Emily Gould, of former Gawker fame and current proprietress of Emily Magazine, has written an article on More Intelligent Life entitled “What Are Women Fighting About?” Before I even get to the meat of it, allow me to remark that though the title may not be Gould’s own fault, woe betide the editor who ever decides to christen one of my pieces in this incredibly condescending way. But hell! On with the catfight, ladies!
Gould’s ostensible thesis is that women writers ought to be nicer to each other. She can’t bear, she says, “the female critic who despises any female writer who doesn’t project what she feels is the accurate or ideal vision of modern womanhood.” I’d tend to agree with her in principle. Because we’re so often fighting over the scraps that the powers that be have left behind, we can get a little vicious with each other about who deserves the scraps, which is really just a distraction from the fact that we ought to have our own chairs at the feasting table. (And an equal number of them, natch.)
Gould would be easier to sympathize with, however, on the point, had she not just spent a couple of paragraphs ripping on a recent novel (A Fortunate Age, by Joanna Smith Rakoff, which I have not read). Her statement about female critics seems meant as a retraction, but her critique does go into considerable detail about the novel’s “accumulation of petty accuracies to paper over a false big picture.” Ouch!
But then we get to what I suspect was Gould’s real point – Salon‘s lead feminist critic, Rebecca Traister, is the paradigmatic example of the criticism Gould can’t bear:
One of them, an online “feminist” columnist, once wrote a supposed defense of “women’s voices” that dismissed something I’d written because the photos that accompanied the essay were of me lying (rather unprovocatively, to my mind) in bed. She’d said that the question wasn’t why my voice was being heard–the implied answer being, presumably, my bed-lying ways–but why others weren’t, “in a media landscape in which there are a severely limited number of spaces for women’s writing voices.”
Aha! So let’s review Traister’s piece.