Monday, February 14th, 2011

Being Female

When I think about being female I think about being loved. What I mean by that: I have a little exercise I do when I present my work or speak publicly or even write (like this). In order to build up my courage I try to imagine myself deeply loved. Because there are men whose lives I’ve avidly followed—out of admiration for their work or their “way.” Paolo Pasolini always comes to mind. I love his work, his films, his poetry, his writings on film and literature, his life, all of it, even his death. How did he do it—make such amazing work and stand up so boldly as a queer and a Marxist in a Catholic country in the face of so much (as his violent death proved) hate. I have one clear answer. He was loved. Pasolini’s mother was wild about him. We joke about this syndrome—Oh she was an Italian mother, but she could just have well been a Jewish mother, an Irish mother, an African-American one. A mother loves her son. And so does a country. And that is much to count on. So I try to conjure that for myself particularly when I’m writing or saying something that seems both vulnerable and important so I don’t have to be defending myself so hard. I try and act like its mine. The culture. That I’m its beloved son. It’s not an impossible conceit. But it’s hard. Because a woman, reflexively, often feels unloved. When I saw the recent Vida pie charts that showed how low the numbers are of female writers getting reviewed in the mainstream press I just wasn’t surprised at all though I did cringe. When you see your oldest fears reflected back at you in the hard bright light of day it doesn’t feel good. Because a woman is someone who grew up observing that a whole lot more was being imagined by everyone for her brother and the boys around her in school. If she’s a talented artist she’s told that she could probably teach art to children when she grows up and then she hears the boy who’s good in art get told by the same teacher that one day he could grow up to be a commercial artist. The adult doing the talking in these kinds of exchanges is most often female. And the woman who is still a child begins to wonder if her childhood is already gone because she has been already replaced in the future by a woman who will be teaching children like herself. And will she tell them that they too will not so much fail but vanish before their lives can even begin. These pie charts don’t surprise me. They just demonstrate that a lot of us can easily become just a few of us or even just one of us. I am mildly curious about whether the situation in book reviewing (or even publishing) was actually better for a while during and right after the 70s, the heyday of feminism, but you know I’m not that curious. That thrilling rise then dogged fall would only underline the sad fact that the increased interest in women’s writings for a decade or so was a kind of fleeting impulse, like the interest-in-incest moment, just “a thing,” not a deep cultural shift like the comprehension that slavery or human sacrifice are wrong and we just won’t ever go there again. But to have such a deep sea change in a culture and keep it you have put the reins of its institutions permanently in other hands and let them stay there. “They” would have to have become “you.” And you (whether you were male or female) would have long concluded that women’s writing is either just writing or no different than men’s or equally interesting, or even better. And that perspective would by now be so embedded in our cultural sense of self that the Times or Harpers or The New York Review of Books would no more likely to be short changing women’s books today anymore than they would pull quietly away from reviewing books written in English in order to uphold a belief that the only good work being written today is by African, South American or Icelandic authors. And think nobody would notice. Reasonable people of course would smile and insist that the NYRB be renamed The New York Review of African Books or South American Books or Icelandic. It would have to happen, the NYRB would have to own their bias eventually, what they were doing, the editor would have to issue a statement or else the publication would become a total joke. But to publish a review today that purportedly reviews “all” books yet in fact is dedicated to the project of mainly reviewing men’s without acknowledging that kind of bias sort of begs the question—the operating presumption must be that “we” “all know” that men’s writing is in fact better or more important than women’s—is the real deal and the only thing disputing this is feminism and since that’s “over” (phew) we are back to business as usual. When I say business I mean that there’s just a whole lot of money talking. That’s what’s going on. The more culturally generous moment we’re all missing (whether it ever truly happened or not) was tied to a booming economy. Men weren’t actually sharing space in the 70s and 80s—the doors just got a little wider for a while. And now that there’s less money to go around in book publishing and the surrounding media it seems like what’s getting shoved out is women. That’s what I believe is happening, don’t you. I think we can do this, right? The editor might ask his staff holding up the cover of the next great all-male issue that dare not speak its name—and his staff probably includes a few females and queers—who want to be in on “the conversation.” Who could blame them for that? Well I can. Can’t you? I mean what are we doing here after all.

Is writing just a job. Writing books, writing poems. If it is then the message to women is to go elsewhere. But they can go to hell—these messengers, the collective whoever or whatever that is saying it. I don’t believe that this is a job. I think writing is a passion. It’s an urge as deep as life itself. It’s sex. It’s being and becoming. If you write, then writing is how you know. And when someone starts slowly removing women from of the public reflection of this fact they are saying that she doesn’t know. Or I don’t care if she thinks she knows. She is not a safe bet. Interestingly the poetry world is getting celebrated for its VIDA showing of nearly equal gender parity in reviewing etc. The problem there though is that the majority of the poets writing are female. It’s true. That’s who takes workshops, that’s who gets MFAs, you can easily get some numbers there and frankly in the poetry scene the women are the ones who are generally doing the most exciting work. Why? Because the female reality is still largely unknown. And language is the thrill that holds the unknown in its vague and shifting ways. That’s writing. But despite the fact that there are more females in the poetry world, more females writing their accounts somehow only a fraction of them are able to bob to top of the heap. So the poetry world is in effect performing a kind of affirmative action for men by giving their work a big push ahead, celebrating men’s books at a much higher ratio to the amount and quality of work actually being produced. And I’m not entertaining for a moment that this is because male work is better. I’m female and I don’t so much think female work is better. Female reality is not better. But female reality has consumed male reality abundantly—we have to in order just to survive so female reality always contains male and female. That seems interesting as hell so at the very least I think it’s a lot more interesting than a monotonous male reality. Which seems just sort of staid and old. Tapped out. Female reality (and this goes for all the “other” realities as well—queer, black, trans—everyone else) is more interesting because it is wider, more representative of humanity—it’s definitely more stylistically various because of all it has to carry and show. After all, style is practical. You do different things because you are different. Women are different. Maybe not the women who routinely get invited to take part in the men’s monolith. They are another item. But women as a class are different. That’s how I dispense with the quality question.

But here’s the actual problem. If the poetry world celebrated its female stars at the true level of their productivity and influence poetry would wind up being a largely female world and the men would leave. Poetry would not seem to be the job for them. I think that’s the fear. Losing daddy again! Plus women always need to support, I mean actively support male work in order to dispense with the revolting suggestion that they are feminists. I supported Hillary Clinton with my vote but did you notice she wasn’t really a feminist until she was losing. Well what does feminism mean? Well I think it means that you don’t do much in your work except complain about injustice and describe the personal sphere and talk in a wide variety of ways about labias. You think I’m kidding. Cause I actually do that in my most recent novel—I thought well women in the art world are always celebrating their labias so maybe I should do that in writing. What a great, funny, even masculine idea. To use the pussy as material. So I wrote five pages of pussy wallpaper and gave it to the editors at VICE who did publish it but confided in me that the money people really had to be convinced that it was not entirely disgusting. With all the dirty and violent and racist things that VICE has done, this was um a little troubling. Do we really want to send that kind of message to our readers. What kind of message is that. I guess a wet hairy soft female one. I mean a big giant female hole you might fall into never to be heard from again. I mean and there’s just always a danger if you’re a feminist that you’re also a lesbian (I am) and the only way to really make it clear that you are not that (or that “it” means nothing) is to firmly vote with the guys, kid with them, and be willing to laugh at other women (to demonstrate that you have “a sense of humor”) and not push too hard to include women in anything. Speaking frankly as a lesbian I have to say that the salient fact about the danger zone I call home is the persistent experience of witnessing the quick revulsion of people who believe that because I love women I am a bottom feeder. I am desperately running towards what anyone in their right mind would be running away from. Which is femaleness, which is failure.

And one does after all want to be read as a man. As a man who is a woman perhaps. Can’t we just all be men and some have these genitals and some have those. I heard that that’s how they saw it in the middle ages. And some died after having thirteen children and some just got another wife. Women finally are all replaceable and that’s the real truth. The more different we get the less likely we can fit our foot in the tiny shoe. And that’s the gig. Not being female, but being small. But I want to be loved because I am. That’s all.

Eileen Myles is the author, most recently, of Inferno: A Poet's Novel, available from OR Books. Her books of poetry include Not Me, School of Fish and Sorry, Tree; other books include Chelsea Girls and Cool for You.

110 Comments / Post A Comment

Kate Croy (#973)

I am the Lorax, I speak for the cunts.

dntsqzthchrmn (#2,893)


Bracing! Thank you, much appreciated.

jolie (#16)

When I think of being female I think about how fucking annoying it is when people try to describe the female experience in absolute terms.

Regina Small (#2,468)

Yes, thank you for saying this and for saying it much more succinctly than I would've.

Kate Croy (#973)

Women be womansplainin'.

cherrispryte (#444)

Oh so much this.

KarenUhOh (#19)

Given the choice, I'd always want the ladies' point[s] of view, no questions asked–though I've got nothing against guys who want to jot down thoughts in tasteful arrangement. But, I mean, please: female experience has aspects to it the guy will never quite get. Which is probably why he's hesitant to drop the keys.

But this is just me. Keep on expressing, love.

saucerful (#9,868)

@KarenUhOh: Um this is exactly the kind of attitude that is making these journals so gender biased! When a man adopts the analogue of your attitude, i.e. always wanting the male point of view, and that male happens to be an editor at the NYRB, then it is no surprise that the majority of the authors of reviews and subjects of reviews are male! And I guarantee you that most men feel that there are aspects of his experience that women will never get! If we accept this then it seems the only way out is to have separate publications which focus on men's and women's experiences, respectively. Is that what you want?

KarenUhOh (#19)

No. I prefer a woman's point of view. Just like I said.

saucerful (#9,868)

Fair enough; I am simply pointing out that your preference is sexist and not what the publishing industry needs if it is going to overcome the gender bias discussed in the article.

Tulletilsynet (#333)

I've always sensed something funny about her … Show us your X chromosomes, Comrade UhOh.

Multiphasic (#411)


KarenUhOh (#19)

@saucerful: I'll readily cop to the sexism. I could care less. I wasn't trying to illustrate condition or posit universal truth. I simply find the feminine psyche, and all exposition of it–by those who are, and even, may I boldly state, those who ain't–a far more rewarding use of my time.
You know, if these geeks and nabobs in publishing and the elitists who tend to think themselves capable of reviewing same, PAID ATTENTION TO POINTS OF VIEW OF TASTEMAKERS LIKE ME, maybe they'd sell more than a couple dozen books.

@ the rest of you: you hush your mouths.

jennie (#25)

eileen, you kicked iceland's ass

IBentMyWookie (#133)

Didn't you create the Hairpin so I wouldn't have to suffer through this?

IBentMyWookie (#133)

Also, when I think about being a woman, I think about INDENTING MY FUCKING PARAGRAPHS.

SourCapote (#4,872)


Well–when I think about being a writer who hopes to one day be as good as Eileen Myles already is, I think about being able to feel free do whatever I want, formatting-wise, if I'm that good. (Which I'm not.)

And not to get TOO HAIRPIN-Y for a hot second on The Awl (whatever that means?)–but quite a number of dudes who have contributed to The Awl have employed far more precious stylistic tics than Myles does here (while also managing to be less-affecting and/or structurally solid).

jennie (#25)

you're not interested in the more interesting?

Oh, man up already.

anewnadir (#1,896)


HiredGoons (#603)

My friend Suzanne organizes these artist/writer panels:

Perhaps some of you lady-folk might be interested in participating?

That is my contribution to this discussion.

Leon (#6,596)

Oh great, now women want us to pay attention to what they write? Why did we ever send them to school in the first place?

Anyhow, I think Behrle or somebody was saying the other day, people who edit shit need to solicit women to write more stuff, not just bitch about published shit reflecting the slush pile. Which I totally agree with.

But (and I'm not saying THIS piece, or any SPECIFIC piece, cuz this I did enjoy, thought the formatting hurt my eyes and made it tough to read EDITORS) – I always wish there was more stuff BY women which wasn't explicitly ABOUT being a woman. Just about, I dunno, bears or weather?

City_Dater (#2,500)

See, this is another part of the problem. When you are a woman who writes, you are often called upon to provide "the woman's perspective" (as if we all share the same brain). However, if you would rather write about things that are not necessarily gender-specific, you run the risk of just not being invited to the party at all, because for some reason the male voice is considered universal, while the female voice is only considered female. This is changing, of course, but not fast enough to suit anyone with a lick of sense.

Bittersweet (#765)

You mean we females don't all share the same brain? I've got my own? What the hell am I going to do with it?

Leon (#6,596)

@City_Dater – I totally agree – that's why the burden has to be on publishers / editors to intentionally solicit non "Lady Words" from ladies. Not that ladies should STOP w/ the lady words – I am interested in hearing ANYTHING, provided that it is good (oh, it must be good first, man woman or fish) – but even w/ my fairly liberal bent, I get tired of reading about gender issues (including my own – I'm frankly even less tolerant of 'how it is to be a dude', mostly cuz the universal stuff i know and a lot of it just isn't universal) – so, give your specific individual person (who just happens to be a lady) take on things.

jennie (#25)

the comments up in here are unreal. seriously, boys and faghags…? deal with it. this is the best response to the VIDA charts yet.

jolie (#16)

I'll let you guess how much weight the opinion of someone who uses the word 'faghag' carries with me.

IBentMyWookie (#133)

I spend way too much on moisturizer to be called a hag, thankyouverymuch.

Matt (#26)

Honestly a little skeeved to be standing next to you in the comment line right now.

jennie (#25)

i probably have far more respect for the term than you do.

SourCapote (#4,872)

respect whadafuck?

Mar (#2,357)

@jennie: agreed. It's a sad day when Awl commenters make Something Awful commenters look refreshingly feminist (even including the underage girl/octopus/piss hentai threads!)

Why so threatened, ladies? Are you worried that the boys won't think you're cool anymore if you endorse anything too radical? Even if boyofdestiny won't hang out with you, Leon Saint-Jean probably still will.

Mar (#2,357)

Also, Jesus Christ, is it really that hard to digest a full paragraph without a million line breaks or bear gifs?

cherrispryte (#444)

I'm not going to speak for anyone else (because my thoughts and feelings are not universal, unlike some people's) but, seriously? You think we're threatened? And that this is "too radical"?! Are you kidding me?

The idea that there are different expectations placed on people, based on gender, and that women are considered the "other" and that society judges people differently based on gender, and that people finds labia to be scary? That's like a pre-req to feminism 101. None of the information or viewpoint presented above is new or special. Nor, you know, does she present any suggestions on how to remedy anything.

I'm not a writer, nor do I particularly care much about the New York publishing scene, so maybe this is in fact a really big fucking deal, though from the outside it presents as quite the tempest in a teapot. And inequality, in any manifestation is of course a problem that needs to be addressed. Obviously. But this wasn't "holy shit this sucks, here's how it affects me, here are some solutions," this was "I have a lot of feelings about this pie chart, and all women must feel the same way I do about this pie chart."

And if I were the slightest bit interested in boys thinking I'm cool, I would have made far different life choices. But hey, judge away!

kneetoe (#1,881)

Just so you know, I'm scoring all the ladies using my "how cool is a lady" model (not to be mistaken for my "how cool is a lady model?").

Mar (#2,357)

I think the way that a lot of the regular female commenters on here rushed to aver that Eileen Myles doesn't speak for them is suspicious. There is a definite defensive tone to a lot of the comments in this vein, which tastes a lot like a preemptive strike. The same deconstruction keeps getting used to invalidate Myles' argument, which boils down to "Eileen Myles is not allowed to make general statements about the state of women in the publishing world because women are all real different and nobody can ever speak for anybody else blah blah blah [over-chewed postmodern notions about subjectivity being the only objective truth] blah blah blah "this! so true" blah blah namaste."

There are a lot of arguments which could have been used against Myles' points, not the least of which was Abe's regarding the bestseller's list (see below.) Yet, none of those got used by said female commenters. Why?

I think the main purpose of these commenters was to disassociate themselves from Myles' statements. Their tenor reminds me of those women who say things like "men get raped too," and "sexism against men is a real problem that we must guard against!" Okay, Uncle Tom.

Myles gets to make universal statements about women in America because the statistics about women in America are dire enough to warrant it. If women as a (huge, majority) group are being discriminated against in large numbers, then broad statements about it are applicable, because it is a broad, sweeping problem. Perhaps that is a little "Feminism 101" for you, but our culture isn't past the "Feminism 101" point. The levels of sexual and physical violence against women in America are insane. You might be tired of hearing about it, but other people are tired of experiencing it. Sorry these problems aren't sophisticated, nuanced, or specific enough for you.

The NYT is supposedly a bastion of enlightened Western thinking. The fact that in practice it is not is interesting, and it's interesting to hear the thoughts of a female author on that phenomenon, at least to some people. You say that you want your subjectivity respected, but apparently you're not willing to extend that courtesy to others.

barnhouse (#1,326)

@Mar well said.

jennie (#25)

@Mar excellent

bennimaddi (#314)

@Mar also it's fucking eileen myles

boyofdestiny (#1,243)

I think the term is "Aunt Tom."

DoctorDisaster (#1,970)

Could we all tamp down on the internet rage for a moment? As I read it, Cherri is mostly objecting to the way the author is approaching this problem in her column. I don't see her denying that there is a problem, or arguing that it isn't a problem that can be addressed; her main objection seems to be having her thoughts generalized about because she's a woman.

It isn't exactly unusual for someone from a marginalized group to object to having their individual viewpoint ignored by people who feel safe making unfounded assumptions about how they think. It sure as hell doesn't make that person an "Uncle Tom." And speaking of unfounded assumptions, I think it's pretty obvious that she doesn't appreciate being told she's an anti-feminist throwback, so maybe stop leaning on that button quite so hard?

Also, "The NYT is supposedly a bastion of enlightened Western thinking," yes. Notice you didn't say "inclusive" or "egalitarian"; it's a flagrantly traditionalist good old boy's club, as anyone familiar with the publication (including you, I strongly suspect!) is well aware.

So hey, maybe rather than this rousing infighting over all the faults we can think to project on each other, maybe we should engage with the issue and the article at hand. What are some of the worthy viewpoints that the article might not represent? Where do we think this imbalance is coming from? What can be done to address it? I personally think civil discourse on the matter would be worth the effort!

jennie (#25)

ok. she voted for Hillary. WHAT.

cherrispryte (#444)

Before anything else – Uncle Tom? Are you kidding me? The number of things wrong with that reference and the fact you find it applicable here are ridiculous.

Perhaps your comment wasn’t directed at me, but since it’s a response to my comment and you referenced things I said, I have to ask – why do you feel the need to project all of this onto me (and the other female commenters) here? At least in terms of myself, you couldn’t be further from the truth on so many levels that it’s incredibly insulting that you’re making these inferences about my views. You don’t know me, and you’re assuming an outrageous amount based on a few paragraphs of text. I don’t have to prove my feminism to you or anyone else, but you’re awfully fast to push me out of the tent. How can you possibly extrapolate from what I – or anyone else – has said in this thread to claim that I’m sick of hearing about violence against women? Seriously, how fucking dare you?

I do disagree with some of Myles sentiments above. That doesn’t mean I disagree with everything she’s ever written, or Feminism As A Whole. I’m sure the occasional “most” and “so many” would have interrupted her poetic flow, but they also would have prevented several of us from being alienated because we didn’t share in her apparently universal experiences – which were pretty specific, despite your claim of broadness. Nobody said “shut up, that shit doesn’t happen.” We said “you don’t know me, don’t presume to speak for me.”

Also, do you see what you did in the second paragraph of your post? To paraphrase, “these traitorous female commenters keep complaining about how they feel. If only they could have taken the same approach as that man did, perhaps I’d take them seriously.” Want to think about that for a second?

IBentMyWookie (#133)

I'm no Cherrysprite, so instead of being all articulate and well-reasoned (because I don't think Mar's comment deserves to have any effort put into its response, such was its level of stupidity and condescension) I'm just going to laugh at someone who would write, "The NYT is supposedly a bastion of enlightened Western thinking," because them shits is hilarious.

jolie (#16)

I'll let you guess how much weight the opinion of someone who uses the saying 'Uncle Tom' carries with me.

Mar (#2,357)

@jolie: I wonder if you are ever going to actually defend your position, instead of reflexively calling those who disagree with you racist or homophobic? One wonders if you're capable of actually articulating it.

Mar (#2,357)

@IBentMyWookie: For a person whose Internet handle is based on a Ralph Wiggum reference, you put on a lot of airs.

Mar (#2,357)

@cherrispryte: Please explain to me, specifically, the sinful nature of my Uncle Tom reference. I would love to hear you articulate that.

I also find it awesome that this "Uncle Tom" reference is the first thing everybody has seized on in refuting my argument (especially since it's not at all germane to the argument I was making.) But if you want to dismiss me as a racist so that you can feel good about your position, I suppose that's your prerogative. Dance alone in your apartments with your racism>sexism binaries and wall charts of inappropriate vocabulary words.

My comment wasn't directed at you alone; it was directed at a number of the female commenters on here who made dismissive comments. I was really surprised to see these types of comments being made by these specific commenters, since they don't usually write weird, reactionary things. It *reminded* me of certain otherwise intelligent women I know who are always eager to defuse feminist arguments, saying things like "domestic violence affects men too, you know," etc. I do think of these women as Uncle Tom types. Is that harsh and offensive language? Yes. I feel harshly and am offended by this behavior.

Did I actually accuse you, specifically, of making ridiculous statements about rape, et. al? Or did I say that some of these comments *reminded* me of ladies who say that kind of thing? It's a small distinction, but kind of an important one.

As you point out over and over, I don't know your life! I just know your Internet comments, which include statements like the following: "The idea that there are different expectations placed on people, based on gender, and that women are considered the "other" and that society judges people differently based on gender, and that people finds labia to be scary? That's like a pre-req to feminism 101. None of the information or viewpoint presented above is new or special."

This statement seemed to imply a level of boredom with Myles' essay, since it covered such pedestrian, well-worn topics as the representation of the female perspective in art, institutionalized sexism, and so on. I do find this point of view to be jerky; it seems like the kind of thing that only a woman with a fair amount of privilege could say. Again, I don't know your life (say it in a creaky Southern old man voice for extra impact!)

That's quite the paraphrase you make about my second paragraph. You dislike Myles' essay for being about how she feels: "But this wasn't "holy shit this sucks, here's how it affects me, here are some solutions," this was "I have a lot of feelings about this pie chart, and all women must feel the same way I do about this pie chart." Then you want utter amnesty for your rather feelings-based responses.

I like Mr. Sauer's response not because he is a MAN but because he was thinking about the economic angle, which nobody had heretofore brought up. And because it was a substantial critique. As I read the essay, I couldn't help but think about the situation of writers like J.K. Rowling and Jennifer Cruisie, who may not get much acclaim but are definitely economically dominating other popular fiction writers like Clive Cussler. Does Harry Potter contain a female reality? Did Rowling's choice to center the series around a male character and to recycle the classic Hero's Journey male narrative help her to achieve an oddly appealing androgyny in her style (a style that led to her giant success with everybody)? Is Rowling ever going to write about a female protagonist? These are intriguing points (for me) to think about.

cherrispryte (#444)

Really? We're not done here?

If you don't see the problem with using the phrase "Uncle Tom", I'm not the person to explain it to you.

Again, your ability to create an entire personality for me based off of a few lines of text is really amazing. You've pointed out in your response that you don't know my life more times than I did.

I could go point by point, but here's the thing: I really love getting angry at faux-feminists too. I think I understand what you saw me/(us?) as – and the fact that I got so pissed off about that should lead you to believe that we probably have more in common than either of us care to admit.

If you feel the need to respond to this and tell me more things you've assumed about me, that's fine. But I'm done. I wish you all the best, and hope you won't be so quick to project things on people in the future.


tremblebot (#3,406)

This is a fantastic piece.

Tulletilsynet (#333)

The pie charts are an iron-on wound.

keerquie (#3,346)

wow. I bought Inferno recently, and am desperate to read it even though I have far too much work at this moment but, yeah, fantastic article.

saythatscool (#101)

Shit got hostile, FAST. Yo!

IBentMyWookie (#133)

You know how women get!

boyofdestiny (#1,243)

Being [One Particular] Female


jolie (#16)

Aww nicely done, boy! *ruffle ruffle*

Bittersweet (#765)

Very nice, bod. You'll still hang out with me, right?

metoometoo (#230)

This essay and the comments illustrate something, but I'm scared to try to say what it is because people might yell at me.

cherrispryte (#444)

Hey, if you're able to say it in short, concise paragraphs, maybe have a go at it?

jolie (#16)

I would like to hear what you have to say? Would it help if I yelled at you for being a scardy-cat and just got it out of the way?

dntsqzthchrmn (#2,893)


metoometoo (#230)

Just how it's almost impossible to have a reasonable or meaningful or serious conversation about "being female," because we all have a lifetime's worth of intellectual and emotional baggage making it incredibly difficult to consider the validity of any thoughts or opinions that seem to conflict with our own experience. And how, because of this, these sorts of women-ey issues are going to keep on being issues for a really, really, really long time.

(And I guess, also, if you want readers to be receptive to your thoughts and opinions, don't be stingy with the paragraph breaks.)

dntsqzthchrmn (#2,893)

OK, I am going to go think about that.

Also I am going to say that is so much like the line I used to hear on the difference between the right and the left: that the right suppresses dissent in order to consolidate power and the left qualifies itself into a million different divided-and-conquered groups.

Bittersweet (#765)

@metoo: Thanks for expressing that! I appreciate your thoughts, and agree with how hard it is to consider ideas outside of/ conflicting with our own experience. But that's something I appreciate about The Awl as a whole…that (mostly) people have interesting discussions and can disagree without resorting to name-calling.

"That’s who takes workshops, that’s who gets MFAs, you can easily get some numbers there and frankly in the poetry scene the women are the ones who are generally doing the most exciting work. Why? Because the female reality is still largely unknown."

Of course the answer to the question had to do with female reality…

dntsqzthchrmn (#2,893)


katiechasm (#163)

"most exciting" + "MFA poetry scene" = does not compute

MikeBarthel (#1,884)

"most exciting" + "MFA scene" = "six figure advance"

NinetyNine (#98)

Man is the entire internet passing a kidney stone today or what?


Matt (#26)

Shake Your Pants

bennimaddi (#314)

i really wish i hadn't read the comments

dntsqzthchrmn (#2,893)

Oh now.

jennie (#25)

it gets better!

dntsqzthchrmn (#2,893)

Hey, try reading the comments on the Klausner/avclub column. Ow

Mar (#2,357)

Actually, I thought that the comments on the Klausner AV Club piece were milder and more measured (not to mention more clever!)

xee (#8,831)

@Mar seriously? the comments on the Klausner AV club piece were way more dismissive & bitchy & ignoring-what-she-actually-wrote-in-favour-of-personal attacks imo

I am writing in support of this sentiment. This comment thread is seriously distressing me and i also wish i had just left it at the amazing feeling the text inspired.

Mar (#2,357)

@xee: not totally srsly!

GoGoGojira (#2,871)

Could somebody please edit this into having more paragraph breaks? I can't handle this!

katiechasm (#163)


MichelleDean (#7,041)

I think there are probably criticisms to be made of anyone who speaks of the "nature" of "femaleness," usually those using that obscure philosophical swear word (not my phrase) "essentialist." But I don't think that Myles is doing that here, in this lovely piece, per se. The passage about the richness of "other" realities suggests she's still open to those inflecting how she conceives of "ladyhood," or whatever. And I think to the extent some of the language indicates otherwise she's describing a societal idea about "the feminine" as opposed to some kind of female essence that we all share when we dance naked in the moonlight during our periods. (Although maybe she does that and I for one don't really see the harm in it!)

This point is spot on and anyone who's ever worked on an internet web site can back me up:

"And now that there’s less money to go around in book publishing and the surrounding media it seems like what’s getting shoved out is women. That’s what I believe is happening, don’t you. I think we can do this, right? The editor might ask his staff holding up the cover of the next great all-male issue that dare not speak its name—and his staff probably includes a few females and queers—who want to be in on 'the conversation."

I mean, this pretty much describes to a T how lots of content online is planned and executed and disseminated after you take out the "is women" part and replace it with something more descriptive of people who aren't satisfied with clicking through endless galleries of Megan Fox stretching her arms over her head while wearing underwear and ginned-up Sarah Palin outrage. The sort of posts that do gangbusters business on HuffPo pretty much this problem writ really really large, and beyond the realm of intellectuals.
#megan fox stretching her arms over her head while wearing underwear

KarenUhOh (#19)

But is she wearing the underwear on her head? Cause then I'll click through.

Abe Sauer (#148)

"Is writing just a job. Writing books, writing poems. If it is then the message to women is to go elsewhere."

I know little about writing poetry or books but I do know a little bit about money and I'm just curious (genuinely) about how (and the above was a little confusing) this all fits into authors that sell books. For example, the NYTimes bestseller top 20 right now has exactly 10 female authors (hardcover fiction) and of the top 20 paperback trade fiction 11 are own (maybe 12 depending on what gender Jamie Ford is).

"So the poetry world is in effect performing a kind of affirmative action for men by giving their work a big push ahead, celebrating men’s books at a much higher ratio to the amount and quality of work actually being produced."

So what then of the NYRB ratios? Are there many more total books that fit the NYRB's criteria by men? I'm sure the review ratio may still be off, but is it off by so much then as that pie chart makes out? I look at OR Books itself, simply because you point to it, and I see of the 15 authors listed by that press, all but 4 are men.

Abe Sauer (#148)

Also, how does this opportunity for women writers from women writers fit into the equation?
"We’re looking for 2-3 hardworking, passionate, dedicated young women to assist in the creation of the book. Internships are unpaid, 12-20 hours a week, and will require keen familiarity with the website, lots of research and various administrative duties."

Mar (#2,357)

I'm pretty sure that isn't actually an opportunity.

kneetoe (#1,881)

Starting with the "Why" in the middle of the second paragraph, where you explain (well, not really) why poetry by women is more "exciting" than poetry written by men (not better, you go on to say, just more exciting), is really just a series of totally unsupported assertions and generalizations that read like you were just making it up as you went along. It's almost like you were writing a poem about chaos.

dntsqzthchrmn (#2,893)

Yes, and the backhanded comment about poetry congratulating itself on gender parity… but but but! Columnists are supposed to be controversial, right?

caw_caw (#5,641)

And to think I almost didn't read this because my brain has inadvertently been veering away from long paragraphs lately.

caw_caw (#5,641)

Also can I just say I love that this particular piece of writing got so many comments today. My love for the Awl just keeps growing.

soco (#8,225)

all right we are two nations

This was fucking amazing and i LOVED it. Thank you.

I really don't want in on this conversation because it kind of makes me cry a bit, but some of the responses to this artist's work are really distressing. To read an artist expressing her opinion on something as 'speaking for everyone' or 'your experience' really misses the point and maybe you just shouldn't look at art anymore if it bothers you so much?

Because that's what just happened here. An artist gave her opinion of something that she has obviously thought a lot about and many of you went running from her.

Bittersweet (#765)

I thought Myles wrote a beautiful essay about a topic she has obviously deeply pondered. Just because I disagree with some of her assertions doesn't mean I'm "running from her," or attacking her as an artist or a person.

And ultimately, isn't one of the main purposes of art to "bother" people? To engender responses, whether positive or negative, to get people to think/talk about life overall and their lives in particular, and maybe even to think about how things could be different? In this way, with this discussion Myles has really succeeded in her art and I'm happy to be a part of this conversation.

I don't think what happened up thread there can be called a discussion or conversation.

iplaudius (#1,066)

I learned a lot from the piece and the comments.

I am annoyed by the comments about the length and the paragraphing. People: just make the page font bigger to shorten line length, or scroll down and just read one line at a time, using the bottom of the window as a straight-edge. Myles is a writer; she does what she does deliberately; we should read to understand. I think she was trying to slow us down and put us in a mind of longer thoughts.

I thought that the notion of “a monotonous male reality” and the discussion connected to it was sexist and offensive, but we’re all reading for different things, I guess, and probably a lot of men would say the same thing about writing by women.

Is a poet like Louise Glück one of the “women who routinely get invited to take part in the men’s monolith”? Is she someone who is “read as a man”?

erikonymous (#3,231)

I have this friend, and I love the guy, but he used to do this tedious thing where, after I'd tell him what I thought about something, he'd be all, "well, that's just your opinion," and I was like, "of course it's my opinion; it's coming out of my mouth." I really look forward to a time when we can all just take it as a given that something someone writes is their opinion and not bother insulting everyone's intelligence by stating the painfully obvious.
but tell me your story. and it doesn't matter if you don't put in a bunch of spaces. I'm an adult.

You just articulated what about some of the melee in this thread bothered me so much! Aside from the fact that whenever we open our mouths most of us only ever try to speak for ourselves (and one shouldn't have to offer a million announcements to this fact, really) was that it was perfectly clear from the text itself that Myles was only ever stating her own opinion/experience. Even the title, "Being Female" is not the blanket statement people took it for when you read the text. She is talking about herself/her responses here. This is clear in her descriptions of 'being' and 'artist.' She is writing about her own being an artist. The bitching about lengthly paragraphs was just the insult to the injury.

This thread made me really upset!

And I loved your work with Mike Nichols!

dntsqzthchrmn (#2,893)

SIGH tag

mmusermm (#17,270)

the style of this disordered article mirrors issues female artists have faced always, inspires disordered responses, and so female writers/artists suffer to males because we waste : (displace, funnel, etc.) energy on the root of this problem which then becomes the proverbial snake eating tail and is productive of anger/frustration, but unfocused, and circles are good but lines more easily move forward in space and writing an article about this injustice that is this disorganized and inconclusive is just the same as being an passive observer of the "problem". But love is good.

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