An interesting coincidence perhaps that this week my co-blogger and I received a rather nasty rant on a recent blog post from a seemingly misogynistic gentleman. Amongst a flurry of words that we had much trouble
understanding (I guess our vocabulary is not as sharp as this gentleman’s, or perhaps we know how to put sentences together?), he noted that we, “women should stick to our lattes and manicures.” He further commented that we may have “found our writing niche in warbling about identity, Orientalism and other self-aggrandizing topics that women love to write about.” Sure, this comment from a random gentleman provided us with about 5 seconds of amusement before hitting the trash button, as it provided little or no constructive feedback a writer would be seeking. But surprisingly, I awoke this Thursday morning to read news of Nobel Laureate VS Naipaul stirring controversy once again with his comment on women writers. As provided in the Guardian UK:
“In an interview at the Royal Geographic Society on Tuesday about his career, Naipaul, who has been described as the “greatest living writer of English prose”, was asked if he considered any woman writer his literary match. He replied: “I don’t think so.” Of Austen he said he “couldn’t possibly share her sentimental ambitions, her sentimental sense of the world”.”
Further, “He felt that women writers were “quite different”. He said: “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.”
The author, who was born in Trinidad, said this was because of women’s “sentimentality, the narrow view of the world”. “And inevitably for a woman, she is not a complete master of a house, so that comes over in her writing too,” he said.”
As I explore the world of blog-writing, I have unconsciously been turning to my fellow women writers for inspiration, for encouragement, and for motivation. However, as an avid reader, I have never paid much attention to whether my favorite books are written by men or women. In fact, I never choose books based on this identifier at all. So it is all the more interesting that all kinds of people out there, random crazies and Nobel Laureate authors alike, classify the quality and topics of writing in terms of the gender of the author. Do women have “a narrow view of the world”? Are they not a “complete master of the house”?
Perhaps some women do and perhaps some men do as well. I cannot make generalizations as Mr. Naipaul has taken the liberty to do. I can, however, say that women writers may indeed have a different view of the world. They may exhibit “sentimental ambitions” or a “sentimental sense of the world.” But unlike the overture of Mr. Naipaul’s commentary, this is far from a weakness when it comes to writing. Writing is about relaying stories, of creating vivid imagery, of manifesting true to life characterizations to fictional individuals, of saying something about the human condition, of providing the reader with a reality that is grounded in the abstract. It is the very sentimentalism and emotive quality of a female writer that can most powerfully impart such feelings. As for being the “master of a house,” that too is the very misperception that is leading entire cultures and communities into disarray – the very marginalization and minimization of a woman’s role in the family structure.
Mr. Naipaul’s opinion is not shocking by any means. It is, nevertheless, an unfortunate fact that a person “who counts” in the world of literature continues to harbor such a divisive point of view. If this proves any point, it is that Nobel Laureate, VS Naipaul, holds a disappointingly “narrow view of the world.” In that he is “unequal to me,” an (aspiring) woman writer.