I have tried, for the most part, not to feud. I don’t name names or call out people for hypocrisy or idiocy. I keep my head down, eyes on my own work. Part of the issue is that I am too lazy to carry on an argument. Also too cowardly.
But this entry – this entry is going to continue that tradition. If you want to turn it into a lively blind item, that’s on you, but I’ll be very surprised if anyone can guess the writer to whom I’m alluding to here. Except for Alafair Burke, but only because I discussed this with her when it happened. She’s on tour right now, so here’s the deal — if you go see Alafair at one of her tour stops, bring at least twenty friends and buy one hundred copies of Never Tell, then I grant her permission to share the name of this writer with you.
Here’s what happened: Someone suggested a new novel to me. But I already knew of the book and the author. I had Googled my way to the writer’s blog earlier this year and really liked what I read. Until I read an entry about how maybe, just maybe, the problem with women writers in our culture isn’t misogyny or innate biases about what stories matter, but women’s unwillingness to tackle the big themes/subjects. Name a contemporary female writer who’s working on a broad canvas, engaging with big ideas, the writer challenged. Her blog readers, to their credit, named several and I omit the names here only because it could identify the novelist if one is a canny Googler.
Do you watch How I Met Your Mother? (I actually think the early seasons are very instructive for those who like to play with narrative.) Did you see the one with Katy Perry where she plays a character who keeps revealing herself to be a sweet but shockingly naive young lady? Because I must quote its refrain here: Oh, honey.
About the same time I was trying to get my jaw to close from reading this sad blog from an apparently talented writer, Ashley Judd decided to address all the people who had something to say about her face. The actress looked puffy and a lot of people felt the need to weigh in on this. Some people mocked her for the magisterial tone of her essay, but I thought it was pretty great. Here was my favorite part.
Patriarchy is not men. Patriarchy is a system in which both women and men participate. It privileges, inter alia, the interests of boys and men over the bodily integrity, autonomy, and dignity of girls and women. It is subtle, insidious, and never more dangerous than when women passionately deny that they themselves are engaging in it.
I can’t improve on that. I’d rather just get it embroidered on a pillow: Patriarchy is not men. Men are not the problem. A certain kind of thinking is the problem. And, all too often, there have been plenty of women in my field who have, in the parlance of reality television, thrown some sisters under the bus. I don’t think they consciously do it to curry favor. I just think they’ve lost their way and started to deny the value of their own lives and experience. They cling to the belief of a pure meritocracy the way some kids refuse to give up Santa and the Tooth Fairy. Maybe they’ll be lucky enough to ride astride a magic purple unicorn their entire careers, untouched by the fray. Or maybe, sooner than they think, they’ll come down to earth with a thump and find out the unicorn was a sad little mule rescued from a Tijuana sex show.
When this happens, the kindest thing to do is put your arm around the sadder-but-wiser girl-for-sure and say: “Oh, honey.”
But, for now, I’m not going to buy her fricking book.