits,” rather than “her argument is right!” or “her argument is terrible!” or “I learned something today!”
Why would a woman want to write at all? There are much easier ways to guarantee a response from the world—through a husband, a child, through the search for a husband or child, through work, through “good works,” through all sorts of avenues. There are ways to make your mark on small worlds, to gain recognition from your superiors. (Men have it harder, because everyone is their inferior or their equal.)
These are also good things to write about, because they’re woman’s territory—a woman is expected to look inwards for material, into her own life. A man engages with something outside himself—other men, women, a language, a country, an idea—and he has natural authority. He can tell the reader what’s what, can explain, can argue. A woman keeps to her relations. She describes herself. Maybe late in life a man can attempt self-examination, when he’s old enough and famous enough. He certainly can’t start out that way, and perhaps that’s a handicap. But a woman is stuck with her own company, for better or for worse.
But I don’t really want to write about my life. Well, I do, just as everyone puts something of themselves in their writing—and I mean, I’m writing about myself now. So I’m a hypocrite. But I don’t always want to make a narrative out of myself—to say that things happened in a certain way that maps neatly into the landmarks of a female life. Because that’s dull. (Watching other people create these narratives—examining how they chop and change their life stories, what they emphasize, what they leave out—is absolutely fascinating. I love it to pieces and I can and have written about it at length, but again, it feels like playing with other people’s toys. Do I really have the authority to do this?)
So I write about other things—about other countries, about books, about religion, about anything that interests me for long enough to write about it. But I don’t publish most of it, even on this blog, because where does it go? Would anyone bother to want to read what I have to say? There are so many other people who write about these topics, after all, and about the same things, and probably better than I do. And perhaps writing this way is unnatural, somehow—maybe it’s all a way to put off writing my confession to the world, a way to hide my patchy autobiography. Am I hiding myself in an unwomanly fashion? There’s only one of me, after all.
I don’t know how to end this story—I suppose the happy ending is that I publish what I wrote, and people engage with me in the way that I want. But I don’t know how to get there, because there’s no narrative for learning to express yourself to the world.
* It’s not erotica. First of all, I would not use my brother as a first reader for my porn. And second of all, porn is definitely something that women write, and third of all, if I had written porn I would probably be pestering people to buy it, not just read it, as it’s easy to distribute through Amazon. Plus, I wouldn’t be as ashamed about writing porn. Unless it was, like, something about gay werehyenas and one of the werehyenas was supermanly and the other was tiny and superfemme and cried all the time. Ladies, stop objectifying gay werehyenas, I mean gay men, with your stereotypes, it’s just gross.