Jul 13 2011
Alice Gregory: Gender Troubles
To write fiction is to challenge the most basic of human facts: that we don't have access to other people's minds. Authors are more able than most to ignore the audacity of occupying other selves, though—it's in their job description. And what's a more obvious challenge than assuming the consciousness of the opposite gender?
That some of our most canonized heroines—Clarissa Harlowe, Isabel Archer, Emma Bovary, Anna Karenina—are products of male imaginations is not surprising. With nowhere to go besides the parlor and nothing to do but read accounts of people they would never meet, women were the intended audience of novels for centuries, and men their default providers. But things are different nowadays, and when a man writes a woman character, it's less for world-historical reasons than for creative ones.
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