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Nom de Plume
By Belle Byrd
Recently one of my male friends and I were discussing the decline of feminist websites XOJane and Jezebel. Previously huge fans of both sites, we agreed that their editors have started posting more and more vapid content.We were getting tired of the self-indulgent, one-dimensional personal essays and musings on celebrity gossip. Of course writers, especially those belonging to groups whose voice has traditionally been stifled, should be allowed to write about their own experiences. Of course writers are allowed to write about celebrities. But why aren't more of these XOJane and Jezebel pieces attempting to start a meaningful conversation? Do I really care to read another piece entitled, “Just Because I Own 22 Bottles of Conditioner Doesn't Mean I have a Problem”?
My friend—described as a kind, honest man by everyone I know who's ever spoken about him—said that he wanted to write a critique of the sites, but was afraid to try. He's a talented and avid writer, so I was a little surprised that he hadn't already picked up a pen. I asked him what was stopping him.
“Because anyone reading my essay would discount what I have to say since I'm a guy.”
He was at least mostly right. Perhaps not everyone would discount his ideas in this context, but definitely the majority would. They would accuse of him not understanding the sites and trying to silence women. Feminism seems to be one of the few fields where men are expected to pipe down so women should speak up. The reasoning goes, men are heard everywhere else. Can't woman have at least one sphere where society allows them to dominate? Yes, please, of course. But does that mean men can't have a voice, even a tiny, squeaky mouse one?
I suggested that my friend try writing under a pseudonym. George Elliot took a man's name because she knew critics would not take her work seriously as a female author. He could take a woman's name to be taken seriously as a feminist. Though my friend was not seeking literary approval, he wanted his argument to at least be entertained. This was less about him, his vanity, and his reputation than it was the chance to perhaps make fans of these websites reconsider what they were reading. He wanted to begin the dialogue he saw happening on these sites less and less frequently. Would adopting a woman's name for the sake of one essay be a dirty move? Would his masculinity and male privilege show through in his words, anyway? Would the farce fail?
My friend answered yes to all of these questions, but I challenged him to prove himself wrong. It has been two days since that talk and I am eager to read his essay (if he indeed took me up on it.) Yet I am also curious to read how he would tackle the essay as a male author, full disclosure. He identifies as a feminist and seems to possess the sensitivity to critique XOJane and Jezebel without sounding like a caveman. But does he have to be a woman to succeed in this endeavor?
Your thoughts, fledglings?
#Feminism #Literature #Gender #Sexuality #Dialogue #Pens