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How to Suppress Women's Writing

4.30  ·  Rating details ·  1,927 ratings  ·  308 reviews
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 t
Paperback, 160 pages
Published September 1st 1983 by University of Texas Press
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Lois Bujold
Mar 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Lois by: random intenet review reminded me

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 fini
Ginger K
Jul 03, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: humans
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. Interestin
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
May 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Jason Howl
Apr 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Wow, I learned a lot of things I assumed were true but hadn't seen discussed ...more
Jul 11, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
This should be required reading for all humans. If reading it doesn't make you angry, you're not paying attention. ...more
Emma Sea
It's uncanny how 30 years after writing the same shit still gets said about women artists and writers. A great classic text. ...more
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 w ...more
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 unple
Lisa Feld
Jun 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
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’ ...more
Jan 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, 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
“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 writ
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,
This is a very enlightening book, and it made me feel good about my effort to read primarily women writers. I hope more people do the same!
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 rol
Jun 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
"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
B.R. Sanders
Apr 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
For reasons both good and bad, HOW TO SUPPRESS WOMEN'S WRITING by Joanna Russ reads like it could have been written yesterday. Actually, the book is older than me—published in 1983—but Russ’ smirking, clear-eyed perspective is still relevant.

HOW TO SUPPRESS WOMEN'S WRITING investigates historical and social reasons that may have kept whole generations of women from writing in the first place (things like differential rates of literacy, disparate access to education, women’s historical lack of le
Nov 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Laura by: Liz Henry
A quick and lucid sketch of how women’s writing is suppressed, starting with a science fiction analogy that works quite well. Things are better now, thirty years on, but I’ve seen a lot of the moves she cataloged used to silence people. Once in a great while, a friend of a friend will try to use one on me in some social media habitat or another. Generally with hilarious results. It’s good to be a lawyer.

Spends a great deal of time discussing the works of Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle
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

4.5 rounded up

A fantastic, thought-provoking read. This was first published in 198
Sep 02, 2009 rated it really liked it
I still refer frequently in conversation to facts gleaned from this book --about the diversity in reception of the Brontes, in particular, and about the practice of anthologizing, where the percentage of women represented in anthologies remains constant, largely because women writers are never ADDED to, but replaced with a new slate of writers from generation to generation, whereas their male counterparts are allowed to hold their place, despite the continued presence of a sizeable percentage of ...more
Feb 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, feminism
Fantastic, concise, and well-structured exposé of the many ways in which women's and minority writing has been and continues to be suppressed and marginalized. Russ not only puts into clear language things you've heard, known, vaguely understood your whole life, she also offers numerous starting points for digging into the world of forgotten and ignored women's literature. I'm diving into Villette immediately. ...more
Russ' book is still relevant because not everything has changed. In particular, the chapters about how women writers were recieved before it was known that they were women, are really interesting.

But its also a genre plea because many of the quotes and stories come from writers in the Sci-Fi and genre field.
Jun 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
An excellent companion or follow-up to Virginia Woolf's Room of One's Own, Joanna Russ's work goes much deeper, offering a thorough overview and critique of the ways women's place in literature is prevented, denied, and dismissed.



If certain people are not supposed to have the ability to produce ‘great’ literature, and if this supposition is one of the means used to keep such people in their place, the ideal situation (socially speaking) is one in which such people are p
How do we suppress women's writing? Easy. Just say: "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..."

A well-argued, lucid overview of the many ways women's writing has been ignored, suppressed and denigrated over the centuries. Though first published over 30 years ago, too many of the aut
Jan 18, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: bored
This is an interesting and well-written book but it is ALSO pretty heavy-handed with the assumptions, relies very heavily on one scholar for most of its data, and spends a lot of time making a point and then explaining why all the counterexamples to the point don't really count know...sexism.
Dec 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely fantastic! I had to skip around because I'm using it for a research paper, but definitely worth the read! ...more
*Re-read for Galactic Suburbia - a chapter a month, over 2019.

If you believe that women (and other minorities) have been oppressed over the years in terms of their production of art, you should read this book to gain a deeper understanding of how it has been done as, well as why.

If you are unconvinced about women (and other minorities) being oppressed in terms of their art, you should read this book. You will be confronted with some interesting evidence via reviews, in particular, that might ch
I'm thinning my books but i'm gonna order 3 more of this cause i need to give it to a (high school) second cousin i hardly know & prolly a couple others.
It was published in 1983, so even tho the notion of suppression sounds dated -this is a history of suppression: it's mechanics and it's enduring legacy. Time-specific and timeless.

The easiest example may be Charlotte Bronte, because we have all read Jane Eyre, who is welcome in many academic settings. The percentage of Jane Eyre readers who hav
Jan 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
If you are a woman and a writer, do yourself a favor and read this book. If you're a woman and majored in literature in college, do yourself a favor and read this book. A woman and a librarian? Read it. A woman and a voracious reader? Yep, you need to read this as well. It is well-written and eye-opening. I've hit a place where I'm struggling to create or to compete things I start. This book makes me want to press on through the block. After reading this book, I don't think that the patriarchy p ...more
Feb 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
Russ originally published this title in 1983, but it's content and criticisms still feel incredibly relevant today. The book is written in a very accessible and conversational tone, with plenty of quotes from everyday women in addition to prominent writers such as Virginia Woolf. Russ sets about exploring the many avenues through which women are excluded from the art world(literature, fine arts, etc.), including being criticized for not creating the "right" art, a lack of any history of mentors ...more
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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 ...more

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“I once asked a young dissertation writer whether her suddenly grayed hair was due to ill health or personal tragedy; she answered: “It was the footnotes”.” 49 likes
“Ignorance is not bad faith. But persistence in ignorance is.” 34 likes
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