Dear Superior Person,
I wanted to send this piece which popped up on one of my favourite feminist book blogs, because I know that you are in favour of both big issue, political feminism and writers not being dicks to women.
"Lionel Shriver thinks feminism should stop focusing on minor issues (like maybe the portrayal of women in Jonathan Franzen's fiction?) and re-focus their energy on issues like forced marriage, genital mutilation, and worldwide subjugation of women. The piece is a little dotty, and a little obvious, but it echoes what writers like Sylvia Walby and Jenny Turner have said more successfully and intelligently.
And it reminded me of these pieces now accusing Jonathan Franzen of being a misogynist, or saying he hates women. (Maybe my standards are off right now because I started reading People Who Eat Darkness , but I kind of think the "hates women" label should come when you have a history of violence against them, or are dumping women's body parts in your backyard. Not when you write a shitty essay.) Instead of barking over whether or not Franzen is a misogynist, there are larger issues being overlooked. Like, who the hell is deciding that is an okay thing to print at the New Yorker?"
-- Bookslut blog
I was wondering what your reaction to it might be and if you have time to share it with me...
What do I think? I think women in Africa are doing a pretty badass job of organizing against genital mutilation and probably do not need a lot of paternalistic bullshit from the daughters of the people who looted their continent, and I think "worldwide subjugation of women" is a problematic sort of code for ISLAM IS COMING FOR OUR WOMEN when the religious terrorists I am actually concerned about are currently hijacking the legislature and running for president in the country I live in, and I don't know if Jonathan Franzen actually hates women but he sure as fuck can't write about them, or much else either; I am trying to think of a more relentlessly mediocre and unambitious well-known writer than Jonathan Franzen, and I can't. I don't even care whether he hates women; I care that he is boring. I don't think you need to cut a woman up to hate her; apparently, these days, all you need to do is run for office. What I am trying to tell you, and maybe not very well, I am kind of a mess right now, this last week has left me kind of a mess, there is Trayvon Martin and Arizona and Mississippi and Florida and Kansas and Oklahoma and fuck I don't even know any more, I lose track, I can't look, what I am trying to tell you is that I wouldn't dream of telling you not to be angry. And yeah, today I find Jonathan Franzen pretty laughable, but a few weeks ago I was really, really angry about Jonathan Franzen.
I am trying to make sense of a world where all these things are happening, where a cluster of embryonic cells in Oklahoma have more rights than an "undocumented" human being in Arizona, where a man can gun down a child holding a bag of Skittles and a cellphone and suffer absolutely no consequences, where Jonathan Franzen, who is already a millionaire, can make more money for saying Edith Wharton was ugly than I will make working fifty hours a week for the next six months. I am trying to make sense of all of that at once and you know what, it doesn't fucking work. Every writer I care about, every writer I know, is better and more important and more ambitious than Jonathan Franzen, and we should all be famous, and we should all be earning a living, and we should get to live in a world that doesn't let things like the murder of Trayvon Martin happen, that doesn't let Arizona happen, that doesn't let a lot of things happen.
We don't get to live in that world.
I have been getting pretty visceral lately with my anger and it comes up in strange ways, hot wide surges of fury as unthwartable as magma, and I don't always like it either but what else do you do. The older I get the fewer fucks I give. These days I am an open wound, a walking gash--oh, do you see what I did there--a woman whose anger radiates outward like a heat haze. I am angry about a lot more than Jonathan Franzen--I am an ace at anger, a real multitasker of fury. I am large, I contain multitudes. I have energy to spare, believe me, I have energy to fire up a nuclear bomb. I can be angry about so many things at once, I can be angry about the big things and the little ones, the massive injustice of Trayvon Martin and the gnat that is Jonathan Franzen's opinions, I can be angry about the abortion ban that just passed in Mississippi and the books that are being banned in Arizona, and I am not in any way saying that these things are the same things, that they are weighted equally, but we have to live with all of them, and here's the thing. Nobody, but nobody, gets to tell me what to be angry about. What it is and is not okay to be angry about. I think you know how to be angry about a lot of things, too. I think you know anger is not a pie: there is always more to go around. Let us never be less inventive than the people who hate us, do you understand? Our thoughts be bloody or nothing fucking worth.
I don't know how to do anything else other than be angry and if I had the answer I would give it to you, believe me, if I had the secret, the secret that would make it okay, the secret that would make sense of all this shit, I would give it to you, but I don't have that. What I have is rage and also maybe some love. Love for the warriors, the fools, the people who are also crazy, the people who are giving up but never, ever giving in. Fucking Cool Hand Luke, all of us. We're not going to win but we'll die trying. And I am telling you that if you are fighting I love you, if you are standing up I love you, if you are refusing to back down I love you, and we will find each other, we will. I promise. I can't tell you how to make sense of it but I can tell you there are more of us than you think. What I am saying, really, is that I want you to be angry, all of you, I want you to be angrier than you have ever been in your lives, I want you to be a fucking beacon of white-hot rage burning so bright no one around you can miss it. Whatever it takes to stoke the fire. I want us to be so loud and so angry and so visible and so terrifying that we cannot be mistaken for anything other than the future, a future that looks like us. In all our kinds of bodies, in all our kinds of love. Waiting for the time when none of us are angry anymore because the only thing left is the world we want to live in. When the hardest thing any of us will know is teaching ourselves how to live without anger altogether.
Until then: whatever it takes and fucking fight.