I had an entire post written but my browser shut down. Oh well. That’s what I get. I only had a few hundred things to say.
Women do write men better than men write women. We can spend all day long saying that this isn’t so, wishing it weren’t so, because it’s a terrible thing to say, on the surface. We can say it’s man hatred but it’s not. It isn’t men’s fault (Not usually) in any direct sense. The point of me saying something quite possibly offensive is not to blame or to say men can’t write women but to recognize a real phenomenon. It’s difficult to escape it if you don’t recognize it. It’s difficult for a woman to escape it, it must be harder for men.
Women write men better than men write women because the point of view of men has always dominated Western culture. The reason it’s not great that there have been less female writers than male writers isn’t only because there were women who deserved to be writers. It’s because we don’t have as much historical information on how women thought. We don’t have what literature written by women represents—the thoughts, interests, beliefs, and point of view—of women. When you consider this has happened and is still happening in every single field of study and discipline then that’s how much men and women don’t know about women.
You could say writers don’t use pop culture or historical references when writing about women. But I think it’d be difficult to say that we don’t draw on our culture not only when writing but as our personalities form. But it’s even less linear than that. Women draw on their culture to decide who they are, who they can be, and how to present themselves. So then you have both men and women quite possibly and most definitely starting out with some erroneous ideas, ones slanted in the interests of men because their point of view still dominates. How can they not learn some wrong things? Women are very well educated in the male point of view for this reason. They are less educated in their own. Then when you factor in the likely family and social structure and the hard cold truth that although many women work there still exists an odd imbalance of work at home, I think it’s fair to say that the male point of view still dominates.
The price of not having an equal voice in culture or in medicine or in any occupation or field of study isn’t only the faulty assumptions the lack of a feminine presence represents but the lack of information testing those assumptions would provide us. We literally don’t know and its not only men who understand the male point of view better but women. We have heard so much of it. It’s comfortable and homey.
There are words like man hater and shrew which probably aren’t ever in our best interest to use. I’ve used them myself and I’ve been called both. They’re not incredibly fair or insightful words or phrases. They mostly mean we don’t understand. Although, often, only in that moment.
Men have only been inundated with the female point of view via their individual relationships and how often are women told or advised to take it easy with the words? To, watch their tone. To, find better ways of expressing their point of view? Whatever men have wanted to do, thought about doing, there is a man somewhere who has put their voice to it. Women have to wait their turn, calculate the odds, make more sacrifices, be different than their contemporaries and the women who came before them.
The impact of a dominate male point of view isn’t resolved by a few decades where women are able to write and get published. This has happened in my lifetime and even now its still harder for women to get published in many genres and easier to get published in all of the obvious ones. Writing is an art, it should be easier for women and I think it is. Imagine if I wanted to be a rocket scientist. What a very real thing that would be, every single day.
But it isn’t so easy for women that I don’t feel safe saying that the predominance of women in the business side of publishing doesn’t mean the interests of men have fallen to the wayside. Women weren’t taught it’s okay to follow the interests of their own point of view in the same way that men have. It’d be insulting to say we don’t know our own point of view. That’s part of the problem. We get insulted and it stops us from being totally honest with ourselves or one another. Having our own thoughts, interests, and opinions is the easiest part, we can’t fail at that. We have them whether we know them or not. Putting them first and differentiating between a real and valuable interest in what and how men think and feel—valuable if only because we surely have men in our lives who we care about and can benefit from understanding—is less likely. It’s been my observation, because I have proof of none of this, that men are much more comfortable putting their best interests first and unless they are unusual don’t actually have a horse in the race in terms of changing the predominant cultural point of view which is still dominated by men.
After typing all of the above into this white box I realize, there are even people who say there aren’t any differences between men and women. Maybe. I don’t know. We can measure physical differences like brain size and muscle mass and formulate theories about evolution which seem quite likely true. Those differences interest me less than knowing whether we would be more similar in terms of behavior and temperament (even in physical characteristics) if the imbalance in power never existed. I notice that sometimes people say there are no differences between men and women beyond the physical and I think it’s a shortcut, a means of not having to think about the issue or have it dominate or trouble us. Denial is as good a means of escaping artificially imposed limitations as any other. But I also think it’s slightly disrespectful to themselves when women say it. They’re doing what women have always done and pretending something real about themselves isn’t real and they’re doing it because it makes life among men easier. It’s almost hard to blame them.