9 nov. 2018

female writers, female writing.

Well, well it's been a while since I don't discuss™ literature here. Ah, it's incredible how much this blog has changed, and today I'm writing in English, I just feel like it, I miss writing academic essays in English so much... it's been a year or more since I don't write an essay and I feel I'm forgetting how to do it, how to arrange words to sound professional™ and how to be a literary person -- if such a thing exists.

But to the point. I'm two chapters away from finishing my thesis. I mean, it's written, but I need to rEvIsE and correct every little mistake until it is suitable to be considered a real aCaDemIc wOrk so I can get my dEgREe.

The thing is, I decided to write about Ann Radcliffe, she was the first woman to publish gothic fiction and gain respect from the critics. She was also one of the first women to be admired/mentioned/and recognized as an influence by the "fathers" of literature. (Victor Hugo, Whitman, to mention some). Keats called her "Mother Radcliffe". But along the way I've read so many feminist criticism and so many points of view and basically the history of women trying to be recognized as artists, from 1750, passing through the victorian female revolution and the first wave of feminism, the second wave, the 90's and the present day views (since I'm taking part in a course of Japanese feminism with lots of young women like me)... well, the lesson learned is that feminism has many ways to be manifested and that respect is the key if we want to progress as women, as a social group different from men.

That last part is quite heavy and would require so many paragraphs, so I will try to stick to the matter that concerns me: women and literature.

Las hermanas Brontë, por Branwell Brontë
For some reason we cannot say "writers" when talking about women. We say women writers or female writers -- which, in today's world is even problematic since the discussion about gender is so broad. But the thing is, why this difference between "writer" (implying is a man) and "female writer"? A woman who writes. What an alien image. Almost as a mistake, so we have to clarify. It is a woman, she happens to write. But women writers have been there, since Cavendish and Bhen, and Woolf and Rand and even Munro and Yoshimoto. And women have had their voices, their way of understanding the world. From here I think about the female "tradition". Byron had Milton, Milton had Shakespeare, Shakespeare had Chaucer, Chaucer knew that the first word was pronounced by God and this God was a male. So apparently men could always look back onto something and find someone. Women on the other had did not take part in this cultural history. So from where did women write? We surely had our history and stories, because when Jesus was a baby, Maria sang him lullabies (she might had even made up some). And like Maria, all the Mothers from all over the world made up stories for their children, and the first narrative we knew was the 'once upon a time' from the lips of the woman that bare us life.

The story of our lives, the narratives in our minds, couldn't possibly exist without our mothers' help. But because women have been seen as "less" or "not worthy" this other side of the story/history is not taken into account. And we've been told that tale so many times we believed it was true.
"Women don't have a voice", "women don't know how to tell a story" and so, Gilbert and Gubar asked the question... when a woman looks back in order to write, what does she find? the male word? will women ever be able to write their own words, instead of written the words male have been using over and over to tale the story of humanity?

It's confusing, and it's not that easy. So, for long, women tried to be recognized as valid, as worthy as men in the field of writing. We wanted to belong to this club of Great Minds, to the Canon, to become a Classic. Always fighting to be at the same level as men, as recognized as them, as free as them. And in many ways we've failed. The prove is that equality is still discussed and thought since it's so difficult to feel it in our everyday's life.

So women wanted to be part of this canon as a way of saying "see, I can be as good as you, write as much as you... even with kids and home duties" and "my stories are worth it, just as much as yours".

Still, women are outnumbered by men for so much. So after all, after revising all there is, after reading Reeve, Drace, Heywood, Wollstonecraft, I discovered something -- maybe a bit romantic and as way of survival in a world that oppresses my word and erases me from history.
I realized that women have this other world, different from men. Yes, and that world can be found in fiction, novels, movies, comics... a world where we dream, where we live in equality or somehow defeat inequality. From Gothic romances to the chinese Danmei, through other stuff like the loneliness Yoshimoto presents or the dailiness of life Woolf writes about.

We have our way to understand the world, our way of confronting nature -- maybe not to conquer a country but to protect our children, as Betty Flander does in Jacob’s Room. Mothers, I think of mothers and how different they are from fathers, and how pure and unique that love is, and that it is something that belong to us and that males won't ever understand. We have our little secrets, our everyday rituals, things they won't be able to take away from us, like the pleasure of giving food to a baby from our own body or blood spilling through our legs and enduring a pain, our pain, and realizing the strength it takes, the strength that comes from it.

Along the way I've discovered that indeed being a woman is something like magic, and maybe too marvelous, so marvelous men cannot take it, because what have they to offer? a sperm and anger. Women give love, women nourish, women can fight, and learn and write... And we write what we see, the way we see it. Even in a prison, like a gothic castle... we found ghosts, and thrilling love, and pain and tears, always pain and tears, and the possibility, the ability to be happy through all that.
That was a characteristic of us as women. Maybe that's why men make wars. To understand, to experience that which nature didn't put in them. Because we need pain to grow, to become strong, to understand how much we are able to endure and still go on.

But of course, somehow, they put barriers and walls and erased us from their history and wrote philosophic treaties where they discuss why women can't think or learn, and we believed and we forgot. And it has taken us a long while to rediscover us... it was not only Shakespeare or the Graveyard poets, it was Aphra Bhen and the Female Gothic, and our mother saying "Once upon a time, in a far, far away land..." So I think it is time to recognize that, to stop being angry --- because yes, we've been angry, we are angry and with reasons; and to start looking into our history, our so-called tradition, because there is one, and just realize that if anything, now, in this moment of life, in this century, we are free. Free from the expectations of a canon, of the word of the 'father'. We are not sons, we don't have an Oedipus complex and we don't want to kill anyone. We search our mothers, our oppressed mothers, and once we find them, we embrace them, we follow the tradition, we keep telling the stories and adding details to what happens in that far, far away land.

We, as women who write, as writers, have a land of and for our own. It's time to stop caring so much about concepts the patriarchal victorians made up, like "serious literature" or "canonic works". It's time to be more free, to let our voices be higher, to scream even if we make others angry, angrier. That's what they have to deal with, and they'll have to solve it somehow. But for us, now, the concern is saying "I'm here and this is my story, and this is what I think, and it's here whether you want to read it or not." And just write and think all we've been through, how far we've come and how far we can still go.

Mary Shelley