This one would probably be a favorite among the Cannonball Read crowd. Published in 1980ish by sci-fi writer and professor Joanna Russ, this short treatise tackles the general ethos concerned in suppressing (as opposed to repressing and definitely oppressing) women’s writing in general, and acts as a kind of primer in how to deal with continued efforts.
Russ is not dealing in an overtly authoritarian cultural war against women’s writers ala The Handmaid’s Tale. She is beginning with the actual act of writing and the product of writing and the written artifact initially. Once the book, the essay, the poem, the play, etc has been written, then the process she describes here begins. The book then goes on to tell the history of such suppression with an emphasis on thematic and categorical structure as opposed to direct history (she is a literary critic, not an historian). The book suggests a series of If/then or If/but statements about the writing.
The first is simply: She didn’t write it.
Then: But if she did_____________.
The blanks involve such suggestions like: she had help, it wasn’t REALLY her or it wasn’t the WOMAN part of her so much as the MAN inside her or the book WROTE ITSELF, it’s not art, it’s anomalous, it’s angry, it’s offensive, it’s limited….and so and so on.
She then gives a list of famous examples in which various forms of the above criticisms happen. Ultimately she leads to the point that if you actually want to criticize women’s writer, you have to actually approach writing equitably elsewise your criticism itself is limited and non-viable.
It’s a satisfying and challenging book in a lot of ways (especially thinking that 20 year old vel veeter talked and still thinking through how 36 year old vel veeter talks), and it gives a lot of really interesting books to consider. I am immediately interested one book she discusses at length, and more interested in others I had backburnered.