Midterm Assignment : Women and writing
Since the beginning of times, human beings have found various ways to express themselves and more specifically how to declare their feelings and emotions. We all know that art (in a general term) is supposed to be the tool used for expression. People from different communities, cultural backgrounds, and religions, have been appealed to manifest and share their uniqueness through art. Art, whether it was music, painting, sculpting or writing has been highly censured through time because of its contents of truth. The majorities of a society did not allow minorities to fully express themselves with fear of manifestations and revolts . Women, as a minority have fought to tell the truth. In order to understand better the meaning of Women?s writing, we will first analyze the factors that pushed women to write, then we will go over the obstacles that women encountered and finally, we will discuss what the writers wanted to achieve through their writing.
Factors that pushed women to write
“There are writers who need to make sense of the world they live”(Dorothy Allison, Trash, p.19.) This sentence shows that the writer needed to write to see and understand herself through writing. This young white woman was living a life filled with alcohol and drug addiction, she tried to escape that trap by fooling herself and by rebuilding a total new idealistic image of her person (working as a social worker.) However, throughout her progression, she has been writing everything about herself on a yellow pad, whatever she would do, wherever she would be, those yellow pads were there, as a representation of her truth. She could fool herself, but not her yellow pads, her truth was written there. Allison as many women in the world has been trying to hide her suffering. Constantly fooling herself, she still had to yell out her truth, this, by spreading her pain on paper. However, the papers were taboo, just like someone would litter an embarrassing amount of trash. Allison had to take out her story and anger, even if they were full of shame. She could not live without writing, it was a matter of survival. This urge to write was shared by some other women writers.
The search of an understanding was the factor that pushed Bell Hooks to write “I began to feel uncertain, displaced, estranged even, this was the condition of my spirit when I decided to be a writer, to seek for that light in words” (Bell Hooks, remembered ruptures, p.15) after that she declares “Searching for a space were writing could be understood, I asked for a diary” (Bell Hooks, remembered ruptures, p.15.) Writing was a way to understand herself a little like Dorothy Allison, a way to look at one?s own person in a global manner, from a different angle, in other words, a way to be objective about oneself ?situation.
Not only do women write for themselves with the thought that nobody can understand them, but they also write for others, a way to make a declaration to the world, a way to change the truth by saying it . In her writings, Sandra Cisneros implies that she wants to change the world. In her book “The House on Mango Street” she declares that she wants to leave the unpleasant neighborhood of Mango street, however, she says that she will come back, probably not physically, but at least trough her book. Coming back might mean that she wanted to do something to change Mango street, and that is trough her book, that?s why she wrote it.
Edwidge Danticat tells us how her desire to write was consuming her in a society where Women?s writing was absolutely forbidden, something to do in the corner. Danticat learned how her female ancestors have been expressing themselves through nothing else than cooking, hair braiding or even carving potatoes. But she wanted to perpetuate the creativity of her ancestors, she just needed to do it through writing. “It was their whispers that pushed you, their murmurs over pots sizzling in your head. A thousand women urging you to speak through the blunt tip of your pencil.” (Edwidge Danticat, Kirk? Krak! p.8.) By writing, she would have passed along a culture, just like braiding or cooking. However, her writing was threatening “the natural functioning” of a patriarchal society.
Whether women write for themselves or for others, the main matter is that they write for an urge of understanding. There is a clear desire of comprehension.
Obstacles that women encountered
In her paper “A Room of One?s Own”, Virginia Woolf wonders ironically “why women are poor?” She then tells us that it would have been near to impossible for a woman of that era to be wealthy. Women couldn?t do anything else than have children and be submissive housewives, “Making a fortune and bearing thirteen children-no human being could stand it” (Virginia Woolf, A Room of One?s Own, p.22.) And even if women had been able to earn money, they could not keep it until 1870. Unable to keep her money, a woman gives up the idea to earn it, and so , she confirms her idea that her natural place is in the house. This last idea was (and still is) adopted in most of the places of the world. Most of the world?s societies have defined women as a housekeeper. But how could this endanger their ability to write? It could be said that if women are “doomed” to stay home taking care of the house, their business is nowhere else. Men do not want to be invaded in the workplace, so women stay home. Also staying home could just as well include writing at home. But we all know that only about sixty years ago, reading was profaned for women. A women literate was the devil incarnated. This was probably set that way because we know that reading and writing both develop the ability to think in a critical manner, and again, men did not want to have rivals in that sector. Maybe Woolf tried to warn us in her paper since she declared that women need a room of their own to be able to write. To be able to write, women needed a material and financial independence. Apparently, the major obstacle to women?s writing was the presence, influence and domination of men.
It Is in fact hard to be a rebel in an already very set and rooted culture. In Danticat?s society, writing was forbidden, something to do in the corner when you could have been learning to cook. She describes how writing was considered a curse, by giving us the explanations her mother gave her. She was a prisoner of her education and culture. Again, it was the same concept of society?s manipulation and conditioning. If Danticat had had tried to rebel, she would have probably been seen as the devil “you and your writing demons in your head” (Edwidge Danticat, Kirk? Krak! p.10.), therefore, she would have been left on the side and set as an example to any other young girl that would have had her ideas. There was always a fear to disappoint family, community and society by not standing up to her “good old culture” “You remember her silence when you laid your first notebook in front of her, her disappointment when you told her that words would be your life?s work, like the kitchen had always been hers.” .” (Edwidge Danticat, Kirk? Krak! p.7.) The society Danticat was living in was very intolerant, and there is to believe that the sanctions were very strict for leaving the “natural destiny of a woman”, the cultural imperialism she was living in was totalitarian.
What the writers wanted to achieve by writing
A woman who writes may want to achieve different tasks. As we have seen, a woman may have the urge to write, Bell Hooks for instance, because she needs to understand herself since she doesn?t find understanding among her surrounding. She could also need to write like Allison Dorothy, because she needs to face herself and she has so much inside her that can not been taken out unless it is trough writing. A woman may need to write to reveal a truth to the world the way Sandra Cisneros did it. Also, just like Edwidge Dandicat, a woman may want to give the voice to kitchen poets in order to fight cultural imperialism. Virginia Woolf as well probably surprised (or shocked) many people by trying to fight cultural imperialism by approaching the taboo of Lesbianism “Cloe likes Olivia?do not blush” (Virginia Woolf, A Room of One?s Own, p.82.)
Since the beginning of times, human beings have always needed to express themselves, whether they are male or female. It is crucial to the development of our societies that people speak out loud, so, whether it is spoken by a male or a female, the message has to go through. Also, each individual will express only his or her own feelings. That is maybe why, we did not see any man talking about Lesbianism around the 1920s, it might also be why no men wrote anything like the concept of the Red Clowns of Sandra Cisneros in the House on Mango Street. In other words, some things may just not be perceivable to men, just as other might not be to women. It is not said here that there is a distinctive separation between male and female writing, there might just be a different way of thinking. It is therefore of the utmost importance for the sake of the good development of our world, that everybody gets a chance to express and share his or her ideas, in the least censured manner possible.