I hate it when I am reading an essay and the writer suddenly says she has a husband or fiancé or boyfriend for no real good reason other than she thinks she must. I will be reading some perfectly good essay about stargazing or foreclosures and suddenly know whether the author lives with her boyfriend. She will be working through her thoughts, then bring in his as one line of dialogue or some other form of aside, a throwaway line that does not complicate anything and could just as easily be cut.
Why must women always have to declare they’re female and they’re taken or single, a mother or not a mother? What is that all about? It is not expected that a male writer will say how committed he is to a significant other or if he’s fathered a child, and he really doesn’t have to declare that in the first sentence.
But females still have to reduce themselves to a stereotype. What Golden Girl/Sex in the City/Designing Women/L-Word/Girls/name-a-show-with-a-female-cast character are you? The naïve one? The super-sexed-up one? The too-macho and outspoken one? The sensible one?
What if I am Southern and only occasionally feisty? Or terribly naïve but not at all innocent? What if that isn’t the point and I am not, by nature, a confessionalist?
One of the last essay critiques I got said, “Tell me your sex up front.” I had not thought my sex or gender was important to the question at hand, which is why I had not devoted any space to my anatomy or whether I am sporty or free-spirited, or if I am co-conspirator in some playful, moonly love.
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