I'm on a group called MomWriters and recently we got into a discussion about women and writing. Fellow MomWriter Kimberlee Jackson wrote this powerful post and agreed to let me post it here.
I have noticed as humans we want to fit things into categories and label them forevermore as one thing or another; enter the stereotype. While no one has labeled women writers as the archaic "hysterical and emotional" there are plenty of people willing to put us in that category. As we scramble to earn a name in our respective genres I question if we are striving to measure up to those labels? If so, why? Do the comfortable labels fit so well? Do we shrug our shoulders and sigh accepting that womens writing has always been thought of as one way? Maybe so, but I read Virgina Woolf and note she was unwilling that women write like men but that they find there own voice not powered by emotion alone. Here is a passage from "A Room of One's Own":
"One has only to skim those old forgotten novels and listen to the tone of voice in which they are written to divine that the writer was meeting criticism; she was saying this by way of aggression, or that by way of conciliation. She was admitting that she was 'only a woman', or protesting that she was'good as a man'. She met that criticism as her temperament dictated, with docility and diffidence, or with anger and emphasis...She had altered her values in deference to the opinion of others" (121)
So I am of the opinion that as women writers, the struggle is to remain true. This takes guts to convey passion supported by facts rather than a strong emotion. No writing is more powerful. Emotion in writing is appropriate when something emotional is happening but must not be the driving force and power in writing.
Use emotion to fuel your research about a topic you have a healthy passion for and make the reader think. If you have the ability to write in such a way, the worlview of women's writing will change just as the reader's mindset will be changed by the way you write. Using emotion to thresh out the ideas you want to immortalize on paper is part of the writing process.
I believe in pushing the envelope. Am I able to write that way yet? I am learning. Do I fit neatly into one category? I don't know for sure, I guess I ought to find out and go from there. What do I like best about the women writers I've been intorduced to this past semester? Some of their words rattle around in my head and I think on them. The words stay with me. Do their words make me a better person? Not necessarily so but they cause me to think more deeply on the subject they are writing.
We studied Joyce Carol Oats and her writing on family issues made me think. I felt some strong emotional responses but it is not enough to just stop there, she gave me pause to wonder what my idea of family is and how we all differ in our family dynamics. She didn't create a platform that one family was better or worse than another but this was how she knew family to be. Oats didn't tell me what to think, she prompted me to think.
Thank you Kimberlee!