Jenny's Library

Reading Russ – Part 4

Posted on: April 23, 2013

Chapter 3: Denial of Agency

It’s perhaps too early to say for certain, as I have eight chapters left, but I do think the best quote of the book is:

“Goddamn it. HEINLEIN COULDN’T HAVE DONE IT AT ALL.”

I want that embroidered on a pillow or something.As a someone who earned a degree in physics at an all women’s college, I am quite aware of the tradition of men getting credit for work that women have done.  (Women’s studies was an extra part of just about every class I took, including physics lectures.)  Instead, what I found most fascinating about this chapter was the phenomena that Russ describes as “it wrote itself” and “the man inside her wrote it.”  This is idea that, suddenly, when it comes to women’s creative work, art is the spontaneous product of time and culture, and individual effort has little to do with it.  Even worse is the idea that a woman’s “masculine side” is responsible for her intellectual achievements.

It’s an attitude that assumes there is nothing men can’t do, that there is little that women can do, and consequently sets men’s work up as the bar that women must strive for.Thus the reason for the quote above, which was written by a friend of Russ’s upon receiving a note from a fan telling her that Heinlein couldn’t have done a better job writing the story she published.

Bullshit. “HEINLEIN COULDN’T HAVE DONE IT AT ALL.”  Men’s work alone is not the pinnacle of human achievement.  Women do not need to be like men or as good as men to be create great art.  Talented men cannot do everything any and all talented women can do.  To argue otherwise is to deny that women have value and agency.

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