As the new saints are already more crowded than that of Christianity, each date is the “International Day” of various things, some as strange as bananas or jugs. Thus, I was not surprised, a couple of months ago, to learn that it was the “writers”, one more positive discrimination, I suppose. I found out from the TVE newscast, increasingly clone of La Sexta, both in poor quality and in bullshit and sensationalism. What did surprise me was the plaintive tone of the celebration. Instead of celebrating the excellent writers of the past and even of the present, this regret dominated the news: according to I do not know what studies or surveys, only 20% of men read women, while my sex colleagues read them women and men alike. Next, three of them, Spanish, were asked about the causes of this disproportion, and, to a greater or lesser extent, all attributed it to the prevailing machismo, the heteropatriarchy that does not surrender and the toxic masculinity that permeates everything with its disgusting omnipotence. One of them was saddened because, despite having published a novel “about money, a neutral subject and of interest to all”, it had been considered a “female work” for the mere fact that it was signed by a woman and that its main characters were two friends. Ah, maybe the fact was not so “mere”, so …
Given that for decades many of the best-selling authors have been women (from the remote Corín Tellado to the current María Dueñas, Julia Navarro, Dolores Redondo, Eva Sáenz de Urturi, Elisabet Benavent, Irene Vallejo and others, including Martín Gaite , Hooch and Grandes), one might wonder why, from time to time, some womanish novels do not succeed enough. It’s depressing to have to remember a dialogue from the wonderful movie at this point Rich and famous, by Cukor, one of the most moving and acute portraits of female friendship. The protagonists, played by Jacqueline Bisset and Candice Bergen, are writers, and their long relationship is as founded on mutual affection as on the literary rivalry they maintain. Bergen is angry because a novel of his, celebrated by critics and public, wins equally an important award, and he reproaches Bisset: “When you won it years ago, you won it in its entirety, for yourself.” To which she replies: “So it was, my dear. But I remind you that you and I have not written the same book. ” Thus, writers must be reminded that, even if they are all women, they never write the same book. As with men’s, some are lucky and some are not, some are flawed and others impeccable, some are boring and others funny, some have bad solemn prose and others good, some indulge mass tastes and others not, some are idiots and unbearable and other exciting and profound.
But I do not rule out that a possible explanation for the fact that only 20% of men approach women’s literature is this: the media (especially some) have been in the media for many years, perhaps in a laudable attempt to remove the female sex. From their secular secondary role, they have insisted that almost every text because of them is little less than a masterpiece. It is not only the critics, but also the cultural journalists, who in their reports and interviews slip untold praise, when that, in principle, does not touch them. And, as it is as impossible for everything written by women to be top-notch as it is for everything written by men to be so, readers, after trying one supposed prodigy after another, deceived by advertising and by the very frequent dithyrambs received by the texts women, are saturated, chastened and have developed a mistrust — not a prejudice — toward the umpteenth elevation to the altars. Which would really be a shame. This distrust did not exist towards the novels, short stories and epistles of Emily Brontë and her sister Charlotte, Jane Austen, George Eliot, Emilia Pardo Bazán, Mrs Gaskell, Isak Dinesen, Madame de Sévigné, Madame de La Fayette, Flannery O’Connor, Edith Wharton or Janet Lewis; nor towards the essays of Rebecca West, Hannah Arendt, Vernon Lee, Rachel Carson or Barbara Tuchman, because in their different times there was no maternalistic, sexist and continuous exaltation of how much women gave birth. (I know that some of these names were initially hidden under male pseudonyms, but their identities have been known for centuries and have not lost their validity or declined for that reason.) current exaggerations that stain the noble name of feminism, perhaps much of what women write of value today is going unnoticed; the blame would be on the willful and indiscriminate praise. I don’t even want to think that we are missing the contemporary Rosa Chacel and María Zambrano, the national Josephine Tey, Colette and Virginia Woolf, because of the boredom that Irene Montero and her innumerable media minions (so harmful to women) have created in the male readers and soon – I am afraid – female readers. And who will then read the writers, except those obsessed with their sex?
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.