I have been told on a few occasions that my writing is very “female.” Whether that comes from cultural gender stereotypes about women liking pretty things (I love aesthetically pleasing things — in particular, describing them), or more scientifically-backed factors like women perceiving their world in more visceral, concrete details — it has never bothered me. I like the idea of being all the intellectual things that a writer entails, AND being feminine at the same time. I never wanted to be some genderless floating head, abstractly post-menopausal in her wisdom.
But Ursula K. Le Guin had another problem; she was writing in an age of hard SF, when authors like Arthur C. Clark were writing from heavily male perspectives to heavily male audiences. One gets the sense as you read her work that she was trying very hard to separate her gender from her perspective, in order to be an objective 3rd-party narrator… And perhaps to prove that her femaleness didn’t have to interfere with her ability to comprehend and dissect the abstract intellectual issues involved in science fiction.
Upon reading an interview with her online, I found out that she didn’t actually realize she was extracting the femaleness from her writing until part-way through her career.
I gradually realised that my own fiction was telling me that I could no
longer ignore the feminine. While I was writing The Eye of the Heron in
1977, the hero insisted on destroying himself before the middle of the book.
“Hey,” I said, “you can’t do that, you’re the hero. Where’s my book?” I
stopped writing. The book had a woman in it, but I didn’t know how to write
about women. I blundered around awhile and then found some guidance in
feminist theory. I got excited when I discovered feminist literary criticism
was something I could read and actually enjoy. I read The Norton Book of
Literature by Women from cover to cover. It was a bible for me. It taught me
that I didn’t have to write like an honorary man anymore, that I could write
like a woman and feel liberated in doing so.
I get the sense that it was less about trying to repress her own femininity, and more about just not being used to storytelling that was centered around females. I find myself coming from a generation with plenty of female heroines; I’ve always written about females and feminine characters, by default, so I have the opposite problem. Can I write males? And if my writing is excessively “female,” will it ever be interesting to male readers?
However, I’m beginning to feel lately like the closer I get to being a better writer, the closer I am to being genderless as a person. It’s either on purpose, to try to encompass both sides as I write about them, OR… Perhaps it’s just a side effect of all the abstract thinking involved… You lose touch. Not only with your body and gender, but with your relationships, too. You start to think of yourself as an isolated narrator — separate, and not a true character like your friends, never truly able to play opposite them.
Not to mention, I’ve never personally found my “writer” qualities to be assets in a relationship.
I was talking to a friend a couple weeks ago and I found myself saying, “I can understand, evolutionarily, why men would not want creativity in their gene pool. It’s connected to rumination, which is in turn correlated to depression risk. Still… It’s frustrating. Makes me feel unfeminine — like my gifts rob me of my gender or something.”
Although it may be that it’s not so much the qualities of being a writer, so much as the qualities of what my writing, specifically, is about. May it’s just me that’s the isolatrix and it has nothing to do with writing at all…