Monday, October 15, 2007

Speak Softly and Carry a Big Stick

Do I censor myself? Certainly. I don't tell the world about my private problems. But do I censor what I consider public material? Do I speak quietly because I am a woman?

I wish I could answer this question with a firm "no," but I don't think that would be the whole truth.


...Midway through lunch one day a young woman asked me if I noticed a difference between the writing of men and the writing of women. The answer is no, but it’s a good question. A writer’s fundamental problem, once her prose is under control, is shaping and understanding her own authority. I’ve often noticed a habit of polite self-negation among my female students, a self-deprecatory way of talking that is meant, I suppose, to help create a sense of shared space, a shared social connection. It sounds like the language of constant apology, and the form I often hear is the sentence that begins, “My problem is ...”

Even though this way of talking is conventional, and perhaps socially placating, it has a way of defining a young writer — a young woman — in negative terms, as if she were basically incapable and always giving offense. You simply cannot pretend that the words you use about yourself have no meaning. Why not, I asked, be as smart and perceptive as you really are? Why not accept what you’re capable of? Why not believe that what you notice matters? (Italics mine)

I struggle with the idea that what I think matters every day. Just yesterday, Nate said something about my trying to inject compassion and kindness into everyday life makes so little impact on the big, bad, cruel world that he wonders why I bother. But I believe that what I do, my actions, are going to make any impact, and I'd rather have a small impact than none at all.

But in terms of writing, listening to this writer describe the early academic writing of undergraduate women, I can easily identify myself in the hesitant phrasings she cites. I used to write that way, unsure of my own opinion, feeling that the lack of credentials (I was simply an undergradute, wasn't I?) meant that my thought were less.

I still worry that my thoughts are worth less than others', if I must be completely honest. I try to tell myself that my most important audience is myself, but I know that this writing is out in the wide world of the web, and will be read by others, and therefore, it will be judged. Will I be found wanting?

Is my voice too quiet? I don't think it is; I know I can be loud and brash. It's easy to yell, but less easy to feel the weight of your convictions heavy in your pocket, like a golden amulet of protection.

And sometimes, I'm affected by others' self censorship. Why should I disclose so much about myself and my thoughts, if I can't find that same openness in someone else? Trust is difficult; even more so in a digital world.

Things I won't censor:
  1. My hatred of the Iraq War and its effects on the Iraqi people
  2. I am a feminist and proud of it
  3. My search for recognition of the potential in every human to do good
  4. Education is the most valuable currency
  5. I believe everyone should try to care for everyone else; this is how we cultivate peace
I will bow my head and use my mind to galvanize my words; I will make my words strong and meaningful, if only to myself, and I will make them my currency. I will not be idle in silence.

2 responses:

ccroceiii said...

May I swing my stick?

1) The War in Iraq. I am sure you would be very happy to still have Saadam Housain still in power, but sorry, he is on the ash-heap of history (probably with a few other heroes of yours.)

2) Why has modern feminism been allowed to be taken over by left wing zealots? Women have it better in the western world than anywhere else in history, enjoy it, don't try to destroy it.

3) Not all humans have the potential or desire to do "good."

4) Government run education is much like what we will be enjoying under government run healthcare. We need an educated population and we have put the wrong people on the job.

5) And NO. Take care of yourself and you will serve your fellow man. It is none of your business what anyone else does and not at all your responsibility to take care of them. You will only do them harm despite your good intentions. Read Anne Rand, Atlas Shrugged.

Maybe some women have trouble expressing themselves because their opinions are questionable.

ccroceiii said...

Still no response.

Shall I consider this a victory?


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