The Golden Age

October 10, 2014 § 2 Comments

In Tuesday’s New York Times, the Bookends column asks Cheryl Strayed and Benjamin Moser, “Is This A Golden Age For Women Essayists?”

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, or something in between? Does your gender identity identify your work?

Check out the column here.


Allison K Williams is Brevity’s Social Media Editor and the author of Seven Drafts: Self-Edit Like a Pro from Blank Page to Book. Want writing news, events, and upcoming webinars? Join the A-List!

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§ 2 Responses to The Golden Age

  • Reblogged this on generationkathy and commented:
    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?

  • Sammy D. says:

    Excellent post! Thank you.

    I agree with Strayed – this truly IS the golden age for personal narratives, commentaries and non-fiction pieces, thanks to a tremendously supportive blogging and social media community.

    Discerning readers select essayists because of their topics and the quality of their writing, not because they are male or female.

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