The Politics of Being a Woman Writer

In Power Politics Arundhati Roy expresses her aversion to being labeled a “writer-activist”: “why should it be that the person who wrote The God of Small Things is called a writer, and the person who wrote the political essays is called an activist?” (10). This is not the only label used to define and limit the power of an author’s writing. Women who write have often times been labeled as women writers instead of being regarded as part of the collective writing society. The question is, does being a woman impact the way the author writes? What is the importance and difference in what women write in comparison to men? Roy’s power as a writer is limited by defining her in a such a specific role. Only those who are interested in political activism will be interested in reading her work (this is a general statement on the purpose of creating the label). In this same way, only women will want to read women’s writing and what they have to say is no longer as important or impacting as those writers who are recognized as part of the writing society as a whole. By creating this division in the writing world does it change the way a women author’s writing is accepted and perceived? Is a woman’s political opinion taken as seriously as a man’s?

Virginia Woolf addresses the idea of what it should mean to be a writer, especially a woman writer writing about being oppressed by the male dominated society, in her essay “A Room of One’s Own”. Woolf makes a statement about what writing should do or really not do: “The mind of the artist, in order to achieve the prodigious effort of freeing whole and entire work that is in him, must be incandescent…there must be no obstacle in it, no foreign matter consumed” and continues referring to William Shakespeare and his success as a writer, “All desire to protest, to preach, to proclaim and injury, to pay off a score to, to make the world the witness of some hardship or grievance was fired out of him and consumed. Therefore his poetry flows

free and unimpeded” (DeShazer 43).

This entire idea of the artist or writer keeping agendas and anger out of their writing or filtering out specific complaints about injustices they have perceived reminded me of Kushner’s essay Some Questions About Tolerance. Kushner states: “political agendas can’t successfully be imposed on the act of making art, creation, for all that those agendas will invariably surface from within once the art is made” (44). Perhaps Kushner and Woolf are correct in saying those ideas take away from the art or writing, but perhaps there is something special and influential in making blatant statements about political and social issues. Political opinion should not detract from the sta

tion of the writer; it is simply a characteristic of their writing. A characteristic which has impacted many a reader and should be valued as much as the writing that is perhaps not as obvious or directed.

DeShazer, Mary K. “A Room of One’s Own.” The Longman Anthology of Women’s Literature. New York: Longman, 2001. 16-72. Print.Kushner, Tony. “Some Questions About Tolerance.” Thinking about the

Longstanding Problems of Virtue and Happiness: Essays, a Play, Two Poems, and a Prayer. New York: Theatre Communications Group, 1995. 41-47. Print.

Moss, Tara. Women Writer’s Book. Digital image. The Book Post. Tara Moss, 16 Oct. 2010. Web. 30 Jan. 2012. <;.

Roy, Arundhati. Power Politics. Boston: South End, 2002. Print.


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