Yes, all women (writers)

At the beginning of this month, when I began a mini-blog-series featuring quotes from the highly entertaining book, “Fighting Words:  Writers Lambast other Writers, from Aristotle to Anne Rice,”  I intended to include a post centered around misogynist attitudes toward women writers.  In light of the recent shooting in California and its aftermath, these quotes seem especially timely:


I dislike Jane [Austen], and am prejudiced, in fact, against all women writers.  They are in another class.–Vladimir Nabokov

You are mistaken about Jane Austen…..Her greatness is due precisely to the fact that her attitude toward her work is like that of a man, that is, of an artist, and quite unlike that of the typical woman novelist, who exploits her feminine day-dreams.–Edmund Wilson’s reply to Nabokov

Mrs. Wharton, do you know what’s the matter with you?  You don’t know anything about life.–F. Scott Fitzgerald, to Edith Wharton

Our only hippo-poetess.–Ezra Pound, on Amy Lowell

I read a piece of writing and within a paragraph or two I know whether it is by a woman or not. I think [it is] unequal to me… My publisher, who was so good as a taster and editor, when she became a writer, lo and behold, it was all this feminine tosh. I don’t mean this in any unkind way.– V. S. Naipaul

I doubt if there will be a really exciting woman writer until the first whore becomes a call girl and tells her tale.–Norman Mailer

I don’t love women writers enough to teach them, if you want women writers go down the hall. What I teach is guys…..Serious heterosexual guys. F. Scott Fitzgerald, Chekhov, Tolstoy. Real guy-guys. Henry Miller. Philip Roth.–David Gilmour


I wonder if there is or ever has been a woman writer who has not had to deal with these kinds of reactions–and not just from anonymous trolls on the internet, but from colleagues who should be engaging her in conversation and debate, not writing her off as if somehow, having a second X chromosome invalidated every single letter of the alphabet she would ever write.  I wonder what I’m facing as I strive toward publication–will boys read my books if I use my name instead of my initials?  Will interviewers focus on my work, or my personal life?  Will I be judged by my dustjacket photo instead of the caliber of my writing?


I wish critics would judge me as an author, not as a woman.–Charlotte Bronte


6 thoughts on “Yes, all women (writers)

  1. I posted tweets about this on my feminist literature blog and someone replied that when J.K. Rowling published her book, her editor suggested that she use a male’s name so the book would sell more copies. This is the world we currently live in. Where there’s a popular section labeled “Chick Lit” in GoodReads. We’re just going to have to keep on writing to show these critics how incredibly wrong they are.

    1. Very true. And you’re absolutely right–we just have to keep on keeping on. I wish I had the mad hacker skilz to infiltrate GoodReads and replace everything in the “Chick Lit” section with books on backyard poultry raising.

      1. ^ Couldn’t have said it better myself. Down with “Chick Lit”! I’m an advocate for this little thing called “Lit.” It’s basically the same thing as “Chick Lit” minus the gender stereotypes and sexism…

  2. Speaking as a sci-fi fantasy fan, I’m finding it’s the women writers who are really bringing it these days…and yet they still get marginalized in certain quarters. I’d really love to get to a time when gender isn’t even worth mentioning as a factor. How long does this have to take? It’s so frustrating.

    1. Sue, women really are bringing it! And yet I’ve heard all kinds of crazy stuff–like that women write fantasy and not sci-fi because fantasy is more emotional. ??? Bizarre.

      1. Wow, is that ever ridiculous! And shows a huge lack of respect for women. I hadn’t heard that one. Clearly we have our work cut out for us!

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