Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Women, Writing, and The Personal.

Salon Magazine has an article about political (way left communist type) columnist Katha Pollitt, who "has been vilified for airing her romantic dirty laundry. What's wrong with serious women writers exposing their soft underbellies to the world?"

It's an interesting look at a female writer who writes on serious political subjects, yet also has exposed her most vulnerable self with essays about finding another women's panties in her boyfriend's laundry and ignoring it, or cyber stalking her ex-boyfriend, or allowing him to belittle her and staying with him. All the while being a "feminist" writer.

Salon explains why this may be disconcerting to some:

"But the expectation for Pollitt, who is not twentysomething and not lithe, is that she care about Marxism and communism and feminism and not about breakups. It's surely not a coincidence that the review of her book in the New York Times runs next to a larger than normal photograph of her looking more than a little austere. Ew! Old lady writing about sex!

We frankly don't want to picture the emotional or romantic or sexual lives of non-dewy, non-leonine women. Even Pollitt herself finds it slightly distasteful, writing in the book that "People who despair after a certain age are just depressing. We don't have the looks for it, and besides, we make others uncomfortable: what if we're on to something?"

When I first starting writing this blog, I included quite a few extremely personal stories about my Father, my Grandma, my first love, and the death of my high school boyfriend. I wrote about my perfect summer and even recently about my daughter leaving for college.

But I notice that mostly when it comes to my own emotions and personal life, I only write from a distance. I look back. Never here and now. That would be too personal. And of course I would never write about my sexual life as Pollit does. I can't even imagine putting those things out there for the world to read and mock, as is what happened with Pollit. It would seem to take courage that Pollit doesn't seem to really have.

The writer of this article wonders if women writers can be taken seriously after exposing so much about herself:

"I understand the impulse to censure a writer like Pollitt for fueling her critics, for revealing so much of herself that she imperils her well-earned reputation. What if the next time I read her on single-issue voting or the death penalty or the Supreme Court, I'm actually thinking about how she never liked to give her ex blow jobs in the morning?"


"I wonder how many women have been stopped from literary self-exposure by the fear of incurring a lasting bruise on their previously thick and unblemished skin. Maybe they were right to preserve the illusion of invulnerability, or perhaps in their effort to remain publicly invincible, they have deprived us of what might have been gripping and incisive narrative about their personal travails."

I have to say that is certainly true for me. I write things in private that I could never share and I wonder if I should. I certainly don't have the colorful and crazy life that Pollitt has, but I think I have many of the same feelings and problems of so many women.

I am a member of The Cotillion. A group of conservative women bloggers. We e-mail each other daily. Sometimes I get as many as 200 e-mails in one day. We share news items and opinions, but we also share our pain and heartache on every issue you can imagine, sexual, mental, and emotional.

I read some of these e-mails and sit in awe of the candor, honesty, and pain that so many carry with them. The rule of Cotillion is what is said in Cotillion stays in Cotillion, and I have never seen that trust breached in all my time there. But I admit, I don't pour my heart out even there, although I admire the ones who do. They receive so much support and advice.

Writing is cathartic. I wish I could express more of myself. I wish I was brave that way. For now, I'll give you what I can.