(or: Does women’s writing exist?)
During our domestic discussions on literature (which we have somewhere between our everyday conversations and agreements on supplies and repairs, and the emotional political comments), some time ago my husband told me that my poetry was too womanly. Honestly, I could not understand this syntagm, and for some inexplicable reasons I even felt it as an attack to my creative ego. When I asked him to explain what he meant by womanly poetry, he said: “It’s too personal, you expose yourself too much.” Thus, unconsciously, with only several words, the essential, basic core of the term women’s writing appeared in our intimate everyday life, as if popping our from a broken nut shell.
When the feminist movements left the streets and the institutions and moved into the area of philosophy and theory, they largely dealt with one, for them, key issue: are men and women in their nature equal (same) or different? The analysis of this question led to a division of the answers, and one stream of feminist thought (somehow approximating Marxism), claimed that the differences between the sexes are socially imposed. In the Bible of feminist thought, The Second Sex (1953), Simone de Beauvoir clearly said that we are not born as women, but we become ones. In this way, the term gender was established as opposed to the term sex, to clearly differentiate the meaning of biological conditionality versus social imposition. Following a similar line of thinking, one of the most influential philosophers of the twentieth century, Michel Foucault, also said that body and sexuality and cultural constructs rather than natural phenomena.
Unlike this line of thinking, some feminist theorists promoted the theory according to which men and women are inherently, naturally, by their birth different, and even essentially opposed. This theory had its broadly popular, vulgarized version in one of the most famous books of the contemporary instant psychology, Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus. However, at a deeper level, this line of thought did become the basis of the feminist literary theory which deals with the issue of the so-called women’s writing and its distinctiveness (as opposed to the so-called men’s writing).
Although the term women writing is very easily and quite often simplified and generalized to everything that is literature written by women, the French theorist Hélène Cixous says that “it is impossible to define a feminine practice of writing, and this is an impossibility that will remain, for this practice can never be theorized, enclosed, coded – which doesn’t mean that it [women’s writing] doesn’t exist.” The essence of women’s writing as opposed to the men’s (or phalocentric) writing is located by the theorists precisely in the segment that some feminists distance from – in the body, as a biological determinant of woman as opposed to man. Adrienne Rich said that: “female biology… has far more radical implications than we have yet come to appreciate.“ In this way, women’s writing has become the writing that finds its essence in the corporal, pre-conscious, emotional, explosive, surreal, even out-lingual (when the language is understood as a codified system of verbal communication among people). It differs form the men’s writing in the topics that the (man or woman) writer chooses, as well as in the way in which they are presented. “When the observer is a woman, the perspective may be of a different sort. Different judgments… imply different ideas about human development, different ways of imagining the human condition, different notions of what is of value in life,” says Carol Gilligan.
Starting from the acknowledgement of the existence of the women’s writing as separate and different from men’s, but also from the necessity of its existence, which comes from the need to separate the power and the ability of authorship once and for always from what has been called phalocentric creation, part of the feminist critique set as a task for themselves to find a new language, a new way of reading. In this way, the main character of Ursula Le Guin’s story She Unnames Them, which is an almost revolutionary step forward in this direction, deconstructs the linguistic world of man, opposing his (until then) unquestionable right to name, that is, to linguistically mark the world around him.
How (or more importantly: if) is women’s writing manifested in Macedonian prose? As a more illustrative example here I can look into Gordana Mihailova Bošnakoska’s short story A Name to Remember. At the beginning the story is located (at least seemingly) at the moment of a funeral, and the death of the closest kin (who, as one can conclude is a woman, a relative of the subject, that is, subjects) is surprisingly not manifested as a Thanatos only, but also as Eros. “We stood in front of the gouged earth where the casket with her body was to be placed… The hottest summer day was the end of her earthly life and she was to find her eternal repose on the body of the man who was her husband, while he was alive and while he kissed her lips, her hardworking hands, while he was buying her clothes, and she prepared season dishes in the kitchen and made baked apples, pears rolls, dry figs.” Says the subject in this story. Death is a separation from the living, those who are left behind, but at the same time a joining with the one who left long before her, the newly dead, with her husband, who expects her for rejoining in death.