Msnowe's Blog

May she go all the way? (as a writer, that is?)

Posted in Uncategorized by m.snowe on June 17, 2009
does it have to be a league of their own?

does it have to be a separate, unequal league of their own?

m.snowe thinks there are too many essays out there that operate by taking two disparate things and then connecting them, Malcolm Gladwell-style. However, m.snowe found some similarities that she would like you all to suspend your cynicism for a moment for, in order to consider. So here it goes:  Co-ed Softball, and Female Writers.

Analogy #1

–In a co-ed softball game, the field has ten players. Often, a team will be stacked with mostly men. There is a rule requiring at least three female players in the field and in the line-up at all times. Usually, teams just meet this minimum requirement, and usually the women are placed in the least obtrusive positions (i.e. right field).

Literature has no hard and fast rules of engagement, and no set quotas for women writers, however–let’s face it–sometimes that’s what it feels like. In order to be a legitimate magazine or review, you have to toss it to the ladies every now and then. Also, whether by default or conscious effort, the kinds of books women generally author are often shunted to the literary right field, if you will. And “chick lit?” Horrid name aside, that sub-genre hasn’t moved off the bench since it was first added to the roster.

Analogy #2

–Laudatory Overdrive, or hyper-praise for female feats of athletic [literary] prowess. Men on the team over congratulate women for making decent plays, suggesting that the barest amount of talent is actually awe-inducing by comparison to their own skill-level. (read:patronizing to the extreme!)

Say m.snowe makes a play, or has a decent hit. It was good, but nothing spectacular. When she gets back to the dugout, the praise is overwhelming. The cheering reaches a pitch only dogs can hear (exaggeration). The high fives are higher, and they sting a bit more than normal. m.snowe likes being recognized for her accomplishments, to be sure. But she’s a pretty good judge of the type of and appropriate amount of praise that one should receive. She sees a guy on her team catch a fly ball–he gets a few pats on the back, a few “nice one!”s and that’s that. When one of her female teammates makes the same exact play–the effulgence of the male teammate’s praise is practically blinding. Praise for literature written by women is not necessarily in the same vein, but often m.snowe gets the sense that a woman’s book is “extra awesome” just because not only is it good, it’s written by a lady, ya’ll!

Analogy # 3

–Low expectations. When a woman goes up to bat, even if she’s in the beginning of the line-up, even if they’ve never seen her hit, even if she might bench-press more than the dudes on the other team weigh, it is a known fact that all the players in the outfield and infield will almost certainly move in. And sometimes, they will move in to a degree that is frankly insulting–outfielders standing on the very edge of the outfield grass.

I’ll leave this one for you to decide. Is m.snowe being irrational? Do some/most men believe that women can’t do as good a job, just by the nature of their sex? m.snowe chooses to hope not.

Analogy #4

–Sexual remarks or basic comments on appearance/attractiveness. m.snowe received a comment about how a player from the opposing team “liked the looks of her from the back,” and wondered what the front looked like. Often in sports situations, and in the evaluation of literature, women are judged not just by their talent, but also by their physical attributes. We’re not saying this isn’t a mutual thing for both sexes–to be judged in this fashion–but the volume with which this happens to women is dramatically larger.   m.snowe has sat in lit. class after lit. class and heard about how not only was this woman a great writer, but she was a great beauty too, or alternatively, she was plain-looking. m.snowe could care less. Was she a good writer? Yes, well then the assessment could clearly stop there. m.snowe doesn’t need to know Mary McCarthy was a looker to appreciate The Group.  m.snowe knows that male writers can be similarly judged, and their sexual prowess is often highlighted (Byron, anyone?). But the appearance of a man, to most extents, is never part of the value judgment of his writing. But with a woman, it’s often part of the “academic analysis,” whether people like to admit it or not. Apparently, her writer’s perspective is somehow altered as an attractive or not-so-attractive woman? Give m.snowe a break.

m.snowe suspects that most of the behavior on the co-ed softball field could apply to most situations in life. Also, because of the haste, m.snowe did not point to real-life literary examples. A poor argument, probably, but in essentials, you know it’s true.