My thoughts on today’s article…
I’m an avid Literary Hub reader. I receive their daily emails, and I often check the website to read pieces that call to me. Today, they published an article called, “Why Do We Love Watching Women Self-Destruct?” As a young woman, this title intrigued me, and I read the article immediately. There’s an interview with Sady Doyle, a well-known writer, in which she discusses the differences men and women face when it comes to societal pressures and how these pressures affect literature.
Doyle speaks of Mary Wollstonecraft, saying that “She provided a very convenient weapon for people who wanted to argue that changing gender roles would corrupt or destroy women.” Here, Doyle provides an example of a powerful female writer who advocated for women’s rights.
And yet, Doyle also mentions the battles women continue to face even today. She explains, “With a woman, there’s not so much room for error. You don’t have to be violent, you don’t have to be overtly bigoted. You don’t have to be a threat to those around you. You can simply have an alcohol problem, or you can be single for a long time, or you can have some mental health issues that result… more in self-destructive behavior than in destructive behavior.” She goes on to speak about Amy Winehouse’s eating disorder and the judgment (note: not concern) surrounding her condition even though it was composed of self-destructive behaviors, not behaviors that would be harmful to anyone else.
From Wollstonecraft to Winehouse, then, it seems not much has changed. Sure, women have the right to vote. There’s even a woman running for president. On the outside, one could argue that women have come a long way; and yet, look at all the work that is to be done. It’s interesting, then, to look at this through a literary lens.
So many novels, both past and present, are revolved around a crazy, mad—or whatever you want to call her—women. Think of Bertha Mason in Jane Eyre. Think of Amy Dunne in Gone Girl. Whether published in 1847 or in 2014, readers continue to have a fascination with women… and specifically women who have “lost it.”
Why is that the case? I’m not quite sure I have an answer to this complicated question as it requires a lot of deep thinking and reflection. After all, I only just read the Lit Hub article. That being said, I believe this is an important question—one that warrants major discussion. And to do my part, to participate in this conversation that needs to be had, I will continue to wrestle with this issue and be conscious of the books I pick up and the different ways women are portrayed in these books.
So now I ask you. What are your thoughts? And, perhaps more importantly, what will you do about this?