Women Women Women - The VIDA count, again
Slow and steady wins the race Erin Belieu more or less says in the introduction of this year's VIDA count of women's presence, or lack thereof, in the major literary magazine and reviews of the English speaking world. For, unfortunately, there has not been much change since last year's release of the illuminating pie charts, showing over and over again, the lack of women featured or reviewed in venues such as the New York Times Book review, the Atlantic and the Times Literary Supplement, to name a few.
View The Count at: http://www.vidaweb.org/the-count
=Big Sigh= yet not a sigh of surprise.
Have I mentioned here on my public notebook what I have observed quietly to other writers, about the women who are published, or offered readings to appear at, or other such things, at least in the sphere I observe the most (poets)? I don't know that I have, because it's not an easy thing to talk about but I will just note that, often I notice there are only certain types of women, at least in the sphere of writers (poets) I most often observe, that are spotlighted. Those women are either romantically tied to a man within that sphere or are lesbian women. And anyone independent of either of those two categories (such as myself) is a rare bird to find. What does that mean? I am not sure. It's just something I've observed. For me, I feel like it means I have to be a lot more active and work that much harder to get anything done, have any work recognized.
That's what these counts are good for; spotlighting that feeling. It is already very difficult to be a writer; to follow your talents and passions in writing by actually trying to do something about it. Add to that an extra feeling of the challenge on account of something you have no control over, like your gender, and one can see why it's important to bring these matters up; to try to better the situation.
VS Naipaul and Women Writers
Also mentioned frequently are the remarks of Nobel lit laureate V S Naipaul's from the London Evening Standard about women writers. 'Women writers are different, I can tell, they are unequal to me' reads the headline. [speechlessness]. Further on in the article, we read this, '"I read a piece of writing and within a paragraph or two I know whether it is by a woman or not. I think [it is] unequal to me." Asked to elaborate, he said this was due to their "sentimentality, the narrow view of the world". '
To which I say: good. That narrow view of the world, that sentimentality (as he puts it) is just as important as any wide view of the world-at-large and any skeptical, sardonic, cynical take on it as well. Plus, looking more closely at these allegedly sentimental works, one might find instead a far more subtle, thus more brilliant, cynical take, like say in the work of Jane Austen.
But it brings me to want to sing the praises of women's writing that is actually women-centered, or seemingly so. It is important work. Half the world are women and reading work about the perhaps more interior world of the woman helps other women, and men, understand the workings being written about. It also challenges the status quo and highlights the glories of that side of things and can do a myriad of toher things, when written well. All of which is vital work. And I don't want to feel discouraged and wouldn't want to discourage any other writer from writing about what is important to them, even if it involved "a narrow view of the world", or relationships, feminity, feminism, and/or sexuality, just because we want women writers to be diverse in the topics they write about. Why? So they can sound or seem more like men? Why is that a good or relevant goal?
Where would we be without Jane Austen, Mary Wollstonecraft, Louisa Mae Alcott, Virginia Woolf? I don't think their passions were exhaustable subjects, just because things are different and better for women. If anything, that interior world, that struggle between the sexes, has only gotten more complicated upon liberation from past chains, so to speak, and thus needs even more literature to address those complications.
All the more reason that just as many women should be published, on any given topic, from any given genre, in any given publication.