Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A question

My friend Marc Travanti ,whose artwork is featured regularly on this blog, told me that unless feminism becomes more inclusive it will die out as a movement.  I asked him to review the website I am creating for my book project, Tales from the Velvet Chamber.  He said, You should invite male writers as well.   Part of me agrees with him.  I've never wanted to participate in a movement that shuns or belittles or sets itself off in an ivory tower.  I've never wanted to be a member of a group that is portrayed as strident, bitter or angry.  That's not the feminism I practice.  Or at least this is what I tell myself. 

But to be honest, the books I read are primarily by female authors.  There are exceptions; recently I've read books by Jose Saramago and Jonathan Lethem.  I tell myself that I am just tired of the male voice.  In my 20's and 30's, including my years as an undergraduate, the canon was strictly male: Blake, Shelley, T.S. Eliot, W.H. Auden, Tennyson, Dylan Thomas, Boccaccio, Chaucer, Aristotle--- well you know the drill.  Every once in awhile a female voice would explode like a rocket--- Woolf!  Plath!  Austen!  But these exceptions were few and far between.

I grew up--- my consciousness and my culture--- framed primarily from a male point of view.  For many women this is not earth shattering news.  But bear with me.  When I became aware of this, I was already in my 40's.  For a long time, I've considered it my duty and my responsibility and my pleasure to shape my world-view and my politics and my dreams through another lens, one that is feminine, different.  My work as a writer has been shaped by this as well; what is the other version of this story?  Where is the female voice? I remember working on a series for National Public Radio--- Lost Voices.  I wrote and produced a piece called, The Trial of Agnes Gaudry

I reconstructed her voice from actual trial transcripts from the height of the witch craze in the 17th century. I collaborated with Anne Barstow Ph.D, a prominent and well known scholar in this field.  I can't begin to you tell you how how exciting and dangerous and forbidden this felt.  These ordinary women; some old, some young, some rich, some poor spoke to me from the grave.  These ordinary women were all convicted of sleeping with the devil and conspiring against the Catholic Church.  They all died horrible, brutal deaths.  I found their voices eloquent, passionate, articulate.  I found them beautiful. 

But now, I am considering including male voices for Tales from the Velvet Chamber because I think Marc might've been right when he said, "That would be totally post modern feminsism. That would be the next wave."  This also feels dangerous and exciting.  How would male voices respond to the platform for the anthology? However, I am not 100% convinced.  Part of me still feels like I have to make up for lost time--- all those years deep inside the male canon.  What do you think?


  1. I can appreciate Marc's POV. But I think your "Tales.." are supposed to be written by women.
    Stick to your guns on this one and maybe let the boys play on something in the future. Grasshopper, the pendulum must swing one way before it swings the other way. (What?) IMHO you need to get your reaction/past out of your system and then be more inclusive.
    You asked....

  2. Thank you Cliff--- what does IMHO mean?

  3. He means either 'In My Honest Opinion' or 'Humble Opinion'.

    I think I agree with Cliff. There need to be spaces for male voices in feminism, but I'm not sure this anthology is really the best place.

    Although, who knows? I certainly wouldn't court male writers for it, were I you, but if a man sent in a piece that just -worked- for the theme, and for you, why not include it? So long as the subject matter is treated well.

    I do think that anything written by a man is going to be under a little more scrutiny then a woman here, much as female writers in days gone by dealt with more scrutiny in order to be published(or started off with a male pseudonym).

  4. I'm of two minds on this. I am not comfortable with exclusion, but Cliff makes a good point (In His Honest Opinion)

    Would you be willing to set some guidelines for the male authors? Write the piece form a woman's perspective, for example?

  5. Yes, I think the nature of the platform would demand writing from a female perspective whether the writer was male or female. I've had fun in the past writing in a male voice--- but even that is still, on a meta level, a female perspective. All those heroines in classical literature, the canon, all those women created by Tolstoy, Flaubert, Dickens, the list is endless.