Cheryl Strayed has a valid point that had to be raised even if it took the interviewer aback.
I’m an essayist who rarely takes the time to write. If that changes any time soon, and the publishing world eventually curtsies to my sudden and prolific writing genius, I’d rather not be labeled a “female essayist”. What say you?
Strayed opens with a shot across the bow:
Would we ever think to ask if this is a golden age for men essayists? Is it even credible to use the phrase “men essayists”? Why does it sound incorrect in a way that “women essayists” doesn’t? And why does a writer like me — female, feminist, familiar with the discreet and overt forms of sexism in the literary world and beyond — bristle when presented with such a query, one undoubtedly intended to celebrate rather than diminish the achievements of a category of people I admire and to which I belong?
And she’s got a point there. Is what’s celebrated about women writers also ghettoizing them? Are you a woman essayist or a man essayist, both, neither…
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