Wednesday, April 8, 2015

quotes on women, writing, and women writing

In her introduction to Poems from the Women’s MovementHonor Moore recollects a friend saying, “The women’s movement was poetry.”
- Ms. Magazine


I knew I had to stay with it as long as it took to write a sentence I could respect. That’s the hardest thing in the world to do—to stay with a sentence until it has said what it should say, and then to know when that has been accomplished.
- Vivian Gornick, Paris Review interview


In her essay “What Feminism Means to Me,” from her 1996 collection Approaching Eye Level, Gornick reflects on how she married an artist and, pleased as punch with herself, thought, Now I can work. “Ten years later, I was wandering around New York, a divorced ‘girl’ of thirty-five with an aggressive style who had written a couple of articles.” Then she defines the conflict that so profoundly confused me: “The lifelong inability to take myself seriously as a worker: this was the central dilemma of a woman’s existence.” (Light, music, exhilaration flowed in, Gornick said. “The slings and arrows of daily existence could not make a dent in me.”) Gornick telescoped the problem in a way that helped me see that the loss of my independent self wasn’t just a giving up, or just inertia, but an inability to believe. Maintaining the rhythm of my work, given that I’m a certain kind of woman, should have come first.

Gornick knows how hard it is not to prioritize a man over writing. “Loving a man, I vowed, would not again be primary.” Heart-hardened and thrilled with her newfound feminist reality, she decided to settle for nothing less than “grown-up affection.” Yet she recognized that “romantic love was injected like dye into the nervous system of my emotions, laced through the entire fabric of longing, fantasy, and sentiment.” Even feminists want love and romance. You can’t give up love, but you can be split about it.