Everyman is Everywoman – Thoughts on Gender and Writing

We’re all aware that the literary canon is filled with great books written by men. There are women amongst the great writers, obviously, but books written by women have been underestimated, ignored and hidden throughout the ages. In the past attempts have been made to recover lost authors and to study the  great female authors who got lost in history. The study of women’s literature has become an accepted aspect of many universities as we become more and more aware of the gender aspect of things.

Today women writer’s flourish in many genres and we even have a special “chic-lit” section in the bookstores. This is surely due to the fact that women buy more books than men these days. We have no dude-lit yet and I’m pretty sure the arrival of such a genre would raise an eyebrow or two (to say the least). The necessity of shining a light on female writer’s and literature written by women is unfortunately not something that can be left behind as an obsolete thing of the past.

When I read this article I got an imagine in my head of all the teachers in my literary classes who shone a light on different women, writer’s who history had tried its best to forget. In this case of the article though we’re not talking about women who aren’t read, we’re talking about making an anthology with known authors. And the one they chose just all happened to be male, by accident.

Surely such things happen?

Well, not to women. You have different anthologies with women but in that case the point of the anthology is usually just that, to make an anthology about women or with a female perspective. It is the starting point. Never would you see an anthology of any kind just happen to have interviews (or stories for that matter) with women/written by women only … by accident. It just wouldn’t happen…

…  so why is it that you can “forget” to include women in a horror anthology but the thought of it being other way around is simply absurd?

I don’t have a definitive answer to that but theories.

When women write fiction we’re so hung upon the “female experience” but a man’s writing is always more “neutral”. Somehow we believe that a woman writes from her sex while the man’s word as more “commonly human” and not strictly male.

Imagine Everyman a woman…

…now imagine that piece of literature not being only about the “female experience” but a “common human experience”.

…does the picture compute?

Of course the “common human experience” idea is hard in the first place. We’re all different, live in different cultures and have different experiences, with different sexual orientation and opportunities. So it is a warped concept to begin with. Still we try and often it’s enough that this “common human experience” relates to us in the culture that’s actually liable to read the book in question. But while an “everyman” can relate to everyone the “everywoman” is strictly about the feminine experience.

Does the female gender get in the way of the “human experience” or are women more inclined to identify with men than men are to identify with women? Is the male gender (certainly doesn’t apply to the genitalia!) less “in the way” than the female one?

There can be various reasons that the people making the particular anthology in question in the article that triggered this babble of mine “forgot” the women but I fear that when picking out authors (whether it’s for reading at home or other things) we often see women writer’s and automatically think of something strictly feminine (which is not something we’re looking for necessarily when we’re thinking horror) and therefore pass them by.

Do we need a Pepsi Challenge on the subject? We all know that there are excellent women horror writers and we also know in our hearts that their works are not just about “female experience” (not that I’m hacking on books that focus on that subject, they’re often an excellent read as well).

The secret is that women do not write from their gender. Surely we are different from men and have different views on things but this is really not a gender issue, it’s a human issue. Women are just as capable of being an ordinary, normal “everywoman” without the work necessarily having to be about shopping, menstrual blood or childbirth.

If you ask me the apology shouldn’t lie in making an all female horror author anthology (although I would so buy THAT book!), an apology should lie in thinking REALLY hard about WHY they “forgot” or why this “accident” happened and make sure it doesn’t happen again, not unless it’s on purpose – obviously.

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