Monday, March 18, 2013

How should a woman write?

I spent a good part of yesterday afternoon reading Dooce. Heather Armstrong's site was one of the first  I could identify as a "blog." In my nascent internet world, I thought blogging was something emo kids did, posting song lyrics and the usual post-adolescent ennui to their Friendster or LJ pages. (Yes, I'm that old.) I wanted a "web presence," too, so I started a blog of my own. Along with Dooce, my earliest examples of "women blogging" were personal, diary-type sites, mostly penned by mothers. Wedging myself into the mommy-blogger world, even as a peripheral singleton, was like being the school dork who one day plopped down at the popular kids' table at lunch.

Anyway, what I'm saying -- and what I've said here many times before -- is that I didn't have a lot of examples of women putting themselves out there, even as one of many unknown or under-read bloggers. If the feminist blog world existed then, I didn't know about it, and most political blogs were written by men, or groups of men. Examples are important. I didn't really want to be a diarist  -- and I failed grandly at it -- but the only women publishing online, or so I thought, were the ones opening up a vein and bleeding.

There's nothing wrong with vulnerability, even in its most abject form, but I want the option of writing impersonally, even when I sneak myself into too many posts, and I want to see more women writing about the world around them, not only their own lives. The truth is a lot of good discussion comes from personal writing.

In her interview with Sheryl Sandberg, Tracie Egan Morrissey said,
"I began to tell Sandberg that I can relate [to her apprehension getting that first performance review], on a way smaller scale, as a blogger because everything I write has a comments section beneath it, but she cut me off: 'I just have to argue with you. It's not a way smaller scale. Don't say that! Look, I don't do public stuff every day. You're doing something that influences the dialogue every day. You write for one of the most important places where people actually have serious conversations about women. So no! It's not a smaller scale! It's the same scale!' In that moment, I had been acting out the 'impostor syndrome' that Sandberg writes about, in which 'many people, but especially women, feel fraudulent when they are praised for their accomplishments…Women tend to experience it more intensely and be more limited by it. We consistently underestimate ourselves.'"
I like this quote a lot, and I'm trying to find a way to make it relate better to what I just wrote. The temptation is there to say, "oh well, I'm just a blogger. Nothing I write matters," particularly now when one-person blogs are dying off, and it's especially true for women where "women's writing" is still too-often devalued.


  1. Nice post. I've also thought about this issue a lot. I enjoy reading about women's personal experiences but would also like to see more "impersonal" pieces as well.

  2. Absolutely. I just started a blog -- only about ten years behind, here -- and am still struggling to find that right balance between personal and impersonal.

  3. Hm, I think my comment disappeared. This is a great post, though. My favorite blog writing brings the personal perspective to a universal subject. I love a distinctive voice, but concentrating too much on individual life stories can be less interesting if you're not the writer's personal friend.