This graphic novel style telling of two birth stories is gorgeous and compelling at The Nib by Leela Corman.
Strongly recommend (unless you’re pregnant at the moment and don’t need to read any birth drama).
JF: I find it interesting you say wild behavior or irrational behavior, but you don’t say things like evil. Do you believe in evil?
HG: Yes, but I think think people have recourse to the word evil much too quickly when they’re talking about terrible behavior. I’ve given this a lot of thought, because when I wrote that book This House of Grief about the man who killed his three children, I was surprised to find how many people would ask me what I was working on. I would say I’m writing about Robert Farquharson, and they would look shocked and disapproving and say, Why? Why are you writing about him? I’d say, Well, there are obvious reasons why you’d want to write about a murderer, and people would get angry with me. They’d say, What sort of bloke was he? How does he strike you? I would start to describe his life and his formation as a person, and at a certain point the person’s face would harden and say, You’re making excuses, with this accusing gesture. I got used to that. It happened to me very often; it was a very frequent thing.
I realized that people protect themselves against thinking about stories like that by saying,This man is evil, therefore I don’t want to think about him, and nothing that he’s done is connected in me in any way. There is no darkness in me that could possibly connect with the darkness in him. People would say to me, Was he mentally ill, or was he just pure evil? There were these simple concepts you could slot into place to make it possible to contemplate such a person. And so I got less and less interested in the term evil as a way of talking about human behavior. Because it’s really a way of blotting it out. Stopping yourself from having to think about it.
From “Helen Garner on Court, Burning Diaries and Violence of Love”, in an interview with John Freeman in LitHub.
A while ago an American writer friend, Jeremy Adam Smith and I were talking about the shaming of sexting and how misrepresented the practice was in the media. He told me I should write an article about my mothers’ group sexting.. and eventually I did. (It was this article). He also decided to finally tackle the topic himself and wrote two articles on it, one, with his partner.
This is a really compelling discussion of aging as a feminist issue. For years a very good friend of mine has been talking about life cycle feminism – the various stages you almost inevitably pass through as a woman and how they shape your feminism – and I think this article is really establishing that idea very well.
“Aging while female is not your worst nightmare” by Lori Day (who I once co-wrote an article with, the only time I’ve ever seen a joint article plan with me actually come to fruition) in Feminist Current.
For me, aging as a woman in America is less about injustices done to me than it is about a subtle undermining of my place within this society and a not-so-subtle disrespect that pops up more with each passing year. For example, if I condemn pornography as systemically damaging to women, it is my age that provokes my labeling as a prude and a pearl-clutcher. It cannot be that I base my opinion on studies and statistics and the understanding that feminism is a movement—one that supports the liberation of all women, not to be confused with individual women who choose to reduce their identities to the sexual uses and abuses of their bodies, calling that empowerment. My age sets me up for a kind of disdain only partially experienced by younger women with the same views. The wisdom that comes with age has little value to anyone but those possessing it, because wisdom is another word for old, and old is what no one wants to be.
I don’t know what the answer is, but I can tell you what it isn’t, at least for me. It isn’t to try to look or act younger. It isn’t to write blog posts about how hot/thin/beautiful/sexy middle-aged women are. They are, but wasting my written voice on championing shallow efforts at continued conformity to what is expected of women in a patriarchal society does not feel productive. It is an insidious capitulation. It entices women my age to trade away opportunities to weigh in on important matters for a chance to be among the “seen” again. I won’t play a game I despise, and that I did not create and cannot win.
To be an aging woman in America is to be constantly bombarded by imagery and media that distance your younger feminist sisters from you, because the idea of no longer resembling those youthful images of femininity and becoming invisible terrifies them. I look like a typical 51-year-old, and it is just bizarre realizing that my appearance is something many young women dread.
As with any personal essay or memoir written by Rachel Cusk, this is wonderfully thought-provoking and insightful. “Making House: Notes on domesticity” in The New York Times.
We moved house often, and each time it appeared that it was the perfecting of our environment that was causing us to leave it, as though living there had been a process of construction that was now complete. In much the same way as an artist’s deepest moments of intimacy with a canvas half-consciously generate the need or desire to rid himself of it, my mother perhaps felt a gathering frenzy as she bequeathed her domestic vision to us, for the sight of us starting to make ourselves comfortable there was surely the proof that the picture was finished. The summons of the unknown generally overrides sentiment; possibly, it feeds off it. To continue creating, a person perhaps has to maintain an essential discomfort in the world. The kitchen, where my mother spent most of her time, was often the smallest and dowdiest room in the houses we lived in; and I, too, have found myself working over the years in cramped bedrooms or at the kitchen table, even when a degree of prosperity would have permitted me to claim the much-vaunted room of my own.
In Italy once, I was given a private tour of a beautiful castle, led by the owner through room after impeccably furnished room, only to glimpse at the end through a half-open door a tiny, cavelike space crammed with all the evidence — a gas stove, a television, a tatty sofa — of daily life: This was clearly where the family spent their time. I have often looked at photographs of writers in their elegant book-lined studies and marveled at what seems to me a mirage of sorts, the near-perfect alignment of seeming with being, the convincing illusion of mental processes on public display, as though writing a book were not the work of someone capable of all the shame and deviousness and coldheartedness in the world.
Hear my voice, trying to speak slower.
UPDATE: Here it is – me on Radio National defending sexting.
I swear I’m gonna tattoo a list
of literary giants who were/are single mothers
on my forearm so every time I hit a doubter
I can just pull up my sleeve
and not waste any more time
I could be writing
by trying to explain that I do
think I can do this
and I will
no matter how bleary
no matter how hungry
no matter how many swank
socials or national conferences
I can’t afford to attend
because Toni Morrison
because Adrienne Rich
because Audre Lorde
because before Plath hit the oven
she sent her mother a letter pleading,
pleading for childcare
because I could keep this list going
because what the fuck kind of world
is this if we really think
we have to ruin our mothers
before we let them give anything more
than the whole human race
to the world.