Friday, June 11, 2010

So, just how IS a woman supposed to write?

Recently, a group of New Zealand bloggers took exception to the in-bred nature of the Blog section of the Qantas Media Awards, and decided to set up their own piss-take rival award. The judges - solely a group of dudes, I'd like to point out - made their picks this week.

This post is not to bleat my opinion on their picks. In the commentary discussing the entries, the judges said things like "very, very female" and "Everything that is wrong with 'typical' female blogging: I, I, I, me, me, me."; a fashion blog "veered off into the frivolous" and a lesbian blog "I'm angry at Penthouse for making me think lesbians were so much more interesting than this." (roll eyes at the stereotypical pornification of lesbians). This got me wondering...what exactly do people expect from "female blogging"? Are there rules? If we write too much like a girl, is our opinion invalid? If we write too much like a man, are we trying too hard be something we're not? If we don't write within the rules of femininity/queerness, we're not a real woman/queer? If one thing we say challenges the male paradigm, is all our opinion invalid?

In this instance, not every example of "female blogging" was bagged - indeed, the winning blog is written by a woman. Cactus Kate is not my bag - she rightly earns the moniker "The Prickly One" quite well. She is intelligent and articulate. It seems to me though that she writes in a way that many men like - combative, non-feminine, male sexualized, anti-feminist. Hell, I'm sure if she got hold of me she'd tear me strips and tell me she writes whatever fucking way she likes.

But this is the point. Every woman blogger writes whatever fucking way she likes. It is our prerogative to make our narrative heard in any which way we like. It's up to you whether you like or dislike a woman's writing (for whatever literary, political, or interest level reason). But no-one has the right to accuse a woman of "writing like a girl", as if "writing like a girl" is some bad thing.

Do you hear people accuse men of "writing like a boy" in a derogatory tone? No, "writing like a boy" is the set default in societal narrative. A man can get angry and opinionated about something he strongly believes in, and he's lauded for taking a stand. A woman gets angry and opinionated, and she's accused ofbeing overly emotional. We're all acting on emotion when it comes to expressing an opinion, or talking about our personal narratives, so I'm at a loss to understand how a man's emotion is any better or more agreeable than mine.

Women of all stripes need to be heard. Whether it's women blogging about their body images, mummy-bloggers, feminists, conservatives, working women, fashion, child-free advocates, politicos, religion, scientists, writers, sex, sexuality, cupcakes, literature, movies, technology... good grief, for every woman and woman identifier, there is a blog, style and a voice to suit.

If a woman's style is to write in the first person, talk about herself, her narratives, her experiences, her emotions, her be it. That is our voice, no matter how disparate that voice is. We will not conform to some male ideal of "girl writing", let alone fit in with the rules of "male writing". Every woman needs to know they're not alone, they have someone else on their level, and whatever way they want to write is right.


  1. Great post!! Honestly I felt like clapping after reading it. So much of the trolley comments I get on my blog are from men calling me "hysterical" and yet when I guest blog on music blogs most people reading assume I'm male. I totally agree with what you've said about Cactus Kate. I can't stomach her personally but she does write what she wants and I appreciate that at least. And also I actually think she "writes" well. I juat don't agree with her opinions - which is a different thing entirely. And that's because I'm a feminist and she's well...really, really not a feminist. Anyway GREAT POST! Love it. Well said!

  2. Oh GOD I just read the blog winner round-up. It's ridiculously offensive. What a bunch of douchebags.

    Obviously the blog comp was nothing more than a circle-jerk between a bunch of loser misogynists. Ughh.

  3. Interesting.

    I once changed my identity on a site and took a stereotypically male name. I kept writing exactly the same opinions, but the change in the way I was responded to amazed even cynical old me.

    Not only was I suddenly taken very seriously, but if I wrote anything supportive and nurturing I just about got a ticker-tape parade. This was mainly from the male rather than the female monickered writers I might add.

    I should add that I did also change my style a bit. I stopped using IMHO, and cut out all words that were less than 100% certain, like might or could or possibly.

    Thinking the writing style might have caused the change, I switched to a female identity and continued to write in the 'male' style.

    Needless to say, the female identity was not accorded anything like the kudos the male identity was.

  4. B: I agree, CK writes very very well. Like you, our opinions don't line up, but at least she'll argue well and hold her line.

    Anon: I've never tried that, but it would be a great experiment. I'm not surprised. Hah, I should try it on a gamer forum ;)

  5. Good post.

    "It seems to me though that she writes in a way that many men like - combative, non-feminine, male sexualized, anti-feminist".

    Ergh, I guess by now you have realised that I can't write any other way. Seriously I have tried.

    What is "feminine" writing btw? Is it talking about how many farts your baby did last night? Or how poorly paid you are compared to men? Or how you did what you were told to keep the peace? Or how you enjoy cooking?

    I do take slight offence at being anti-feminist. Just because I disagree with the tactics and opinions of some traditional feminists doens't make me anti-feminist anymore it makes you anti-male if you think a certain group of men are acting like fucktards.

    I used to think only men read my blog but you would be surprised how many women read it and come up and tell me when I am out with say David Farrar and are visible. Very surprised.

  6. Fantastic post. And thanks the Hand Mirror for introducing me to your blog.

  7. Hi Kate :)

    Female writing, as opposed to "feminine", is akin to the tone argument - the boys seem to argue "I'd take your opinion more seriously if you weren't so emotional, or talked about how it applies to yourself so much". When it comes to women's issues (politics) of course we're going to argue how it effects us personally.

    And yeah "female writing" is all your examples, and more :)

    "I do take slight offence at being anti-feminist." OK cool, didn't know how you identified.

    I'm not surprised you have a female readership. I know many politically conservative (is that how you'd identify?) women.

    Thanks for stopping by.

  8. I think you'd be considered anti-feminist Kate because you hold none of the ideals feminists do and you routinely insult feminism, feminists (and NZ feminist bloggers) to provide an easy laugh to the men who frequent your blog. Pretty simple really. And of course it's your right to do so. Feminism is about choice. But of course you know that don't you?

  9. Ok, let's not get into anything here in my space. If you'd like to take something up with Kate, go over to her space and do so.