Writing has power. The power to convey emotions and ideas, the power to reflect society or deflect its related restrictions, the power to inspire change through a medium of unbridled self expression. A vast majority of writers have succeeded in channelling the strength of words to move beyond a printed page. However, female writers encompass a unique form of artistry that uses writing to promote equality for women in the realm of literature and consequently in society as a whole.
Writing has long been renowned as a vehicle for change. Spanning political writings of Enlightenment philosophers to investigative journalism of modern warfare. Writing acts as a potential porthole to a suggested truth. However, a brief glance at literary history highlights the mass male dominance of written ideas. Female writers, simply by putting pen to paper, had already questioned the societal authority which limited their intellects to casually frivolous pursuits. The rise of the novel in the eighteenth century pinpointed this disregard for women’s intelligence. The novel was dismissed and classified as lowly reading fit only for women, who could not comprehend the enormity of impressively laden philosophical texts. Women writers of later centuries serve as an immediate comparison to the oppressed woman of the past and controversially the under represented female writer of today.
Virgina Woolf is a perfect figurehead for the eventual expansion of women’s writing and subsequently renown for such works. A major twentieth century novelist and fore runner of the modernist literary movement, Woolf’s literary career highlights the power of women’s writing in the face of high academic society. Woolf’s experimentation with the novel’s form and a stream-of-consciousness style paved the way for future literary development. Modernism, while inducing a shift in narrative form also nodded to a mirrored shift in societal perceptions of women writers. Virgina Woolf as a writer and a woman making vast strides in the literary world consequently allowed women to march deeper into academic society.
However, writing as a craft and form of female empowerment was not contained exclusively to academia. The limitation of writing to a privileged class of educated individuals is still a topic of relevance today. Writing’s power should not be contained, as society grows with alternating modes of expression, writing must expand to match its societal commitment. In the same way, writing as a medium is fluid and open to all interpretations, just as self-expression is accessible to different forms of art.
Patti Smith exemplifies this freedom of creativity while also serving as a vivid example of the radical female writer. Smith was a primary influencer and contributor to the tumultuous art scene of 1970s New York. Her chosen form of poetry in the harnessing of writing’s power exemplifies the diversity rife though the natural fusion of numerous art forms. Smith’s legendary combination of poetry with rock music personified women’s ability to front emerging creative ideals. As Smith fused poetry with music she subsequently opened the iron clad gates of categorized art forms. If literature mirrors society the self constructed idea of a woman unsuited for writing can be paralleled to the containment of expressive mediums from one another. Smith, then, symbolises the modern woman who is free to express herself in writing and other pursuits.
Writing is important for everyone. Today female writers enjoy the same respect and recognition as their male counterparts for the most part. However, women are often under-represented in academia and higher literary circles. Evaluating the importance of female writers is akin to evaluating the importance of women in society. Literature reflects our world, the more women writers who strive to excel in their own work and beyond represents the power of women in everyday life.
Words: Katie Curran
Tags: #literature #writing #women #feminism