April 04, 2005

into the domestic

It's worth pointing out: a lot of what was submitted was dauntingly undaring. On the whole the submissions from women were disappointingly domestic, the opposite of risk-taking - as if too many women writers have been injected with a special drug that keeps them dulled, good, saying the right thing, aping the right shape, and melancholy at doing it, depressed as hell.
Extracted from New Writing 13, edited by Ali Smith & Toby Litt


This excerpt from the introduction of New Writing 13 has gotten a lot of flack in the past couple of weeks. I'm not here to join my voice in ripping Ali Smith and Toby Litt to shreds...anyone who's ever had to wade through piles of submissions for an anthology, contest, or literary review can attest to the murkiness of the task, one that only begins to feel 'worth it' when you stumble upon one of the few gems hidden among the rest. I believe them when they say they didn't mean it that way.

What I found most interesting about the swell of voices that rose up from The Guardian's original article was that it obviously touched a quivering, aching nerve, pointing to the fact that women's literature (as well as the feminist movement in general) is undergoing an identity crisis. (Just look at the whole Pink Ladies vs. Gray Ladies debate between female litbloggers a few weeks ago.)

I hear women whining about it all the time. Aren't we 'over' it yet? Women writers cry, "A good book is a good book, why should my work be labeled as 'women's literature'? Then we fight amongst ourselves until we don't know what to say to one another anymore. (or until we aren't speaking)

Come on girls.

The fact is, there's still a lot of inequality in the world. From very basic things such as the price of a haircut (That American Idol contestant Bo Bice's locks are much longer than mine, yet he'd only have to pay $15 for a trim because he's a man.)
to larger issues like the single mother who has had to drop out of her university courses because government funding for higher education for single moms only allows for 2 years of study rather then the 4 she needs to enter the field of her choice. No becoming a doctor, lawyer, or even a teacher, for her.

This summer, Lorig Charkoudian sat down in her local Starbucks and began to nurse her 19 month old daughter. Shortly after she began, she was asked to move or leave by a manager, even though no customers had complained, and her state of Maryland has legally protected the rights of mothers to breastfeed in public.
from Nursing at Starbucks: An Interview with Lorig Charkoudian
by Jackie Regales


Yikes.

From a global perspective, this year's 49th session of the Commission on the Status of Women- Beijing +10, found that we aren't much further along than we were a decade ago and called for a renewal of worldwide action. Women the world over are struggling to raise their children in war torn countries and refugee camps. Thousands of children are being orphaned each day in Africa because of AIDS.(Please visit Beijing and Beyond to find out how you can participate.)

The fact is, we are far from 'getting over it'. If you don't like what you perceive the voice of feminism to be, then let's get off our Desperate Housewife watchin' bums and do something about it. Those of us with little or nothing to lose need to start making a difference in the world. How much time does a single mother, the woman working three jobs, the woman in bed with ovarian cancer, have to write letters of protest, to stand on the steps of government buildings, to call their local representatives? They need other voices to stand with them so they can be heard.

I know there are a thousand causes, but a truly feminist act can be as simple as helping a sister in need. (cook her supper, babysit while she goes to the grocery store or laundry mat, send clothes to an orphanage, buy a goat for a mother in a poverty stricken country.)
I challenge you to commit an act of Radical Domesticity Today!

Here are just a few groups that could get you started (if you know of others, email me and I'll add them to my list)
Nurse at Starbucks
Beijing and Beyond
Revolutionary Knitting Circle
Raging Grannies

And back to the question of women's art, I think Judy Chicago said it best in a Globe and Mail interview where Sarah Milroy asked her about a recent rehang of the Museum of Modern Art in NY.

I want to be able to see Lucian Freud next to Alice Neel. I want to see Cassatt next to Degas, Sonia (Delaunay) next to Robert Delaunay, and I'll decide who's the better artist. I want to see Suzanne Valadon next to Utrillo who she trained, for God's sake. He was her son. I want to see the whole picture and then I want to judge, and I don't want to look at them in the context of 'she was the only women.' We're half the population. Let's get half the space. And if all we were making was quilts and lace, then put them up on the wall and let me see for myself which was the more exquisite. I don't want to be told. I'm tired of being told.

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jon said...
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