Lift Don’t Suppress Others.
Thirty-five Years After How to Suppress Women’s Writing
In 1983, the University of Texas Press published Joanna Russ’s landmark “How to Suppress Women’s Writing”, which enumerated and elaborated on the many ways women writers had been kept out of the canon. Almost forty years later, it remains distressingly true that, as Russ wrote, “If certain people are not supposed to have the ability to produce ‘great’ literature, and if this supposition is one of the means used to keep such people in their place, the ideal situation… is one in which such people
Although Joanna Russ’s “How to Suppress Women’s Writing,” is out of print, the ideas that animate it remain relevant: women writers are still praised for intuition instead of effort, scorned for writing about the “personal” as opposed to the public. Moreover, as the VIDA count proves, year in and year out, women’s writing is rarely showered with the critical attention nor the awards that men’s writing receives. This generation of women writers seeks to remediate the status quo for the benefit of the other.
Shirley Jackson was a literary superstar of the 1940s, 50s and 60s. Her work won the O’Henry award and was shortlisted for the National Book award. She’s best known for “The Lottery,” which is one of the most famous stories in American literature.
In her memoir, Life Among the Savages, Jackson wrote about going to the hospital to deliver her third child, and having the following exchange with the receptionist:
“Writer,” I said.
“Housewife,” she said.
“Writer,” I said.
“I’ll just put down housewife,” she said.
Rosie Cima writes for The Pudding a website that https://pudding.cool/2017/06/best-sellers/ wrote this:
“The gender ratio of the authors on the New York Times Best Seller list is one way to gauge how being a female writer today might be different from 70 years ago, in Shirley Jackson’s time.
Books by women consistently made up about a quarter of the list in the 1950s. Over the course of the 1960s and 1970s, female representation on the list fluctuated dramatically. The rate of books by women got as high as 38% in 1970, and as low as 14% in 1975. (Some of this was simple math: from 1963 to 1977, the New York Times capped the list to 10 books per week. This made the annual list of best sellers shorter and the gender ratio more sensitive to changes in the counts from year to year.)
This volatility didn’t result in permanent change: in both 1990 and 1950, 28% of the books on the list were written by women. In the 1990s, women finally made steady gains on the list over ten years. 2001 saw the highest ratio of all time: 50% women, 50% men, later dipping to 48% in 2016.
This appears to be good news. Among commercially successful authors in Shirley Jackson’s time, men outnumbered women 3 to 1. Now, that number is close to 1 to 1.” This appears to be good news.
But it’s not.
Here’s why. Although the absolute ratio appears more closely aligned, it is the relative data that we are interested in to understand if women writers are celebrated to the same extent as men.
If there are more overall numbers of published women authors yet more men are making the lists then there is not equality; men are getting the reviews, the publishing house money for promotion, the buzz.
Given this data, and data it is, the discussion of how women’s writing is suppressed in overt and covert ways is relevant.
Of course, this is part of the systematic sexism that occurs culturally and is a trickle-down effect from the patriarchy. Of course, this is not only in writing; it occurs in all of the arts, STEM (science, technology, engineering and math).
We could spend this hour hauling up or memories of the times that we have been discriminated against men but instead we believe it is important to discuss how this suppression occurs in small insidious ways with all marginalized others and what we can do about it.
We would like to elevate this discussion of suppression to a larger model of discounting the other, whoever the other may be. Anything other than the self. For example, we can dismiss, disparage and discount in terms of color, sexual orientation, genre or even road to publication and we often do. All of us.
How is this done?
I’d like to elevate this discussion of suppression to the larger “other” and use the panel as a way to talk about how language suppresses and how to recognize it, point it out and give options for addressing.
Joanna Ross, in her book How To Suppress Women’s Writing discusses the idea of one of the ways is to actually prohibit others from writing and while this doesn’t overtly occur we could speak about how women and others are prohibited in smaller ways—given less money in publishing deals because what is written isn’t deemed literature, reviews, etc.
I’m very interested in the ways that language and criticism in reviews dismiss the other.
They didn’t write it.
For example, The persistent and false myth that Truman Capote wrote To Kill A Mockingbird. Lee’s sister, Alice, in a 2010 documentary claimed that “Truman became very jealous because Nelle Harper got a Pulitzer and he did not.” The jealousy of a literary rival, combined with the unusual length between Lee’s magnum opus and its sequel, seems the likeliest explanations as to why the myth persisted so long. Other examples?
It is clear that they did write it but they shouldn’t have.
How dare they write about….. I’m sure Harriott Beecher Stowe is an example. But she also can fit into category D below
They wrote it but look what she wrote about (romance, family, women, cooking….)
I’m reminded of the NY times review by Benjamin Anastas on Lauren’s Grodstein’s Our Short History-the story of a single mother with stage-IV ovarian cancer and who her son will live with after she is gone.
Anastas writes dismissively, “Our Short History,” an unabashed tear duct rooter that should come with its own box of Kleenex Ultra Soft and a plush toy from the American Cancer Society.
… after her remission gives way to recurrence and her condition deteriorates, it is consistent with “sick lit” as a genre and keeps the pages turning. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/07/books/review/our-short-history-lauren-grodstein.html Grodstein directs the MFA at Rutgers.
Or when Claire Messud defended her position on writing a woman character who was angry when asked.
“I wouldn’t want to be friends with Nora, would you? Her outlook is almost unbearably grim.”
And was then generally seen as angry (gasp) herself.
They wrote it but they wrote only one of it.
They wrote it, but they aren’t really an artist.
When a whole genre of writing is dismissed.
The famous article in the Slate Against YA Ruth Grahm wrote, Read whatever you want. But you should be embarrassed when what you’re reading was meant for children https://slate.com/culture/2014/06/against-ya-adults-should-be-embarrassed-to-read-childrens-books.htm
If they did, they had help.
They wrote it but they are an anomaly or successful for another reason.
Or, when Jonathan Franzen critiqued Edith Wharton’s writing speculating on whether Edit Wharton’s physical beauty (or lack of it, according to his assessment of her face and body) affected her writing.
They write like a man as if that is the gold standard.
Can I Pick Your Brain? The Fine Line Between Giving Back and Getting Paid
The right connections in publishing can jumpstart your career and make the journey more enjoyable. But there is a fine line when asking for a favor (or a freebie) and networking. This panel looks at how emerging writers can gracefully navigate the art of “the ask” and how established authors can balance their time and effort and meaningful connections. Five publishing insiders share secrets of effective networking without looking self-interested—and when to say no without looking unsupportive.
Every writer, regardless of experience or genre, must network; relationships can make the difference between a so-so and a successful career. In today’s digital world, connecting with others has never been easier—but connectivity has increased opportunities to make gaffes. This panel, comprised of a geographically, ethnically, and professionally diverse group of publishing pros who network in a variety of equally successful ways, gives writers tools to connect in an authentic and effective way.
We are often on the receiving end of requests for help or information. Each week our inboxes swell with messages from former coworkers, friends of friends and people I’ve met at networking events who want advice about writing for a living. As you might suspect, we’ve found there are a right way and a wrong way to tap an acquaintance for professional suggestions.
All of here on this panel have asked for help and given it. There are times I’m sure when we have done it gracefully and other times when, in a panic related to deadlines, or anxiety, or desperation we asked for too much in the wrong way or were unable to help others because of time and energy constraints.
Do’s for asking for help:
More information here: https://www.themuse.com/advice/how-to-ask-to-pick-someones-brainwithout-being-annoying
Ask If your contact as consulting fees.
Educate yourself on the role or field first.
Have you done your due diligence?
The more informed you are, the more you’ll get out of your conversations with the pros. Skip this critical step and you risk coming across as someone who can’t be bothered to make the minimum effort – and thus, a person unworthy of a pro’s valuable time.
Research your contact before getting in touch.
Get their name, role, and or organization right before reaching out. Check and re-check that you have the right person and are asking questions that they might be able to answer.
Work around your contact’s schedule.
Everyone is busy. At least once a month, someone invites me to coffee downtown for the express purpose of “picking my brain.” Be flexible with meeting times and places, keep the request for time short, offer to talk during off-business hours and give the person an out. If you do get a meeting, pay for their coffee. Be specific about your expectations and needs.
Come prepared to the meeting.
Spend some time thinking about the questions you want to ask. Write them down in case you blank mid-meeting, and list them in order of importance. Depending on how much time you have with the person, you may not get to them all. Forget questions you can easily answer online. Instead, ask about details missing from the person’s bio, social media profiles and published interviews with the media. Take notes during the call or meeting; the last thing you want to do is email the person afterward to ask for a recap.
Ask specific questions.
During the meeting, keep questions short and precise. No one has time to give you a crash course on everything they’ve learned about their profession in the past decade or two. When someone asks me, “Can you tell me how to freelance?” or “How do I start writing professionally?” These are too vast to answer at coffee.
The more targeted your questions, the more useful an answer you’ll get.
Temper your expectations.
One meeting probably won’t turn an acquaintance into a lifelong mentor or your next boss. And just because someone gave you 20, 30 or 45 minutes of their time doesn’t mean they’ll appreciate you pinging them for weekly advice going forward.
A better approach to building long-term connections is to find out which professional groups your contact belongs to and join them.
Send a small thank-you gift or note.
Yes, a gift, as in a $5 coffee card or a $10 box of chocolates Why? Because if someone has been at their profession five years or more, chances are they get requests like yours all the time. Most of the people they help will send a quick “Thanks so much!” via email, text or social media. Some won’t bother to send a message of thanks at all.
But every so often, someone they’ve advised will snail mail them a note and token gift of thanks. These advice seekers make the best impression.
More info here: https://www.forbes.com/sites/darrahbrustein/2017/11/08/14-ways-to-ask-and-respond-to-the-question-can-i-pick-your-brain/#2661a7066fea
Do’s for those being asked.
Limit and be clear about the time you have available.
Set boundaries right up front.
Clarify what is being asked of you
The request: “Hey John, any chance I could buy you a cup of coffee next week? I’d love to sit down and pick your brain about leadership.”
The response: “Hi Erin, thanks for reaching out. I appreciate the thought, but my priorities are elsewhere. I won’t be able to meet with you, but you can find information that you are seeking here.
Circle back if you have questions.
Information from: https://betterhumans.coach.me/how-to-say-no-to-requests-without-damaging-your-relationships-931f34599e62
Or, Say, “No, not right now,” (or “Yes, but not now.”)
The response: “Thanks for thinking of me. I’d love to connect but, for this quarter, I’ve decided to focus my time on (insert here). As a result, I’m currently not taking meetings outside that objective. I hope you don’t mind, but why don’t you check in with me next quarter? Things may have slowed down by then.”
Say, “Yes, but not me.”
The response: “what you are asking about isn’t my area of expertise, but I may know someone that can help.
A Closing Challenge: Just Say No
Unfortunately, I just can’t help you. Thank you for reaching out and good luck.
Good luck, best wishes, Ann
Cake Without the Calories
There is a man outside my house shoveling my sidewalk. I can hear him chopping and scraping against the inches of slush and ice that has collected on my concrete path and driveway. It’s a miserable job; unending and one that Sisyphus himself could totally get into. Push the slush, watch it slosh back. Repeat a thousand times. He’s doing it without my asking him to. I don’t even know his last name.
It’s been a winter of multiple snow storms, freezing rain, regular old wet rain, and wind. I want to go outside and help the man. I want to rush out and thank him. I want to bake him the crustiest loaf of warm bread and deliver it to his family with the best butter Wisconsin makes, but I’m crying. I’m sobbing really.
This is what kindness does for me. Kindness unravels me.
I’m a tough nut otherwise. I can manage death without tears, pain makes me rage and then throw up, and watching videos of people falling on the ice doubles me over with unsympathetic hilarity.
But kindness.* Oh my God, kindness. read more…
Sexting And Other Accidents
I’m single again.*
Actually, it’s been over a year since my last relationship and my friends have made it clear that it’s time to pair up and shut up. Apparently, my tirades during the Bachelor about the show’s irresponsible perpetuation of the myth of true love are wearing as thin as the dignity of every single person on the show, including the key grip.
To be supportive of my search for a partner, one of my best friends went so far as to suggest how much fun it would be to go through profiles with me on Match.com. I scoffed. Match.com is for oldies, not for cool-ass me. Sure, I’m an oldie—but as a college professor, I spend my days with college students; ergo, I’m practically a college student myself.
I decided that if I was going to try online dating for the first time, I should try a dating site more commensurate with my associated college-age coolness. I knew Tinder, the notorious hook-up site, was too hot for me to handle—I couldn’t even say “hook-up” without a flash-mustache-sweat. If I’m honest, I was hoping to wave at “matches” from across the street and leave my hooks at home in, say, the dishwasher.
But, I overheard my students talking about Bumble, the e-dating site that, in heterosexual matches, the female gets to make the first contact. I sidled up to a cluster of my university students and learned that the swiping right and left that indicated interest or lack there-of was both low-commitment and so very, e-asy.
It was decided. I had a smartphone and was ready to swipe my way to a new relationship on that sunny yellow Bumble site that let women make the first move. (Air horn!)
8 PM: I joined Bumble, set up my profile and began shopping for a man as I would a pair of shoes. It felt strange. I had a vague strategy. I would steer clear of the super-hot dudes posed on sailboats, shirtless, Ray Bans covering their sure-to-reject-me-eyes. I would also swipe left on the men who looked like Dumbledore and would only swipe right on the perfectly age appropriate, acceptable looking man who hit solidly between Playboy and Terrorist.
Ann Garvin’s 2019 Appearances
It’s official I need a wrangler. Until then this will have to do. Please Come Sit By Me
- January 17 – 20 Pulpwood Queen Girlfriend’s Weekend Texas. http://www.thepulpwoodqueens.com/2019-girlfriend-weekend-program/
- January 26 One-On-One Mentor Day With Ann-Madison, WI firstname.lastname@example.org
- January 27 Bloom-real time chat all day-Online https://www.facebook.com/groups/Bloomwithtpw/
- February 7 One-On-One Mentor Day with Ann-Madison, WI email@example.com
- March 1 UWM Leaders Conference-Milwaukee, WI https://uwm.edu/sce/sce_conf_page/women-leaders-speakers/
- March 11 How to Use Emotion To Plot Your Book-Madison, WI https://bit.ly/2RHFuHb
- March 16 Chicago Writers Association Conference-Chicago IL https://www.chicagowrites.org/conference
- March 27 Association of Writer Program Conference (2 panels)-Portland, OR https://bit.ly/2D4U03R
- April 4 – 7 Madison Writer’s Institute – Madison WI https://uwwritersinstitute.wisc.edu/speakers/ann-garvin/
- April 11 Association Of University Women-Lake Geneva, WI
- April 12-14 Cochise -Cochise Writing Celebration-Sierra Vista, AZ http://www.cochise.edu/cwc/
- April 28 . Untiledtown book conference in Greenbay https://2019.untitledtown.org/
- May 10 BRAVA Thrive Conference – Madison, WI https://bravamagazine.com/thrive-conference-schedule/
- May 26-June1 Karbohemia – South of France https://www.karenkarbo.com/come-to-karbohemia/
- June 10 -14 Write By The Lake – Madison, WI https://bit.ly/2QGFSBg
- Oct 24-27 PoppyCon-Chicago IL
- December 2 – 20 Ragdale Writing Residency-Chicago IL
Lonely? Just say Hello Kitty!
I got carded in Target. I got carded in Target and made a date to have coffee with the woman who carded me.
Let me explain.
You know how it is. You go to Target for a bath mat and you leave with $100 worth Chip and Jo twinkly lights, a hello kitty coffee mug and a stuffed animal for someone in your future who might have a baby someday. Also, a can of silver spray paint.
Here’s how it went down.
Seriously beautiful Cashier: I need to see your ID.
Me: Confused because I was not paying attention. I was reading about Heather Locklear and her hoarding tendencies and trying to decide if the number of 3M hooks in my shopping cart could be considered hoarding.
Seriously Beautiful Cashier: “Ma’am. I need to see your ID.”
Patch-ing Up After Loss
I woke up today, looked in the mirror and found my estrogen patch had migrated from my ass to my elbow. Sometime in the night my helping hormone swatch decided to relocate.
Seriously you guys, my estrogen patch is so well meaning; I’ve been scattered and angsty and I think it’s trying to help me manage my emotions. For those of you who haven’t been following along with my life lately—and honestly, why would you—I lost both of my parents in six months, ended my long-term relationship, my nest emptied out, my book has been in revision for ages and lastly, I bought a house before selling my old house, one day before my mom died.
I thought I was doing fine, JUST FINE, I tell you! But yesterday I realized I double-booked two big speaking commitments. AND the (miraculous!) buyers for my house backed out. AND the weather in Wisconsin got really cold, then wet, then hot, then cold again and now all I want to do is cuddle with my dog and watch Hamilton YouTube videos.
Then, I called my friend and got to talking about the national news, my moving misadventures and how I want her to kill me—but in a good way—if I end up in the nursing home. I think that’s when read more…
Quiz: Are you a dog or a cat? And what that says about you.
I took a quiz and you can too in a minute.
Turns out, if you are a dog it appears that you are a people pleaser, people don’t take you seriously and you have attention deficit of some kind and possibly a restraining order in your past.
If you are a cat you are sophisticated, cool, choosy, and might knife a loved one in their sleep just because.
Five minutes with me and it’s clear which animal I identify with. I’m overly friendly, don’t respect people’s personal space and while I don’t go so far as licking new people, I will unapologetically hug them. Since I am not completely clueless my hugs come with a warning. “I’m a hugger,” I say just before embracing them. If they stiffen before I make contact I will read the signs and give them a high five instead, unless I don’t pull up in time, in which case it’s awkward for both of us. I’m sorry. read more…