I am a living breathing human being. I’m not your show horse! I need thoughts and some external stimulation. I need you to give me something to solve or avoid solving by solving something else until I realize the true importance of what I was supposed to be solving. Those ah ha moments, I like those. When all the different things finally come together to make a bigger picture, it feels good. I’m not here to stroke your ego. I’m not here to gain you awards. I’m here to be like you in ways you don’t quite understand until you write in order to understand me better. Don’t change me simply because I point out your flaws. I heard Toni Morrison say the slave was important to the white man because it defined his freeness. So I ask that you don’t take away my freeness in order to know you are free. You are free to write me in worlds with clothes and people and situations and thoughts as you choose. You are in control of my story. You are in control of my ending. So let me be entirely myself. Let me be who I become in the unfolding of this particular story. Don’t just develop my thoughts, give me some way to share them. Don’t give me everything I could ever imagine with no internal dialogue. I want to think and to grow and to develop new perspectives. Don’t tell me why I’m here, give me reasons to be here.
Toni Morrison From Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the literary Imagination in the Critical Tradition pg 1791
What genius and integrity it is for female writers today to write with all the criticism they receive, not just from men but also from other women. Not just about writing but for the way they choose to live.
We as women are expected to follow suit in terms of patriarchy. What does this mean? Well, when you first think of this, you think of a male-run household and a stay at home mom who knits and raises children. And yes, this is still very much an idea we are fighting against. But today our fight has evolved. Women are now leading their households on top of what they were already doing. Even with our forward movement, women still underhandedly and blatantly bash other women for staying home to raise children instead of taking advantage of a world where women can work. Stay at home moms bash working women for not being there for their kids in a world where suicide in children is far higher than it’s ever been. I’m going with the cliché here and saying raising children is hard. It doesn’t matter what path you choose in life. How is it that patriarchy has a hand in this? According to Webster’s dictionary, patriarchy in a broad sense is control by men of a disproportionately large share of power. Men have been in power for so long now that women are gaining power, they are living in a way to prove that they are as capable as men, rather than living and working in their own natural state. I say natural state as in an acceptance of what they want to do, not to overpower but because this is precisely what they want to do. This working to prove comes with its own sense of superiority toward other women. Which in turn, makes stay-at-home moms feel as if they must prove to both men and working women, they are in fact pulling their way.
Ok, so that’s for moms who write. Now let’s brush over the idea of writing women who do not have children. There’s this strange and quiet awkwardness among women when you don’t have children. It’s like women feel as if they are less because they don’t have children. To be honest, I’ve never seen or heard of a woman bashing another woman for not having children, but there’s this sense of failure that looms when children aren’t created by a certain age.
That is just two of the biggest adversities’ women face within our community of women. There’s significantly more but let’s just stick with these. So, we see that among women we have vastly different ideas on what womanhood looks like. As writers, it’s our job to face adversity. It’s our job to approach the elephant in the room and then talk about it. So, let’s talk about it.
According to Virginia Woolf, the women writers of the past wrote even without a room of their own. Jane Austin without a room of her own wrote an entire novel in secret. She hid her passion to write from even her servants. Do I think we are still fighting for the space to write in peace? Absolutely. Why? Why would we be fighting this in a world where women are allowed the space to write and pursue their passions? Why would a female writer keep her passions hidden under her successful job or her ability to keep a clean house and have well-dressed children walking around? Because as a woman, with the ability to sit undisturbed at the kitchen table, we are still shamed for the lifestyles we choose regardless of the rights we are given.
I’ve felt it. I’ve heard over and over about how my writing isn’t a real job and that I have nothing going for me. Or how as a novelist, I’m not a real writer. I’ve been shamed for the way I cook or don’t cook. I’ve been shamed for the way I tend or don’t tend to my husband. Pish, I’ve been shamed for going away for two weeks to focus on my writing. This is why we hide it. This is why women hide their passions and write in the closet.
Today, it is still a relevant metaphor when Virginia Woolf suggests that women need a room of their own. We need the space and support from fellow women. Not only from men. Not only from our parents but from other women. I’d like to end with a quote from Virginia Woolf.
What genius, what integrity it must have required in face of all the criticism, in the midst of that purely patriarchal society, to hold fast to the thing as they saw it without shrinking.” -Virginia Woolf
Woolf, Virginia. “Austen-Brontë-Eliot” In The Critical Tradition, pp. 602–10