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“For many of these women, the reading experience begins from a place of seething rage. Take Sara Marcus’ initial impression of Jack Kerouac: “I remember putting On the Road down the first time a woman was mentioned. I was just like: ‘Fuck. You.’ I was probably 15 or 16. And over the coming years I realized that it was this canonical work, so I tried to return to it, but every time I was just like, ‘Fuck you.’” Tortorici had a similarly visceral reaction to Charles Bukowski: “I will never forget reading Bukowski’s Post Office and feeling so horrible, the way that the narrator describes the thickness of ugly women’s legs. I think it was the first time I felt like a book that I was trying to identify with rejected me. Though I did absorb it, and of course it made me hate my body or whatever.” Emily Witt turned to masculine texts to access a sexual language that was absent from books about women, but found herself turned off by their take: “many of the great classic coming-of-age novels about the female experience don’t openly discuss sex,” she says in No Regrets. “I read the ones by men instead, until I was like, ‘I cannot read another passage about masturbation. I can’t. It was like a pile of Kleenex.”
This isn’t just about the books. When young women read the hyper-masculine literary canon—what Emily Gould calls the “midcentury misogynists,” staffed with the likes of Roth, Mailer, and Miller—their discomfort is punctuated by the knowledge that their male peers are reading these books, identifying with them, and acting out their perspectives and narratives. These writers are celebrated by the society that we live in, even the one who stabbed his wife. In No Regrets, Elif Bautman talks about reading Henry Miller for the first time because she had a “serious crush” on a guy who said his were “the best books ever,” and that guy’s real-life recommendation exacerbated her distaste for the fictional. When she read Miller, “I felt so alienated by the books, and then thinking about this guy, and it was so hot and summertime … I just wanted to kill myself. … He compared women to soup.””—In No Regrets, women writers talk about what it was like to read literature’s “midcentury misogynists.” (via 40514294s)
We [Fraction and his wife, Kelly Sue DeConnick] were pregnant at the time, and while I was out there I started to realize that if I had a daughter, there would come a day when I would have to apologize to her for my profession. I would have to apologize for the way it treats and speaks to women readers, and the way it treats its female characters.
I knew that if we had a daughter, because I know my wife and I know the kind of girl she wants to raise and I know the kind of girl I want to raise, she was going to look at what I did for a living and want to know how the fuck I could stomach it. How could I sell her out like that?” Fraction continued. “That conversation is still coming, and I’m bracing for it in the way that some dads brace for their daughter’s first date or boyfriend. I became acutely aware that I had sort of done that thing that lots of privileged hetero cisgendered white dudes do. ‘I’m cool with women, and that’s enough.’ It’s not enough. It’s embarrassing to say, because we somehow have attached shame to learning and evolving our opinions, culturally, but I became aware that there was a deficiency of and to women in my work, and all I could do at that moment was take care of my side of the street.
”—Writer Matt Fraction on his role on expanding the profile of female characters in the Marvel Universe. (via goodmanw)