A timely article in light of our current posts featuring the 2012 Australian Women Writers Challenge:
A woman’s place | Sexism in literature
by Jane Sullivan | The Age
Blogger Elizabeth Lhuede writes: “It took me years to realise that I had been educated to privilege men’s writing over women’s. Like a lot of girls educated in the ’70s and ’80s, I grew up reading a canon of ‘great literature’ written by men (and, primarily, for men) … At school we read almost exclusively male writers … our one woman author was Jane Austen.”
The trend continued at university, though more women authors were studied.
“Without realising it, I was being educated into the view that ‘good’ writing focused on something other than [what were then primarily] women’s interests and concerns — relationships, domesticity, ‘feelings’, the woman’s point of view (except as rendered by ‘masters’ like Henry James and D.H. Lawrence). Subject matter concerning women was regarded as trivial, ephemeral, sloppy and sentimental,” Luehde writes.
This is a description of education that V.S. Naipaul would recognise as I do. I know it’s changed since then. Feminist theory has had an impact on university courses, for example. And yet, how can you get past that at primary school level boys will read books by men but are dragged reluctantly to books by women, while girls will read books by anyone? Boys need a male protagonist while girls will go with either gender?
Where would J.K.Rowling have got to, I wonder, if she’d written as Joan Rowling about the wizard heroine called Hermione?
This is where the reading iceberg starts growing: at school. This is where we form our beliefs and prejudices. Later in life we often change our minds or other people try to persuade us to think otherwise but first impressions run deep.
via Kerryn Goldsworthy on FB