How to Suppress Women's Writing / Joanna Russ
October 3, 2023 4:48 PM - Subscribe

Are women able to achieve anything they set their minds to? In How to Suppress Women’s Writing, award-winning novelist and scholar Joanna Russ lays bare the subtle—and not so subtle—strategies that society uses to ignore, condemn, or belittle women who produce literature. As relevant today as when it was first published in 1983, this book has motivated generations of readers with its powerful feminist critique.
posted by johnofjack (5 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
This turned out to be a bit more academic than I had expected, but that's just a problem with my expectations, not a problem with the book itself (which I thought was clearly, concisely, and convincingly argued). At any rate, I'm no scholar but I thought this was good.

I can't decide whether to be glad the book is still in print 40 years after it was published. In a perfect world, it would be utterly obsolete by now, but here we are and here this book still is, speaking its truth (and pissing off people who are so fragile they can't stand to be disagreed with). [sigh]
posted by johnofjack at 6:16 PM on October 3, 2023 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure it was in print when I got my copy -- I had to go to some lengths to find a used one. If so, really glad it's back in print now!

It's such an important piece of work. Even now that the vast majority of sane people believe that Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein herself and Charlotte Brontë is a woman, I wonder how many people have no idea that Frankenstein and Jane Eyre weren't the only books they wrote.
posted by kyrademon at 4:06 AM on October 4, 2023 [1 favorite]

It’s an absolute must-read for anyone who wants a grounding on how women are belittled by critics.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:35 PM on October 5, 2023

I love this book so much and I’m so mad I didn’t read it when I was 16. I’ve been meaning to go back through it and write down all the writers she mentions who I think sound like my cup of tea.
posted by showbiz_liz at 6:26 PM on October 5, 2023 [2 favorites]

I read this around 2003-2004 with mixed feelings of "Wow, people are still getting away with this stuff!" and "At least they're not doing THAT anymore," and I think both those sentiments still hold up on a reread - but complicated by how much the literary landscape has changed for both men and women.

(I'm thinking of when Jennifer Weiner got criticized for saying that women get pigeonholed into "women's fiction" and a bunch of critics shot back that Jennifer Weiner was writing commercial middlebrow books, not literary fiction. Which... I think that's not wrong, but also, Jonathan Franzen's Freedom got praised to the heavens despite not actually being better than a lot of commercial middlebrow "women's fiction" even if it did have a little bit of anti-Iraq-War, pro-environment messaging sprinkled on top.)

I feel like things have gotten better in some respects and have stayed fairly stagnant in other respects. I think it's much rarer than it used to be to say "She didn't write it" or "She wrote it, but she shouldn't have."

But I still see Reddit posts of a stack of 20 books all authored by men, as if there's no awareness that women also write swords-and-sorcery, or dark political fantasy, and it's like...please, men, believe it possible that a woman could write a book you like! Please believe it possible that a woman could write a book that's relevant to your experience! Please believe it possible both that a woman-authored book isn't automatically going to be about feelings and needlepoint, but also that a book written by a woman could be worth reading EVEN IF it's all about feelings and needlepoint!
posted by Jeanne at 6:58 AM on October 6, 2023 [4 favorites]

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