A Moment of Jen
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Sunday, February 01, 2009
posted by Jen at 2/01/2009 09:14:00 PM

Sunday on the Phone with Fran

"Did you see the paper?”

“Yes, Jenny, and I am not moving to a double-wide on a street named after a goddess in a lesbian separatist community in Alabama.”

“Not even if it would be really good for my fiction?”

So! Lots of people talking about those dirty white boys. I believe Galleycat linked to my post about the rash of full-disclosure male memoirists. Under “feuds!” Which is weird, because I don’t write memoirs, and I’m not sure who I’m supposed to be feuding with. Lord knows I’m not messing with David Carr. He knows people.

But I have been thinking about what’s considered a shameful revelation from a woman versus what’s considered shameful from a dude: why, for instance, Katha Pollitt's admission of cyberstalking gets her spanked by the Times, whereas David Lozell Martin's talking about actually stalking a woman gets him a glowing review in the same paper.

I also found Elizabeth Hayt’s website, and an article she wrote for the Times in 2002 about the then-emerging genre of books about maternal ambivalence, which included this quote from Peggy Orenstein (who, of course, would go on to write a memoir about motherhood herself):

"It was almost furtive for (writers) to admit motherhood is not fulfilling,” Ms. Orenstein said. ”It actually makes me feel deviant and anti-mother to say that. But I’m not. It’s like being anti-American. Motherhood silences women. The kryptonite words for women are fat, slut, bad mother and selfish. The words make us lose our powers just like Superman loses his in the face of kryptonite.”

My first thought: okay, but if you get called all four of those things in the same article, do they cancel each other out?

Then I wondered: has anything changed since 2002? Can an ’09 lady write a funny memoir about a series of one-night stands that ended badly without losing your powers? Because it seemed to have worked out okay for Chelsea Handler, no? Is “funny” the key? Do women memoirists have to be self-deprecating, cutesy and charming (or just plain cute) to avoid getting killed by the critics?

Also, on perhaps a more serious note, where is my Rock of Love?!?!
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