There is nothing that irritates me more than women who write being called “women writers.”
By calling us “women writers,” you are saying that we are only writing for women. You are saying that our writing is less worthy of attention than a man’s because it will only be read by other women. This is putting us in a box which exists to subdue our literary passion.
This is saying that our writing won’t be taken seriously or be profitable on account of our sex.
It’s insinuating that we will be unsuccessful unless we fit into your expectation of what a woman should write.
The world of professional writing is changing. It is outdated to think that there is some sort of concrete quota of written work by women allowed in print. There is certainly no restriction on how much men can get published.
It is incorrect that most men will ignore or disregard our writing. For example, in my most recent relationship, I wrote an essay about men and rape culture.
Even though I doubt my then-boyfriend read it, someone still asked me what he thought of my piece. I was shocked. Why did my writing need to be validated by a man?
The idea that a male partner will be frightened off by a woman’s writing is a harmful assumption because it attempts to limit the scope of what a woman can or should write.
A woman’s current or future boyfriend shouldn’t need to approve of his girlfriend’s actions, activism or work. This assumption is designed to make women afraid of offending or turning off men.
We live in a culture where young women are assumed to be constantly and consistently looking for love at all costs.
The idea that we have to monitor ourselves to attract a man is an example of patriarchal oppression. Our work should not be limited to a package which is pleasing. We should write unapologetically and boldly, without worrying if men like it.
Feminism rejects the idea that women need a man’s approval, but the idea still exists. No man is ever limited a certain type or amount of writing to please women. We don’t need anyone to approve of our work in order for it to be sensational.
Some people don’t want to read about our sex lives, but that doesn’t mean we should stop writing about our sex lives.
Our writing doesn’t need to be explicit to be successful, but some of the work by my mentors and myself can be on the “edgy” side.
We are expected to avoid irritating and upsetting people with our work, but sometimes people need to be uncomfortable to begin to understand.
The most common criticism of my work comes with a tone of concern and a patronizing look. It is tricky to be asked if my mother approves of my work.
I’m sure there are times when she doesn’t approve. This is still a sexist question because there is a misconception that women are mothers, daughters and wives before autonomous people.
Being asked if any of our family reads our work (and being told that they shouldn’t) is frustrating. Relationships with our relatives are always challenging. This is especially true if our work is autobiographical.
However, we shouldn’t need to censor ourselves to please others…even our moms. We should continue to write in a confessional way.
Becoming a writer is bold and brave. Women who write are trailblazers, and refuse to be silenced.
This is 2018. We are the new Audre Lorde, Gloria Anzaldua and Simone de Beauvoir. Let’s reject the idea that we are women before we are writers, and continue to write.
Abby Shepherd can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org