Literature made by women: the victory of the nobody

When it was announced that Annie Ernaux was winning the Nobel Prize for Literature, all the social networks were filled with recommendations and the windows of the bookstores that I usually go to were flooded with their titles. I didn’t know her, but her name was written down in that mobile note where the “pending books” section grows exponentially while the available reading time decreases. Tired of hearing about her without having read anything of hers, I started to devour myself. The event. A short book, but one that remains swarming for too long; simple, but with the depth of the intimate; hard, but with a delicate innocence.

Following this account of the abortion experience, I reflected on how many men would feel compelled to read this book. A raw, first-person account of an experience that can only be lived by those who have the capacity to gestate. And it’s not just about this book, but about all those books in which the writer is a woman, the protagonist is a woman, and the greatest violence in the plot is her own life.

For many years “women’s literature” has been a label on a small shelf in bookstores. They were a handful of books that talked about love, feelings, relationships with men and various clichés. “Female literature” was a subcategory within “plain” literature, made up of men who built great stories, with complex characters and a convoluted narrative of long and illegible paragraphs; while the women were in charge of writing simple books, with simple and mundane plots so that the housewives could waste their time through books that would remind them of the shitty life they have in the face of great love stories. This is the fastest idea that comes to mind if I talk about “women’s literature.” But what if I talk about men’s literature? Does not exist. No one ever invented this category because the masculine has always been universal and they have had the whole world at their feet, in front of the women who were reserved a small place in the libraries, assigned specific topics to write about and chained. to a limited audience. The construction of the category “women’s literature” has had no other purpose than to underestimate the quality of the work, as if it were second-rate literature.

Obviously it is not something new. Women have always been relegated to a lower league. I think it is important, however, that we reflect on the implications of the way women talk about themselves compared to how men describe us in their stories and, above all, the consequences of men looking askance at the fact to approach books where the woman is the protagonist and her daily problems the center of the plot. It is a kind of fear or simplification of reality. It is easier to continue thinking of ourselves through a sweetened, secondary and remote version of our daily problems, than to understand and fully immerse ourselves in the complexity of our person. It is easier for them to maintain the leading role if the women are characters without the necessary depth to overshadow them. It is easier to continue being flat and sexualized characters, when you do not understand the complexity of the thoughts, interests and dreams of people who are built through the desire look of a man.

The fear of reading about women also has consequences in relationships between people. Talking about this with a book-devouring friend, we came to the conclusion that we have learned to identify with male characters without any problem. Our childhood series, the main characters of the movies, the books we grew up with… we quickly understood that all the stories that ran through them could also happen to us. However, men do not identify with us because they do not see us as equals. This has a result in the way in which empathy is conceived in men. If they are not able to identify with our feelings, if they are not interested in reading about our problems, if they are not attracted to our way of seeing the world, how are they going to understand us? I find it sad, as well as worrying, that they tend to identify themselves sooner with a man who was bitten by a spider and suddenly wears a red jersey and expels cobwebs from his wrists, than with a woman. It saddens me to remember each and every one of the conversations with friends where we complained about the lack of affective responsibility of our partners and the same pattern was repeated: misunderstanding and lack of interest in understanding beyond themselves.

That is why I believe it is essential that bookstore windows be filled with stories written by women, starring women and where there is no plot other than life itself. It is an achievement of feminism. We women write our own history and it begins to be valued. The authors play in the first division and they don’t do it alone, they do it together with all those who have reserved a little space on the shelf. It is a victory for all those whose voices were tried to make it sound lower. It is a victory of those who have no name or surname. It is a victory of our lives. Because our lives begin to be valued and recognized. Because when women talk about the intimate, it becomes a political act. It consists of putting on the table the stories that have been shared in silence or in the dark of conversations with friends. It is about giving birth to our individuality so that they are part of the common, of the universal.

When I see bookstore windows full of titles written by women, I only think of my friends, of all those women whose concerns were seen as inferior to those of the rest. Those women, moreover, whose stories were considered less valid, whose lives were conceived as less exciting. When I see all those books I only think that in the end my friends and I ended up beating all those “pimps” in class who called us “smarts” and who just wanted to attract attention for having the radical idea of ​​wanting to be understood.

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Literature made by women: the victory of the nobody