Women: are we what we read?

I have always been suspicious of agendas. And this includes those that are brought into the private activity of reading. During my college years, a Women's Studies department opened at the university I went to, and I remember reading the course descriptions in horror.
But this could be because I have no problem with male authority. For instance, when I read any of Socrates' dialogues, I do not think to myself, oh, this is a man speaking, it doesn't apply to me, oh, it only shows male dominance and reveals the oppression of women. No, I read Socrates and delight at signs of the way his mind works. Besides, I know from his accounts that he was influenced by women thinkers (Diotima and Aspasia).
When it comes to my reading choices, I choose less according to culture of origin or sex than I do according to content. I consider that ultimately, all humans, regardless of classification, have the same goals, to be good people - as good to themselves as they are to others. 

 But it is this first point that I am now reconsidering. Earlier, I would imitate what I thought was the courage or life choices of the man (as an intrepid traveller, intense writer) - and I can remember a book that I was particularly fond of, that 18th century purple one I have written about before, with the gold embossing, about women travellers that I bought at a Parisian book stall. The book was all about women who took on the guise of men in order to enjoy their adventures.
There were other ideas I was exposed to, like those in The Chalice and the Blade, about how matriarchal societies have existed, and very successfully thank you very much, or like the emotional poems of Joy Harjo, or the Chinese woman artist Liu Sola. But I think I was ultimately living the life of a fearless man.
This has changed, basically, I got older. And found that my strength lay not in my exaggerated courage, but in that connection between the heart and mind. But I did not find an explanation for this in any of the books I read. In fact, I would say that much of the literature promoted as "women's" is not nourishing in the way I seek, though this could be due to my ignorance.

 Examples I would give of this are Sylvia Plath's immense unhappiness (what kind of a role model is she?), Simone de Beauvoir's clear wish to compete and latent anger, the depression of The Yellow Wallpaper. The women writers I like include George Eliot, and yes, yes, she was really Mary Anne Evans, but she got her wisdom published, and pardon me, but even now when women can publish under their own names, we still have problems. Like this one: a book of wisdom will be less appreciated than a militant rant on injustice.
I think there will always be problems and obstructions, which is why I think it is a delusion to strive for "equality" in the work place, because - what does it mean? I do not think we are equal. I think we have different strengths.
But I think that these strengths were not always 'in the spotlight', and the mistake of our age is to expect everything that is true and relevant to be in this narrow beam of light, which is naive. People have always been negotiating their own space, to live in, to create in. A friend of mine did a study on women in Senegal and reported that they did not feel limited by their roles, but actually held the upper hand in terms of power, through the household. This is an area I know next to nothing about, but I am suggesting that there can be something artificial in terms of shining light on our agenda. We will only end up making a greenhouse, and we all know that vegetables in those conditions are not as robust as organic ones.
I am a woman writer, and I remember enjoying Judy Blume's Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret as young girl. I am glad that that book exists, and understand that it, too, was part of the social change that I am critiquing here. But I am trying to suggest that we can go too far, even in a good direction.

 If we are what we read, then I am first and foremost a philanthropist. One of the reasons why I am dissatisfied with social platforms that ask one for one's reading list, etc, is that, for me, this list is very long, and at any given time, I can draw up a totally different list of books I consider to be definitive in terms of my character formation. Isn't the very point of reading to lead us beyond ourselves? To open us up to the world? To get outside those boxes? Isn't that what feminism was ultimately all about? To be able to define ourselves as we see fit, without being stuffed into corsets - oh wait, we have spanx.
This is why I cannot devote myself to one genre of book. Each genre will have its blind spot, and the only way to attempt to get around this is to look at the same subject from the perspective of a different genre. So, if we are truly women, then I think we attempt to take the world into ourselves. We are like harbours. We are good at listening. We prepare meals for travelling strangers. Our bookshelves are lined with the voices of patriarchs, migrants, orphans, heroes, bards, twitchers, matriarchs. We do not challenge the male voice for domination - to do so would be to be a man. But we have our own voice, we sing but not scream and are wise in our words. That to me is the voice of the woman. It comes from the ear of the woman, the eyes of the woman and the heart of the woman, and she is the one that bears life, so she should be most understanding of difference, and make a place for it on her shelves.
Elements: washi tape, shipping tag, roses, bunting: pugly pixel; mod doilies, buttons, embroidery: minitoko.

No comments:

Post a Comment