Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Seeing and Believing


When we begin to talk about recognition it really opens the discussion, as we realized on the phone last night.

If women are not acknowledged in the many ways we have talked about, this most certainly affects women artists. I am thinking particularly of writers, as that is what we do, but also writers due to the fury surrounding Franzen’s new book.

Several women authors are outraged at the fact that the NY Times reviewed his new book twice in the same week. Having never read much of his work (I only flipped through “The Corrections” and didn’t feel it) I am slightly suspicious of the hyperbole surrounding the new book; some women writers are less benign in their responses and I think with good reason.

We have talked about, made the list of, talented women writers who commit suicide. This is a legacy offered many young women writers: we will most likely suffer for our work (mostly unrecognized) and then become martyr angels for the public that ignored us, or some craziness like that. For me self-hatred was seeded as a young girl having to walk past the gathering of men on the corner where the luncheonette was. I went to purchase the family Sunday papers and the catcalls, crude remarks (and often the grabbing) had made me not only self-conscious, but self reprimanding for some thing that I had done (that I could not identify) that caused me to be treated in that way. Later on it became a position of power, but as we know a tainted self-immolating power.

So when these women writers are publicly angry regarding the heralding of yet another man’s “talent” I get it.

When we met we were wary of one another I think. I was at any rate. But I also was the one that pursued the friendship, although you did come up to meet my overtures readily. We began with writing, and for me (I will not speak for you) everything begins with that. Talking about writing, finding confidence in our work when recognition for talent seems to move toward men’s work much more often, was the foundation of what has become a most important relationship for me as a writer and woman. I do hate to slice the pie into the woman/man sections so often, but it is really hard to ignore what I see. And I guess that the women who wrote to the Times and elsewhere are seeing it too.

Sadly, for me, when this kind of controversy comes around, it does make me more aware of how hard it is to have a relationship with men. I don’t see them as the enemy, and yet I see them as the ones to beat. I am competitive with men not because I want to win so much as I want to be recognized. Can’t beat ‘em—join? Well, that doesn’t work, so how do we proceed?

Part of me feels that men need to find their own way and if I sympathize (and actually I do) with the constraints and problems foisted upon them by the culture at large I will lose focus. This has played out truly enough for me to have to steel myself and keep my focus on what women, what I, need. This may be why I have difficulty in relationships with men.

I would love to end this with some clever remark, but I feel this too much to be superficial. I will leave it at this: one definition for recognizing is to have been experienced before. Have you ever been experienced?

The Mind That Burns

What can one possibly say to her
When she is like this
there is nothing you can say

Her voice fires a wild angry arrow
over us past us rushing through us pointing at everything
looking for the target and the surety that
She is right

Of course she knows she isn’t
As do we

Of course it is an abomination what happens to women
The rapes stonings murders mutilations
Denied objectified erased

But wrathful and negative
Everything and everyone to blame she wants
To take no prisoners

We know and we understand
And she herself said well
What’s to be done
Write a shitty poem and feel it’s done the contribution made

Then she brought up the monks
remembering the shorn heads aflame
Perhaps this is what she is doing
Sitting here igniting herself with condemnation for men
for herself
for all of us

In the heat of the conflagration she says
Unlike the monks
She is not willing to die for this
what would be the point
For those she would burn with her
do not even see her

Of course we don’t know what can make it right
What is to be done
What warmth before the embers of her retreating fury?

Instead we look into our hearts and worry
Wondering what stance to take
Wondering what weapons we have