An interesting fact: approximately 50% of the people on my creative writing course are young women. Sitting in lectures and seminars, the fact has occasionally struck me, and I wonder why I find it odd, on the one hand, and why I've never really noticed it. In the case of the former, it is, of course, the strangeness of seeing an unfair percentage finally even out: further education has, in the past, been notoriously little-accessible to women (along with decent wages, equitable interpersonal treatment, and participation in democracy). The latter, no doubt, is due to my apparent acclimitisation to Warwick - I've simply become used to it.
Still, there's something about that percentage. We've recently been reading the first section of Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar's pioneering work of feminist criticism The Madwoman In The Attic, and one particular from it struck me: that because of the portrayal of women in literature and society - as "nullities, vacancies" for the "generative power" of the male pen(is) to inscribe and fill - they are intimidated from the act and profession of writing. The literary woman, say Gilbert and Gubar, has often been a figure of ridicule in male-authored texts: "Not only is 'a woman that attempts the pen' an intrusive and 'presumptuous Creature,' she is absolutely unredeemable: no virtue can outweigh the 'fault' of her presumption because she has grotesquely crossed boundaries dictated by Nature". This nonsense became a structural shaper of the identity of women, scaring many from the pen, and scarring those who did take it up - they cite the likes of Mary Elizabeth Coleridge, Charlotte Bronte and Emily Dickinson inserting apologias for the act in the middle of their writing. We could, of course, say that times have changed, that women should have no trouble becoming involved with the literary act, that the sexes are now on an equal footing, literarily. Of course, I would be saying this as a man. It's fairly easy for me to declare such things, seeing as I am, relatively speaking, in a privileged position with regards to this. Women actually have something at stake.
So, given that percentage, I'm wondering: is this the case? I'm sure I'm correct in assuming there are at least some people who read this blog who are a) women and b) writers, so I ask them: does the literary still intimidate? Do you find it more difficult to find the correct 'voice', dissociated from the male 'voices' of literature? How do you engage with women on the page? Do you feel the process of writing differs for you? (I realise of course that women probably don't know what writing is like for men, (although male writers' autobiographies (especially Jean-Paul Sartre's Words) can often give an interesting view of the act), so no-one need answer that question.) Is that struggle to engage with the process on your own terms still a part of the process? Do you feel like there is something at stake for you? And whilst I'm pretty sure no-one from my course reads this blog (I can't say I don't try), but if anyone is, I'd love to hear from you, in the comments box or otherwise.
So, uh, answers on a postcard, please!