by Rebecca Christiansen
I thought long and hard about the title for this piece. I went back and forth on whether or not I wanted to make such a sweeping, polarizing statement, but after mulling over the situation that prompted me to write this piece, I felt it would be dishonest not to state outright that feminist ideology makes you mean and selfish. While the title is hyperbolic and intentionally provocative, it’s hard to argue against after reading a few short lines of a recent interview with literary fiction author Lauren Groff.
Groff (author of Fates and Furies, a National Book Award nominee) was recently interviewed by Colleen Walsh for The Harvard Gazette about her latest book, Florida, a short story collection. The interview moseys along with little in the way of inspiring, ground-breaking information, until the Gazette asks a question commonly posed to women authors who are wives and mothers: “Can you talk about your process and how you manage work and family?” In response, Groff drops a bombshell that literally made my jaw drop when I read it:
This answer is simply appalling, for a litany of reasons. I could write a whole article explaining the differing roles of men and women in most families and how silly it is for men to be asked this question in the same way as women, but I won’t even go there. I think there’s something more important that needs to be said about Groff’s answer.
A lot of writers are women, especially fiction writers—women are, on average, higher in Openness, the Big 5 aspect related to creativity. The majority of my writer friends are women, and a lot of them are wives and mothers. The struggle to balance their writing careers and their creative passions with motherhood is a very real issue. My writer’s groups are full of writer moms commiserating and sharing tips and tricks for how to be productive writers while not committing criminal negligence against their kids or spouses. I don’t even have kids, and I find it hard enough to find time to write. I can’t imagine how desperate some of these writer moms must be. It’s hard to describe to non-writers, but writing is a calling. Not writing is anathema to a writer’s soul.
I’m sure Lauren Groff would have a lot to offer on this subject. Two kids, and five books written in ten years? That’s admirable. I, myself, want the answer to that age-old question: “how does she do it?” Of course, there are problems with that question. It oversimplifies. It assumes that “she” does, in fact, “do it,” and most women know in their hearts that they don’t get everything done 100% of the time. I think it’s ridiculous for anyone to require a mother to be Superwoman all the time, including herself. But why not view the question as a compliment? I know that I’m flattered when people ask “what’s your secret?” about my productivity, a cute hairstyle, or any accomplishment. It doesn’t mean that what I did wasn’t difficult—on the contrary, it’s a compliment about your excellence. You made a difficult thing look easy! To quote June Lapine (AKA shoe0nhead), “ISSA COMPLIMENT.”
Groff could help quell the anxieties of women under enormous pressure, but no: she opts to grandstand on an ideology. She dresses it up with a thick coat of virtue signalling, but it amounts to “I know I could offer words of encouragement that could help a lot of people, but fuck them.” When I read it, all I hear is “muh ideology.”