Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Going Public

For all of her young life, What Is This Light has been a secret blog or at least a semi-secret blog. A couple days ago I read Anna Clark's Bitch Magazine article, "The Ambition Condition: Women, Writing, and the Problem of Success" and it proved at once cathartic and terrifying. Clark says things I already know much too well but couldn't quite articulate. The thunder clap that hit the hardest inside this little heart is as follows:

"Ambition is a slippery creature in the lives of writers of all genders; no one is safe from feeling uneasy about affirming one’s literary ambitions, and insecurity is the devil of anyone who faces a blank page. But the thing is, women are more likely to be justified in doubting themselves. Yes, a woman is less likely to win the Nobel Prize in Literature: in 106 years of the prize, only 11 winners—about 10 percent of the total—have been female. In the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction’s 60-year history, female authors have snagged the award 27 times. Shaking out 57 years of the National Book Award for Fiction reveals a mere 15 female winners. As for journalists, the gender gap indicates that women are far less likely to land their stories in the nation’s top magazines and newspapers. Likewise, in the digital world, political candidates made a point of stopping by the YearlyKos conference last summer, headlined by a prominent progressive male blogger, but were absent from the BlogHer conference, which drew top women bloggers together. 

And So On
Furthermore, to even say that you want to write lasting novels, garner hundreds of thousands of blog hits, or handmake a chapbook is to expose yourself to the “who are you to think you have anything to say?” sort of pummeling that Gould received. It can be tempting, then, for women in particular to write quietly and hope that the work will speak for itself. But by not owning up to her ambitions—whether they are in the public or private realms—a writer feeds the machine that discounts the aspirations and talents of all women writers. The silence is implicit support for editors who claim that their byline disparity is because women don’t want it enough. It sets an example for other writers that ambition is something to be ashamed of. Though it might be the last thing in the world she means to do, by keeping her intentions for her work hidden, a female writer allows others to make assumptions about her work, and to decide where it will and will not go.

And so, I'm going public. I don't expect much to change around here, but I've mustered enough gumption to really take on this mental paradigm shift and so it's critically important for the blog to record this event
right here
right now.


Kj said...

girl yes!!

emma choy-bizzle said...

as someone that has been left in the dark from this underground, top-secret cauldron of superior opinion, i would just like to say... GOOD GOD, FINALLY. now i can read and laugh out loud almost like i'm with you once again, but really just looking at pictures of you and reading your words, as if we were actually conversing in person. brava, i clink my glass to the screen to you.

Andrea said...

Go Martha! The honors sem essays can wait; I'm going to read your blog instead of grading tonight. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to take a bold stand.

Edgeoforever said...

I dunno...your timing seems all wrong...Women are not exactly "in" right now
But, I'll read you! Welcome!

ImTheMarigold said...

Fantastic! Thanks for "coming out"!

SaraLaffs17 said...

Awesome! I can't wait to read your blog.

Court Jester said...

From a purely (of necessity) male perception and perspective and (of course) with something tongue-like in cheek, I say sincerely, respectfully, and (based on the work I've seen here and elsewhere on the Internet)with admiration:


By God if women aren't 'in' right now the next culture you see will be a Matriarchy (like we have always had in Hawaii) YOU ARE IDEAS WHOSE TIME IS HERE I WILL BE HERE/THERE FOR YOU! YOU HAVE REALLY GOT A LOT TO CONTRIBUTE.

Anonymous said...

Just found your blog through your comment on the Anna Clark piece. Nice piece of self-promotion--I mean that sincerely! Glad I found it; I plan to check back regularly now.

Here's to the day when I can enjoy your critical insights and writerly flair without awkwardly empathizing with your insecurity.