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March 7, 2012

The Australian Women Writers Challenge is celebrating International Women’s Day, March 8, by discussing the question of differences between male and female authors. I decided to add my views.

No “essential” qualities divide male and female authors. A great writer must be sensitive and imaginative enough to portray characters of both genders and of various ethnicities, ages, and classes.

We are all gendered human beings, however, living in world defined by gender. Women and men simply do not experience the same things. Traditional literary canons, and the overall concerns of literature, have been largely male-defined and centered on the male experience. Classics from various cultures by men and women feature women as they relate to men, but they also addressed the truly human issues and attract female readers. I spent much of my life reading these books and continue to love them.

As women have increasingly written and gotten published in recent decades, some of their work focuses on experiences which have been invisible or ignored by male writers. Women write about women in relation to each other; as mother and daughters, sisters and friends. They write about solitary women, women on quests and old women. They reveal a portion of society, an aspect of humanity, that has seldom been brought out of the shadows. This is new and exciting. I celebrate it by choosing to read books by and about women whenever I can.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. March 7, 2012 3:37 pm

    Because women have for so many centuries been obliged to have different experiences than men, their relationship to power, to freedom and to self-fulfillment has tended to be very different, and resulted in novels that show up a strong disparity in gendered circumstances. So I always look on that and think how unreasonable it is to consider ‘domestic’ novels to be less important or significant than other kinds. And when you have a novel like Assia Djebar’s Women of Algiers in their apartments, you also have a woman speaking out transgressively against cultural impositions of silence, making her work even more precious. Given that no single author could ever hope to represent the complexity of the world, it’s right that all authors should inhabit a unique world view and that gender relations will always be a significant part.

    I’m enjoying all these pre-Women’s Day posts!

    • March 9, 2012 10:10 am

      Absolutely. Of course by devaluing “domestic” or “only women’s” fiction and books by “srcibbling women,” all women, “womanly traits,” and “womenly tasks” get further devalued and women further restricted.

  2. March 7, 2012 11:46 pm

    Discovered you via Elizabeth’s tweet on this post. You’re in Big Bend. We spent a couple of days there back in the 90s when we were living in SoCal — we’re Australian. It was June, it was hot hot hot, it was wonderful. I’d happily visit again. Texas, more than any other part of the US, reminded me of Australia because of its expanses.

    I enjoyed this post. Anyone can, really, write in any voice. I don’t believe there should be rules about it BUT I love reading women who speak to women’s experience and, since the 1980s, I have sought out books by women too (though of course I still read men). There are some wonderful Australian women writers, past and present … just for a start!

  3. March 9, 2012 10:16 am

    Thanks. We live in Big Bend because we love it’s expanses. I have little visual sense of Australia except expanse so every bit helps.

    I looked up your blog and loved it, especially your IWD list of feminist books that had helped shape you. You gave me a couple of new books to look for, but I hope you will have more suggestions for me about “women who speak to women’s expereince.” Especially Australian ones. Although finding those here seems to be a problem,

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