Wednesday, April 05, 2006

"Women Writers" - shoo, you label

It is amazing how ever so often labels get bandied about in conversation. Yet again, an article that uses "Women Writers" freely.

For a start, there's the category itself. "Woman writer!" exclaims Hariharan. "It's not a terribly useful label if it just becomes lazy, a way to ghettoise." Moggach says: "I don't really like separating women from men novelists. Most female novelists of any calibre are not writing novels that remotely suggest that they're written by women."

Kapoor hotly counters this view: "Of course women's writing is different from men's," says the best-selling author of Difficult Daughters, and professor of English at Delhi University. "It's bound to be. Our experiences are different." Malavika Sangghvi, journalist and author, springs to her defence. "The God of Small Things, Brick Lane and On Beauty couldn't have been written by a man, just as Midnight's Children couldn't have been penned by a woman," she says. "Women have a 'heart' rather than a 'head' approach, a decidedly female sensitivity."

And I disagree with the generalization that women have a heart rather than a head approach. I think writers, as a larger category, are a great combination of seeing the heart through the head and tailoring their words to express their observations accordingly. So it does not seem fair to say a certain book could not have been written by a woman or a man. If an author (male or female) has written a certain book in a certain way, it is likely that no one can write any other book quite like it. There may be good imitations or good tributes but those will be coloured by its own author's touch.


Krithiga said...

"Women have a 'heart' rather than a 'head' approach, a decidedly female sensitivity."

That is a generalization, and like most generalizations, it is irrational. I see there was never a king of crime, but there was a "Queen of Crime".

"The God of Small Things" *Shudders* Was it just me, or the book really is boring? Couldn't really go beyond a few pages.

Krithiga said...

As a tangent, I suggest you read this

RefleXtion said...

Knowing the author's gender however does add colour and could change the interpretation / perception of context in the mind of a reader. But then again it’ll probably be only for those readers who are trying to interpret more than the context of the book.

Lioness said...

You might want to read this.. on my blog!

The very point you guys are arguing about on whether women have a "heart" or a "head" springs from a patriarchal internalization that the "head" is superior to the "heart"...besides calling it "irrational" is also a patriarchal way of arguing...

What is rationality? Think of the epistemology of rationality.
What is condemned as "irrational" and why? Why is "irrationality" unacceptable? These are some questions we have to ask ourselves.

Echo/Lavanya said...

@All: Let me elaborate on the point I was trying to make in that post

a)Labeling a writing as "woman" + "heart" AND "man" + "head" does not seem fair because it is a sweeping generalization.

b)As far as writers (the whole category irrespective of gender) are concerned, each one of them brings in a very unique perspective. There are similarities among them but no one is identical to another unless we talk about conscious carbon-copying.

c) There is neither the upholding of the superiority of rationality here nor the superiority of a head approach. The purpose of the post is to indicate that sweeeping categorizations are unfair and irrelevant.

Now to respond to your comments...

@krithiga: Well, The God of Small Things is a very different book. I wouldn't say I liked it but I was definitely very affected by it.

@resolution: I agree that knowing the author's gender colours the reader's perception of context. Just the way knowing about someone before talking to them colours one's perception of that person. However, the unique experiences that each author tries to capture need not be restricted by or unduly coloured by their gender because, I think, writers have the gift of observing from an objective standpoint and then presenting their observations in whatever voice is appropriate.

@lioness: milady, Ayn Rand is hovering above the monitor as I write this :) Can't help that when one talks about rationality I guess. I am not one of those people who uphold rationality as the supreme tool of human existence. But I do believe that rationality serves a useful purpose within its inherent limitations.
What I want to ask you is this: why do you think the internalization of head > heart is solely patriarchal? And I am interested in hearing your take on why "irrationality" seems unacceptable.

Krithiga said...

I guess I'm speaking out of turn, but here' what I have to really say:

Nice and taut stories with a intelligent plots, and ingenious plot devices are far more interesting to read (and I guess will be remembered on the longer run) than say, a "straight from the heart" story.