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How to Suppress Women's Writing

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By the author of The Female Man, a provocative survey of the forces that work against women who dare to write.

"She didn't write it. She wrote it but she shouldn't have. She wrote it but look what she wrote about. She wrote it but she isn't really an artist, and it isn't really art. She wrote it but she had help. She wrote it but she's an anomaly. She wrote it BUT..."

How to Suppress Women's Writing is a meticulously researched and humorously written "guidebook" to the many ways women and other "minorities" have been barred from producing written art. In chapters entitled "Prohibitions," "Bad Faith," "Denial of Agency," Pollution of Agency," "The Double Standard of Content," "False Categorization," "Isolation," "Anomalousness," "Lack of Models," Responses," and "Aesthetics" Joanna Russ names, defines, and illustrates those barriers to art-making we may have felt but which tend to remain unnamed and thus insolvable.

160 pages, Paperback

First published September 1, 1983

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About the author

Joanna Russ

176 books399 followers
Joanna Russ (February 22, 1937 – April 29, 2011) was an American writer, academic and feminist. She is the author of a number of works of science fiction, fantasy and feminist literary criticism such as How to Suppress Women's Writing, as well as a contemporary novel, On Strike Against God, and one children's book, Kittatinny. She is best known for The Female Man, a novel combining utopian fiction and satire.

(from Wikipedia)

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 396 reviews
Profile Image for Lois Bujold.
Author 184 books37.7k followers
March 25, 2016

This classic book was written 40 years ago; it hasn't aged much. Still pertinent. And wonderfully jargon-free and lucid, like western mountain light.

I'd been meaning to read this book for years, but was too busy writing to get around to it. Happily, I lived in such cultural isolation that I didn't get the memo about what women shouldn't write myself, but I've certainly seen it handed out since then, variously, lately in assorted fascinating erasures. The book seems to have started (but not finished) with concerns about women writers being shut out of the academic literary canon, and asks less Why? than the less obvious and, as it turns out, more revealing question, How? The lit canon has doubtless moved on since then. Maybe? Although if they're still presenting The Catcher in the Rye as literature pertinent to high schoolers, maybe not -- that 1951 novel, set in the late 40s about the time I was being born, was utterly alien to me even back in the mid-60s.

There is, of course, a whole world of books written by and for women with little to no quarter given to what male critics want -- romance, which Russ manages to not mention here. I think this is in part prudence, but certainly in part the fact that the Romance genre has exploded since 1975, with much of its modern development taking place after this extended essay was written. (And a second and even more interesting creative explosion since the internet and e-books routed around all the regular publishing gatekeepers.) Fanfic, likewise a largely female preserve enabled by the internet, is likewise an arena where the wildest literary experiments are currently proliferating.

There does not seem to be an e-edition of the Russ currently available -- someone at U. of Texas Press should fix that forthwith -- but a paper edition can still be had, here: http://utpress.utexas.edu/index.php/b...

I do recall reading one or two of Russ's early SF novels back in the 70s, but I'm not sure I "got" them at the time. Might be time for a rematch. As an interesting historical note, I have been told that Russ's first purchasing SF editor was Jim Baen, so we have that in common.

Ta, L.
Profile Image for Ginger K.
237 reviews15 followers
July 3, 2011
After years of running across references to How to Suppress Women's Writing, I have finally read it. (The timing on my acquiring and reading the book and my involvement in certain online arguments that I've stumbled upon lately about how sexism really still exists, no, really is probably not coincidental.)

ANYWAY. About the book. First off, it's a lit crit book with everything that that implies. For those of us without the heavy-duty lit background, this means the reading will be slow. Interesting, yes. Easy, no. The references/allusions/name-checks come fast and furious, but if, like me, you've never read, say Margaret Cavendish? The frequent citations of her work that assume a certain level of familiarity will be frustrating.

Keep going. It's worth it.

It's worth figuring out what gets left out or deemed unworthy and how -- and asking why. Because

A mode of understanding life which willfully ignores so much can do so only at the peril of thoroughly distorting the rest. A mode of understanding literature which can ignore the private lives of half the human race is not "incomplete"; it is distorted through and through. Feminist criticism of the early 1970s began by pointing out the simplist of these distortions, that is, that the female characters of even our greatest realistic "classics" by male writers are often not individualized portraits of possible women, but creations of fear and desire.

Each chapter picks apart a tool/belief that keeps women's writing invisible and excluded from the Canon. Misattribution. Impropriety of subject matter. Unimportance of subject matter. False categorization (or judging pieces against the standards of a genre they don't belong to). Exceptionalism. Isolation from (feminine) influences. Denial of agency. And while the title clearly sets these obstacles up as something deliberate... the text itself does a fantastic job of showing how these beliefs permeate culture, how the ideas embed themselves in the minds of essentially well-intentioned critics/authors/readers, men and women alike.

She periodically points out how these same tools of suppression are used to deny a literary history to other marginalized groups -- she may have set out to expose the tools of sexism, but they are also the tools of racism and colonialism and heterosexism and classism and...

In fact, in the afterward of my edition, Russ acknowledged that she'd fallen into the same traps set along racial lines and added an "idiosyncratic" collection of quotes from literary works by members of minority groups that had been similarly ignored and excluded by the gatekeepers of Literature, including herself-as-critic.
Profile Image for Aubrey.
1,306 reviews752 followers
April 27, 2016
To act in a way that is both sexist and racist, to maintain one's class privilege, it is only necessary to act in the customary, ordinary, usual, even polite manner.
I haven't allowed Goodreads users to follow me for a while now. After years of letting the silent hundreds accumulate behind me out of some misguided belief that likes for my reviews was what I was all about, I figured out that generating free content for an unresponsive audience drains like nothing else. Even now, when I am far less interested in getting others to read what I read and far more in making them squirm, all I get through the friend requests is an interest in my reviews (without having engaged with any of them), a comment on my group's potential for advertising (without joining the group), some bullshit confabulation that attests more than anything to the common feeling of entitlement to content on the Internet that comes without a paywall. I've got it all laid out in my 'About Me', people. If it's apolitical Entertainment that you're looking for where I trundle along on my side of the bond and you don't do shit on the other: bye.
Motives for the dismissal differ: habit, laziness, reliance on history or criticism that is already corrupt, ignorance (the most excusable of all, surely), the desire not to disturb the comfort based on that ignorance (much less excusable), the dim (or not-so-dim) perception that one's self-esteem or sex-based interests are at stake, the desire to stay within an all-male, all-white club that is, whatever its drawbacks, familiar and comfortable, sometimes the clear perception that letting outsiders into the club, economically or otherwise, will disturb the structure of quid pro quo that keeps the club going.
Either you know what I'm talking about with this review or you don't. Either you're going to make an effort to figure out what I'm talking about with this review or you won't. It's really quite simple. This book isn't a good place to start, and it most certainly is not the best place to find resolution, but in terms of midway points after you've read the Delany and the Villette and the Rich and the pre-1600 women's writing and the pre-1200 non-European women's writing and the Baldwin and the Hurston and have hardcore committed to expanding your handhold in the likes of this cause you will forever know that you know nothing, it's decent. Bits and pieces that the sort of mewlers and pukers that boycott the latest Star Wars movie for black people and send death threats to those building monuments in memory of women slaughtered for being feminists fear above all else are here, thirty-three years previous. The canon's a lie, but it's a hell of a lot easier to deal with those who demand you be their mother in every argument if you've got a nice sized tome with hundreds of citations and no shits given to stuff in various orifices.
[I]t becomes clear that a woman must be extraordinary to outlive her generation—and a man need not.
Two major issues I have with this is the juxtaposition of the minutae of Middle Class White English with everyone else who's not a White Male and, as expected, flagrant use of the sanity card. For the first, if you're going to characterize your -centrism, do it before the second to last section of your rhetorical breakdown and the first time you pull in a person of color to support your theory without supporting them. The end section with your self-satisfied description of how much reading you did as a poor widdle white girl about the struggle of Women of Color is real cute, but in contrast to the professional sections of a new type of criticism it comes off as a hack job. Second, the sanity card jesus fuck. You feel the need to imply that all people who reinforce the white supremacist patriarchy belong in straitjackets? Fine. Stop fucking around with Plath. You need to use schizophrenia as your own personal metaphor of power? Fine. Look up some details about how the condition literally eats at your brain so you can really get a feel for the people you're boxing in as a trope for your own ignorant purposes. You want to appeal to fellow feminists by throwing mentally disabled people like me under the bus? Fine. All your followers are eugenicists, cause mental disabilities include the concept of "idiocy" as well as "crazy". Now: how far do you think your social justice is going to get?
The idea that any art is achieved "intuitively" is a dehumanization of the brains, effort, and the traditions of the artist, and a classification of said artist as subhuman.
Good quote, piss poor execution. Nice cross referencing of all those British and American and Canadian types (Russ would be pleased to know about Munro's winning of the Nobel for Lit), bad attempt at being "inclusive". Excellent commentary on the academic side of things that'll come in handy when I set forth on my own in those calcified halls of criticism, bordering on grotesque clumping of everything wrong with the world in the box of "delusional" and "stupid". I recommend this to people who have already formed a stronghold of anti-imperialist/anti-tokenism/anti-ableist fronts that won't be swept away by all the quotes and name drops. Using this as a beginning isn't worth how much will have to be unpacked later on.
Profile Image for metempsicoso.
251 reviews191 followers
February 5, 2022
C'è un disagio fastidioso - sopportabile ma presente, una spina sotto la pianta del piede - nel vivere [e leggere] nel [e dal] margine ed iscriversi ad un corso di lettere in un'università italiana. Ci riflettevo leggendo questo volume. I miei corsi di letteratura - gli unici messi a disposizione di chi studiava - sono stati:
- Letteratura Italiana I: monografia sui cantari cavallereschi - tutti ad opera di uomini o anonimi (e quindi attributi a uomini).
- Letteratura Italiana II: monografia sui manifesti dei romantici (e il maschile non è casuale) con focus su Goethe e Foscolo. Madame de Staël fu l'unica donna citata, non tanto per ciò che scrisse ma per le possibilità che diede a diversi uomini di farlo.
- Letteratura Italiana moderna: corso monografico sull'ispirazione letteraria come scintilla celeste, ovvero quando alla base della scrittura c'è un "dichiarato" incentivo divino. Da un'ottica fortemente cattolica (con focus su Turoldo), con tanto di riscrittura della mitologia e di autori palesemente atei in chiave cristiana, non mi ricordo accenni a scrittrici [ma potrebbe esserci un mio difetto di memoria]. Ricordo Pascoli, Leopardi, Jung, Rebora, Loi. L'insegnante era una donna. A posteriori, nonostante tutte le convinzioni della docente non siano in linea con le mie, mi chiedo come possa aver tralasciato Santa Caterina da Siena.
- Letteratura Italiana contemporanea: monografia sugli intellettuali della Grande Guerra. Partiva da una prospettiva europea per poi stringere sull'Italia. Il tema era venduto come prettamente maschile. Ho scoperto con anni di ritardo che anche Woolf ne scrisse - in toni ovviamente molto critici, ma evidentemente non abbastanza intellettuali per il mio insegnante - e chissà quante altre pensatrici sono state circumnavigate.

Nel mio percorso di studi (interrotto) non ci sono stati che forse un paio di accenni alle scrittrici e mai un approfondimento. Ovviamente, nessun autore veniva presentato come non-eterosessuale (del resto, la storia della letteratura italiana non è mai stata queer e fatica ancora oggi ad esserlo, si sa). Ovviamente, le divagazioni dalla premessa "italiana" erano consentite, ma con briglie ben trattenute dagli insegnanti su percorsi decisamente canonici - quando non clericali.
Ecco, la letteratura io l'ho scoperta dopo aver mollato l'università. Fuori dal canone, fuori dai precetti dittatoriali tramandati da anni di oligarchia patriarcale nelle accademie italiane.
Oggi sogno una rivoluzione culturale.
Sogno che personaggi come Harold Bloom siano fatti capitolare dal podio dei "primi", sogno che il canone letterario venga preso e usato come carta da culo e rapidamente scaricato nelle fogne. Sogno che la nozione di "classico" sia presa e smantellata e destituita.
A cosa serve, il canone? È una domanda seria.
Chi ne beneficia, che vantaggi dà al lettore, quanto è indispensabile?

Questo libro, lucidissimo, è entrato con forza nei miei libri imprescindibili: quelli che ogni lettore dovrebbe leggere, possedere in casa, sottolineare e smerciare a chiunque. Non è perfetto - a tratti confusionario e troppo citazionistico -, ma è ammirabile che sia stato scritto quasi 40 anni fa in modo così consapevole. Do il massimo del punteggio perché per me è stato illuminante e l'ho divorato con un appetito febbricitante.
Sì, mi ha procurato due giorni di rabbia, ma anche un certo "fuoco" (alla Baldwin). Ci sono generazioni intere di scrittrici da andare a riscoprire, in un'azione di archeologia letteraria.
È tempo che si inizi un progetto capillare di "filologia d'autore" (e intendo questa parola non al singolare maschile - con la ricostruzione della storia dei componimenti di uno scrittore per distinguerne le variazioni nel tempo -, ma al femminile plurale di autora, con una riappropriazione culturale di questo composto finalizzata a smantellare secoli di patriarcato nei circoli lettarari). Riscoprire, ripubblicare, tradurre e diffondere.
Nel mio angolo, so di essere per mia natura poco propenso a leggere i "classici", proprio per il peso culturale e sociale di questa identificazione, ma ho preso appunti per andare a scoprire alcune autrici che ho rimandato per troppo tempo.
Leggete "Vietato scrivere"!
Profile Image for Coral Carracedo.
Author 9 books168 followers
November 13, 2018
No es un ensayo que me haya abierto los ojos a por qué leer mujeres, (ya sé todo lo que me pueden ofrecer), pero a pesar de todo lo he disfrutado muchísimo porque he conocido muchas historias, datos y citas desconocidas.
Durante la lectura solo podía pensar en que podría titularse también «Señores siendo la peste, ahora con fuentes para callarles la boca cuando las pidan».
Es un ensayo muy inteligente, lleno de preguntas que se hace la propia Russ y que se contesta investigando. Creo que todas somos conscientes de estas técnicas, pero verlas por escrito, explicadas y analizadas es otra cosa. Duele. Da rabia. Sobre todo porque prácticamente todas se siguen empleando.
El ensayo se divide en secciones según la técnica.

1. Prohibiciones habla no tanto de la prohibición directa sino de la indirecta. A grandes rasgos: si estás lavando calzoncillos y cambiando pañales, no puedes escribir. Y, en 2018, todavía se espera de todas ser madres. Me hubiese gustado que la autora se explayase más en esta parte, pero ya bastante mal trago pasé con las citas de mujeres explicando como dejaban de escribir y de señores diciéndoles que lo dejasen y se dedicasen a lo que de verdad debían.
>No lo escribió ella

2. Mala fe es una pequeña explicación que se encadena con las siguientes. Habla de aquellos que ignoran casi deliberadamente que algo anda mal. Porque prefieren ver casualidades y hablar de que el resto ven conspiraciones en lugar de un acto de mala fe.
>¿Importa que lo escribiese ella? (Actualmente, ¿por qué hay que fijarse en el género del autor? ¿Qué más dará? pregunta mientras su estantería solo contiene hombres blancos)

3. Negación de la autoría. Cuando se niega que lo hicese. Tal cual. O sea, lo hizo... pero en realidad el mérito es de su marido, profesor, amante e incluso, ¡¡SU PARTE MASCULINA!! pero ella NO. O no lo hizo porque su escritura es muy masculina. Las mujeres no escriben así
¿Fue en el Celsius 2017 cuando se oyó lo de que Frankenstein no fue obra de Mary Shelley sino de el resto de señores que le dieron la inspiración?
>No lo escribió ella sino...

4. Contaminación de la autoría. Cuando la táctica es decir que no debería haberlo escrito. Cuando las mujeres escriben algo, pero no se ajusta a lo que deberían haber escrito. Se las insulta. Locas, feministas, groseras, prostitutas... cualquier cosa con tal de mancillar el nombre y la obra.
>Lo escribió... pero no debería.

5. El doble rasero del contenido. La razón por la que muchos señores, también en pleno 2018 no leen a mujeres. Porque escriben sobre habitaciones. Cocinas. Dormitorios. O porque son panfletos feministas. Venganzas de las mujeres sobre los hombres. Cualquier excusa vale. El caso es que solo es válido lo que les gusta a ellos. Eso es lo bueno.
>Lo hizo ella... pero fíjate sobre qué cosas escribió.

6. Falsa categorización. Siguiendo el hilo de la mala fe y de la negación, esta técnica consiste en meter en un saco erróneo o que se considera malo a las escritoras para así poder decir: mira, aquí tienes a todas las escritoras y son malas. Como ejemplos, Russ habla de las mujeres que se han etiquetado como no novelistas o no poetas o escritoras de verdad porque, por ejemplo, sus cartas y diarios privados "no cuentan".
Lo escribió ella, pero no es una artista.

7. Aislamiento. Cuando solo se habla de una de las obras de una autora una y otra vez, como si solo hubiese un cupo determinado de autoras y además de obras. Y generalmente, son las peores obras de las autoras las que llegan a ese canon o a esa excelencia. Con mala fe. Porque los críticos se han dejado fuera textos más feministas, con más rabia, agresivos...
Lo escribió ella, pero solo escribió uno.

8. Anomalía. El conocidísimo síndrome de la Pitfuina. ¡Hay una autora buena pero solo una! En esta sección del ensayo, Russ hace un trabajo de investigación de antologías, recopilaciones y planes de estudio y siempre llega a unos mismos números. Las autoras están presentes entre un 5 y 7%.
Puede que esa persona que dice que no se fija en el género del autor te pueda nombrar a 3 autoras, pero fijo que más de 10 nombres no.
Lo escribió ella, pero es una fuera de serie. Es raro. Son pocas.

9. Falta de modelos a seguir. Russ nos habla de que había escritoras que se relacionaban con otras. Que se leían y se influenciaban. Pero eso queda escondido y se les atribuyen mentores varones en casi todos los casos. Son su ayuda y quien prácticamente les escribe las cosas. Eso afecta a generaciones más jóvenes. Por eso, esas redes de apoyo deben aparecer en cada generación y dejar constancia de que hay apoyo entre autoras. ¿Si ha habido tan mala fe cómo van a seguir escribiendo las mujeres y a hacerlo desde su perspectiva sin sentirse juzgadas?
Lo escribió ella, pero es femenino, no es digno de influenciar a nadie...

10. Reacciones. Esta sección habla de las reacciones ante todas las frases anteriores de las mujeres. Tanto desde desvincularse de la palabra "mujer" como de "escribir" o "qué" escribir dándole a todo un nuevo significado. También hay reacciones en defensa, como la de la verdad, que sí pueden escribir pero los hombres no pueden leer esas verdades.
Lo escribió ella, pero no es una mujer. Está por encima de las mujeres. Es otra cosa.

11. Estética. Esta parte ha sido la más reveladora. El canon, entendido como el centro. Lo que los hombres dominan y establecen como lo normal, juega con una jerarquía y una objetividad que hace que se olviden tanto la vida privada de las mujeres como el valor de sus obras ligada a su vida. Entender que esa separación les beneficia a ellos pero las perjudica a ellas es necesario para saber por qué se hace y se quiere seguir haciendo. Desligar la vida privada de las mujeres de sus obras es un error. Y en la crítica debería tenerse en cuenta para poder apreciar bien sus obras y no quedarse en una simple check list de cosas que debería cumplir una obra porque sí.
Lo escribió ella, pero no es suficientemente bueno porque no es como lo de los hombres.

El posfacio es también muy interesante ya que trata de un momento de feminismo interseccional que trata el racismo de la propia autora. Muy interesante para el resto de mujeres blancas.

Profile Image for Tijana.
734 reviews191 followers
March 12, 2021
Ovo je najpre i pre svega neverovatno dobro napisan esej; jedna od onih knjiga koje biste nosali gradom sa prstom između stranica da ne gubite vreme ako sretnete nekog poznatog nego da odmah krenete sa čitanjem naglas ("ne, ne, samo još ovo moraš da čuješ").
Ovo je, potom, jedna retko staložena analiza retoričkih i misaonih obrta koji se koriste da bi se omalovažila, poništila i izbrisala ženska književnost. Džoana Ras je jedna izuzetno gnevna žena; ali njen gnev je kontrolisan i kanalisan; najveći deo ovog ne preterano dugog a eminentno čitljivog teksta predstavljaju odabrani (muški) citati o ženama i ženskim delima i poražavajuća statistika o procentima koji se autorkama dodeljuju u antologijama ili u nastavnim planovima, od osnovne škole do fakulteta. Lični udeo autorke ovde je sistematizacija i kategorizacija postupaka koji se pritom koriste (to nije napisala žena; jeste napisala, ali bila je pod blagotvornim muškim uticajem; jeste napisala, ali bavila se nižerazrednim temama tj. ženskim životom; jeste napisala dobru knjigu, ali nije napisala dve dobre knjige; jeste dobro pisala, ali se nije udala i dobila decu; i tako dalje i tome slično).
Čudno je i pomalo strašno, ali ponekad i divno, koliko stvari ovde prepoznajem na najličnijem mogućem nivou iako me od Džoane deli i četrdeset godina i ceo kontinent i jezik i kultura (a bogami i nedostatak sposobnosti da budem ovako artikulisano i ledeno besna). Možda je najvažnije, i ono što bih najradije prenela ljudima koji ovo ni mrtvi ne bi čitali, svesnost o tome koliko je često zaslepljenost pred svim vrstama neravnopravnosti spontana i nenamerna, uslovljena celim našim odrastanjem i vaspitanjem, a ne plod neke zle namere. Mi - i žene i muškarci - spontano precenjujemo, recimo, procenat žena u datoj mešovitoj grupi. Spontano precenjujemo ženski udeo u mešovitoj konverzaciji. Dovoljno je početi odatle i ko zna gde ćemo na kraju stići.
(Nikad neću zaboraviti kako sam pre desetak godina uzela u ruke jednu antologiju srpske pripovetke i pomislila "u je, al su stavili mnogo žena, baš neočekivano mnogo, to je ta politička korektnost!" i onda revnosno prebrojala i ljudi moji, knap trećina. Ni puna trećina. Mnogo sam se smorila od same sebe.)
Profile Image for Janet.
Author 22 books87.7k followers
January 15, 2018
What an education! This book had a huge influence on me as a young writer, an introduction to a conversation that continues to this day, the ways in which the world has tripped up the creative woman, diminished her, sidetracked and sidelined her. In the process, the book rescues many of these neglected artists from oblivion.

(I'm reminded very much of the similar project in women's visual arts that resulted in the founding of the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, DC, the rescue of so many women artists who have been diminished, suppressed, erased.)

Learned a great deal about the world I was entering and the many pitfalls, the outrageous ways in which women are silenced. It made me angry and it also made me cannier about the ways to withstand some of the slings and arrows, prepare to defend my own work, and that of my sisters. A literary RiotGirrrrl treasure. Went in an interesting way with "Women of Iron and Velvet," about French women writers, by Margaret Crosland. So glad I read this early on in my writing life.
Profile Image for Jason Howl.
Author 4 books144 followers
April 14, 2020
Wow, I learned a lot of things I assumed were true but hadn't seen discussed
Profile Image for Alejandra Arévalo.
507 reviews1,288 followers
October 4, 2020
Este libro, aunque escrito hace décadas, sigue vigente y eso lo hace muchas veces tristísimo, sin embargo, es un libro necesario para la reflexión de por qué estamos leyendo mujeres y por qué es importante apoyar su escritura de una forma consciente y real.
Tendría cinco estrellas si fueran más escritoras de otras lenguas pero aún así concuerdo en que Russ hizo un bosquejo de una idea que a nosotras como lectoras nos toca acabar.
Profile Image for Javier Miró.
Author 19 books562 followers
October 14, 2019
Muy completo, tanto que me ha demostrado lo poco que en realidad sé sobre literatura. Pero sobre todo resuelve con claridad por qué tenemos la percepción de que las mujeres nunca han escrito, y por qué no se las cuenta entre los más grandes de las letras. Hay que leer este libro.
Profile Image for Ingenue.
238 reviews1 follower
July 12, 2008
This should be required reading for all humans. If reading it doesn't make you angry, you're not paying attention.
Profile Image for Carmen.
Author 94 books8,984 followers
January 25, 2015
"It’s important to realize," writes the late Joanna Russ in her book How to Suppress Women’s Writing, "that the absence of formal prohibitions against committing art does not preclude the presence of powerful, informal ones." Her treatise on how society suppresses writing by the "wrong" sorts of people should be required reading for every writer, reader, editor, MFA candidate, literary academic and English teacher working today.

(This review is from my "Five Things Right Now" contribution to the January Granta newsletter.)
Profile Image for Conejo Literario.
492 reviews212 followers
March 21, 2022
Muy interesante la forma en que describe como funcionan los mecanismos de opresión a la escritura femenina, solo que al final se me hizo muy pesado con tantas referencias.

Profile Image for Tania.
60 reviews71 followers
April 1, 2020
Aañadido a mi biblioteca de indispensables.

“Las técnicas para falsear las vidas de las mujeres y minusvalorar la escritura de las mujeres que he descrito funcionan eliminando el contexto: escribir se separa de la experiencia, las escritoras son separadas de sus tradiciones y las unas de las otras, lo publico se separa de lo privado, lo político de lo personal, todo ello para imponer una serie de criterios absolutos. Lo que asusta del arte negro, o del arte de las mujeres, o del arte chicano -y demás artes- es que pone en cuestión la idea misma de objetividad y los criterios absolutos.

Esta novela es buena.
¿Buena para qué?
¿Buena para quién?”
Profile Image for Santiago.
171 reviews36 followers
September 16, 2020
Quedé medio colgado, como me pasa cada vez que leo un ensayo. Muchas referencias a obras y personas que no conozco, supongo que está bien porque ahora por lo menos sé que existen pero es un poco tedioso. Sobre todo aquí que la autora está citando críticos de todas las épocas como si uno estuviera familiarizado con la forma de pensar de cada uno. Quizá éste libro esté dirigido a determinado sector académico del cual claramente no formo parte. De todas maneras se entiende. Lo recomendaría para gente muy muy metida en lo que es la industria literaria.
Profile Image for Elizabeth  .
387 reviews73 followers
January 27, 2009
Utterly fucking brilliant. I hesitate to be melodramatic, but it's been a few weeks now, I've renewed it from the university library twice, and I may not be over-stating the case to say that this is one of the books that changes my life. It's genuinely altered how I think about criticism, I've got a to-read list that tripled in the period I was reading it, and I've been arguing with professors and blog commenters in a really different way than I used to. It just -- the experience of reading it was overwhelming in the very best way.
Profile Image for Davinia Muque.
141 reviews24 followers
December 14, 2018
Un libro para leer varias veces y hacer muchas anotaciones sobre él. Creo que es completamente necesario y que en institutos y universidades debería leerse.
Profile Image for Misha.
736 reviews8 followers
January 15, 2018
Joanna Russ' HOW TO SUPPRESS WOMEN'S WRITING was published in 1983, but so, so much of its content speaks to today. Russ also understood institutionalized racism and sexism and privilege in ways that sound like dialogue happening now:

"Conscious, conspiratorial guilt? Hardly. Privileged groups, like everyone else, want to think well of themselves and to believe that they are acting generously and justly. Conscious conspiracy would either quickly stop, or it would degenerate into the kind of unpleasant, armed, cold war with which white South Africa must live. Genuine ignorance? Certainly that is sometimes the case. But talk about sexism or racism must distinguish between the sins of commission of the real, active misogynist or bigot and the vague, half-conscious sins of omission of the decent, ordinary, even good-hearted people, which sins the context of institutionalized sexism and racism makes all too easy.

I hesitate to mention this social dimension of sexism, racism, and class since it can be so easily used as an escape hatch by those too tired, too annoyed, too harried, or too uncomfortable to want to change. But it is true that although people are responsible for their actions, they are not responsible for the social context in which they must act or the social resources available to them. All of us must perforce accept large chunks of our culture ready-made; there is not enough energy and time to do otherwise. Even so, the results of such nonthought can be appalling. At the level of high culture with which this book is concerned, active bigotry is probably fairly rare. It is also hardly ever necessary (italics), since the social context is so far from neutral. To act in a way that is both sexist and racist, to maintain one's class privilege, it is only necessary to act in the customary, ordinary, usual, even polite manner." (18)

"The techniques for mystifying women's lives and belittling women's writing that I have described work by suppressing context: writing is separated from experience, women writers are separated from their tradition and each other, public is separated from private, political from personal--all to enforce a supposed set of absolute standards. What is frightening about black art or women's art or Chicano art--and so on--is that it calls into question the very idea of objectivity and absolute standards:

This is a good novel.

Good for what?

Good for whom?

One side of the nightmare is that a privileged group will not recognize that 'other' art, will not be able to judge it, that the superiority of taste and training possessed by the privileged critic and the privileged artist will suddenly vanish.

The other side of the nightmare is not what is found in the 'other' art will be incomprehensible, but that it will be all too familiar. That is:

Women's lives are the buried truth about men's lives.

The lives of people of color are the buried truth about white lives.

The buried truth about the rich is who they take their money from and how.

The buried truth about 'normal' sexuality is how one kind of sexual expression has been made privileged, and what kinds of unearned virtue and terrors about identity this distinction serves." (118-19)
Profile Image for Lisa Feld.
Author 2 books21 followers
October 22, 2018
The cover of How to Suppress Women’s Writing really says it all: for writing/popular culture to be maintained as a man’s sphere, women’s writing needs to be made illegitimate: she wrote it with someone else’s help; she wrote about boring things that only appeal to women (like female friendships, parenting, or clothes) instead of the important things that appeal to men (like male friendships, war, or sports); she wrote about male things, which makes her work indecent or off-putting; or even, she’s just an anomaly. Why can only men write about strong emotion without being called ‘confessional’ or specific places without being called ‘regional?’ Why do we reprint only selections of women writers but not their full works, to the point where readers think Mary Shelley and Charlotte Bronte only wrote one book apiece, or that Elizabeth Barrett Browning only wrote love poems? Why are men hailed as universal when writing about men and praised for getting into someone else’s head when writing about women, while women writing about their own experiences are dismissed for writing ‘chick lit’ and are sneered at as ignorant and wrong-headed when writing about men? How does the 5% average of women in anthologies rewrite history to make it seem like very few women were writing in any given era, not only erasing the bulk of women writers, but making the few who remain seem anomalous, not part of the same (or any) cultural conversation?

Russ’s book mainly compiles and organizes quotes from both modern and historical critics and literary figures to prove the ways in which women’s creativity is dismissed and elided from the current conversation and the literary canon. And Russ is particularly well situated to tackle the subject as both a professor of literature and a writer of science fiction (typically seen as an exclusively male field despite the many women who read and write it). The downside of the book is the constantly shifting tone: Russ is writing an academic treatise to prove her point and have it taken seriously, but she's also both brilliant and really pissed off. I kept stutter/stopping between her dry, complex passages and her sudden, revelatory insights. This is a hugely important read, but it does take a bit out of you.

What’s distressing is that although reading Tillie Olsen’s Silences comforted me about how much has changed in the past few decades, Russ’s book is sadly still completely relevant more than thirty years after its publication.
Profile Image for Ana Navalón.
Author 18 books13 followers
November 4, 2018
Sobrecoge pensar que las ideas que se reivindicaban hace treinta años se siguen reivindicando hoy. Un libro muy necesario que todas deberíamos leer. Recoge ideas que muchas nos hemos planteado, pero las plasma con un estilo brillante, con muchos ejemplos, con muchas lecturas como base. Por ponerle una pega, no aborda el tema de la censura a la hora de traducir mujeres (como las traducciones de Virginia Woolf por Borges), pero también la propia autora reconoce que se centra en literatura de habla inglesa y que el libro está incompleto, es una tarea titánica recopilar todas las razones por las que las mujeres quedan fuera del canon. Pero lo más importante para actuar es ser conscientes del problema y este libro ayuda mucho. Esos treinta años de espera han merecido la pena.
Profile Image for Mieneke.
782 reviews84 followers
January 12, 2020
Finally finished Joanna Russ’ classic ’How to suppress women’s writing’. It took me over a year, because I kept putting it aside as it made me so mad. Russ’ writing is brilliant, that wasn’t the problem. However, it’s rather disheartening to see how much of what Russ wrote about in the late 1970s/early 1980s is this true today, especially when it comes to what is seen as valid, literary, or canon.

You’d think we’d have made some major strides, but we only made it a disappointingly short way from Russ’ era. There is still much to do...
Profile Image for Felicidad Martínez.
Author 31 books120 followers
April 15, 2021
Le pongo 5 estrellas porque creo que es una obra que debería ser de lectura obligatoria en el instituto. Es verdad que la intro es un tanto WTF, que se habla de artistas anglos, sobre todo, pero es una herramientas poderosa para hacerte ver todos esos mecanismos que se han empleado a lo largo de la historia para trivializar, ningunear y, en definitiva, hacernos creer que no ha habido mujeres artistas, que eso es algo moderno, de las histéricas actuales, nosotras.
Ahora, me encantaría que alguien escribiera algo del estilo sobre las artistas de nuestro país. Quiénes fueron, lo que se dijo de ellas… Ahí lo dejo.
Profile Image for Anna.
758 reviews512 followers
January 18, 2019
“Ignorance is not bad faith. But persistence in ignorance is.”
She didn’t write it.
She wrote it, but she shouldn’t have.
She wrote it, but look what she wrote about.
She wrote it, but ‘she’ isn’t really an artist and ‘it’ isn't really serious, of the right genre - i.e., really art.
She wrote it, but she only wrote one of it.
She wrote it, but it’s only interesting/included in the canon for one, limited reason.
She wrote it, but there are very few of her.

(Chapter 8. Anomalousness)

This book was written almost 40 years ago, yet Joanna Russ’s arguments are still pertinent and thought-provoking… It makes you appreciate even more the women who fought against the assumptions that they shouldn’t or have no place to write and publish books during the last few centuries. It’s inspiring to see how some of these fantastic women influenced, supported, and even competed with each other.

If you are interested in feminism, gender issues, and/or literature, and don’t mind a more academic style, I highly, highly recommend it! I think every woman writer, artist, creator, English major student should read it. Plus, it’s quite funny, when not rage-inducing!

Privileged groups, like everyone else, want to think well of themselves and to believe that they are acting generously and justly. Conscious conspiracy would either quickly stop, or it would degenerate into the kind of unpleasant, armed, cold war with which white South Africa must live. Genuine ignorance? Certainly that is sometimes the case. But talk about sexism or racism must distinguish between the sins of commission of the real, active misogynist or bigot and the vague, half-conscious sins of omission of the decent, ordinary, even good-hearted people, which sins in the context of institutionalized sexism and racism makes all to easy.

“Phallic criticism,” indeed.

Cultural messages can obliterate even the concrete evidence of female experience recorded by female artists and do so very young. Novelist Samuel Delany reports a conversation with a twelve-year-old who ‘had devoured all six books of Jean Rhys; she is a pretty bright kid!’
Me: What kind of books do you like?
Livy: Oh, well…. you know. Books about people.
Me: Can you think of any women characters in the books you read that you particularly like?
Livy: Oh, I never read books about women!

The tragic point is that even a twelve-year-old already knows that women are not people.

Norman Podhoretz, explaining the rapidity of Susan Sontag’s rise as a critic:
the availability of a vacant position in the culture… Dark Lady of American Letters… Miss McCarthy no longer occupied it …having been recently promoted to … Grande Dame. The next Dark Lady would have to be, like her, clever, learned, good-looking, capable of writing family- type criticism as well as fiction with a strong trace of naughtiness.”
Profile Image for Kelly.
Author 7 books1,211 followers
April 30, 2017
Should be required reading for feminists, for book lovers, for writers, and for those who don't believe women or minorities are underrepresented in the world of art. Russ understood intersections and isn't afraid to acknowledge them while staying in her own lane, and the things she says about gender and class are really insightful...and so easily overlooked or ignored in greater discussions of literature.

The big take away for me was in the end, about how women's work is done in the vernacular, and how it's the vernacular that's on the peripheries, and how being in the center is dead space, and thus to work toward a bigger, broader world of literature, you gotta get outta the center and work on the peripheries (this, of course, extends to work by minorities, too, which she addresses very clearly).

Another thing that I really found in here to resonate was the idea of women reading and sharing the work of women with the understanding -- implicit -- that there aren't role models for what they're doing or want to do, so they have to find those role models themselves. That means there's not necessarily a shared history or understanding of experience; it's scatter shot, even though it's common. This was particularly interesting in my own thinking about how Russ says so many things I've thought myself: that men are overrepresented, the ways we diminish the work of women by trying to compare it to men, how men will speak louder and harsher to not just be heard but to suppress, the subtle and insidious ways we erase the stories of women, and no matter how much work is done toward the goal of "adding more women," it also means adding more men and thus, the percentages of representation don't actually change. I know Russ isn't the only person who has said this, but this book is marked deep because she said it in a way I'd thought and believed...and it was one of those reading experiences that I'll be carrying with me BECAUSE it was like finding that brain twin, like finding that voice I'd been craving to hear that said the things I'd thought.

Read it.

Then do something.
Profile Image for Sandra.
791 reviews34 followers
July 1, 2020
Lo leí para el club de Hijas de Mary Wollstonecraft y me gusto a ratos me explico es un ensayo donde se menciona autora que conozco y he leído y otras que no y eso me hace feliz descubrir siempre cosas nuevas, aunque ver lo que pasan las mujeres para publicar o porque no están representadas en las universidades o en otros ámbitos infravalorandolas me saco un poco de mis casillas.Hay que reconocer la forma de narrarnos a pesar de que a veces resulta un poco técnico por eso tiene esa nota, y creo que no se puede leer en cualquier momento.
Profile Image for emre.
294 reviews147 followers
May 9, 2022
joanna russ, dünyanın yaratıcı kadını nasıl küçümsediğini, yok saydığını, çelişkiye düşürdüğünü ve bir kenara atıverdiğini mizahî ama sertliğini de yitirmeyen bir tonda anlatmış. konunun güncelliğini hâlâ koruması ve sözünü ettiği manipülasyonların farklı biçimlerde nasıl sürdürüldüğünü somutlaştırarak anlatması olup bitenleri -benim gibi- dışarıdan gözlemleyenlerin de anlayabilmesini kolaylaştırıyor. sevgili melis baysal'ın mis gibi çevirisinin de okuma sürecini oldukça keyifli kıldığını söylemeden geçemeyeceğim. :)

bir kitabın başka kitaplara yol göstermesini çok seviyorum. bu kitapta da epey bir yazarın, epey bir kitabın ismini not ettim, zaten büyük çoğunluğu hiç okumadığım, hatta maalesef duymadığım yazarlardan oluştuğu için enikonu bir liste çıktı ortaya. 2021 itibariyle daha çok kadını okumaya karar vermiştim, hâlâ sürdürüyorum bunu; kitabın elime böyle derli toplu bir liste vermesi de mutluluk verici oldu bu anlamda. hiç virginia woolf okumadığımı defalarca yüzüme vurdu mesela. :) ya da çok yalnız bir avcıdır yürek en çok sevdiğim kitaplardan biri olduğu hâlde mccullers'ın bir başka kitabını okumadığımı.

iyi ki okudum yazmak yasak'ı. okurken "kendim için iyi bir şey yapıyorum şu an" dedim birkaç kere. :) "büyük" romanlarla, "nitelikli" edebiyatla ve edebiyatın savaş meydanlarıyla aramda hissettiğim mesafe biraz daha arttı, derinleşti bitirdiğimde.
Profile Image for Kitty G Books.
1,551 reviews2,937 followers
December 4, 2016
This book was full of interesting ideas but the academic style made it a little more complicated and hard to focus on for a long time (at least for me - predominantly a fiction reader). Whilst I did agree with a lot of what Russ mentioned and cited within this essay, I found the early chapters a little dated and somewhat changed in todays world, but the later chapters were far more relevant.

This looks at the suppression and erasure of women's writing within history. We don't have many female role models within SFF or the larger literary world, and this is why... Russ breaks the reasons down into various different headings such as 'she did this BUT ...' and then each chapter discusses an element of erasure, suppression or exception.

Russ' use of quotes and examples from literature are definitely well chosen and I think every quote she chose was very relevant to the point she was making. I will admit that, not having done and english course or degree myself, I didn't/hadn't read many of the authors she cited, but some were bigger names, and some were women who have faded into nothing thanks to history...

The biggest thing to take away from this for me is that this is a book about erasure of women's work, but it's a solid examination of the things to watch out for, stay far away from, and the ladies who managed to succeed despite the odds and the people to look up to. Sadly, this book is actually out of print (the irony.....) but if you can find it second hand and spend a few moments mulling over the examples and reasons given (and then maybe hash out/chat about some of the ideas with two of your best lady friends for better understanding) then it's well worth a read. Overall, a very solid and interesting book, and one which is very quote-worthy! 3*s
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