When I decided to start a women’s anthology, Letters to My Ex, I received a lot of positive feedback about the idea. I also received some remarkable letters – all written in first-person and addressed to an ex-partner, containing snippets of stories that varied immensely: from death and disease, to infidelity, abortion, to just a polite nod goodbye after a gradual drifting apart.
Naturally, I received some negative feedback, too. One comment was: “I would write for this, but I cannot, because I am a man.” This was on Facebook, and as is always the way with these things, a woman chimed in and agreed the concept was a bit sexist. I suggested that he could start a similar anthology for men, to which he replied, “No, I wouldn’t want to come across as a whinger.”
OK… so which reason is it?
Perhaps confronting to some, this anthology isn’t about men. Sure, many (not all) of the women who have contributed are heterosexuals writing about a male ex-partner, but that’s not what it’s about. It’s about women having a voice, and putting the beauty of that voice – the pain, anger, hurt, love, betrayal, or gratitude – into words to connect with other women. It’s a creative response to a culture where many women are under the impression we need to make ourselves small and quiet.
Our “womanness” doesn’t make us carbon copies of each other. When we keep ourselves hidden to keep the peace, to keep people happy, to avoid conflict, to be likeable, we end up somewhat the same. It’s a shame, because that’s a hell of a lot of beauty, insight and individuality we don’t get to see. I know some people disagree. I once did, too.
These days, I’m not even interested in arguing about it, except to say that it would be lovely if I didn’t live in a world where I need to have a male moniker so that I can write letters to the editor in popular newspapers without being called a “stupid bitch”. My male persona receives only constructive criticism. But that’s just one example of many and I couldn’t be stuffed talking about it today.
Men are not inherently “bad”. Women are not inherently “good”. We are all remarkably different, yet we work so hard to fit our little boxes in order to be accepted whether we realise it or not. It’s not hormonal or neurological, it’s just social conditioning. We are all fucked up, each and every one of us, it just manifests itself in different ways due to the way society has shaped us. It’s the parameters by which we are shaped, yet because they are so “normal”, we often don’t even notice them.
My opinion is – let’s just raise our voices anyway. Let’s celebrate the sameness and the beautiful differences in who we are as women, and connect with one another in authenticity and vulnerability.
This anthology is a small but meaningful way for women to own and share their voices. It’s nothing to do with Facebook dude or his friend. We’re owning our voices simply because it’s fucking lovely to finally be seen.