• Riverhead Books

At our own Tin House, the author of Gold Fame Citrus takes on internalized sexism in the world of publishing:

The stunning truth is that I am asking, deep down, as I write, What would Philip Roth think of this? What would Jonathan Franzen think of this? When the answer is probably: nothing. More staggering is the question of why I am trying to prove myself to writers whose work, in many cases, I don’t particularly admire? I recently finished Roth’s Indignation with nothing more lasting than a sincere curiosity as to whether Roth is aware that these days even nice girls give blow jobs.

Watkins also writes of her "very first personal run-in with overtly misogynistic behavior from a male writer" while completing her MFA—a weird, unprofessional set of behaviors exhibited by none other than the Rumpus' Stephen Elliott (Claire Vaye Watkins names names!). It's required reading and it gave me flashbacks to my own ~*first time*~ while in my MFA program, when I realized—after leaving the warm embrace of a women's college—how fucking sexist the literary world could be. As I suspect many women writers and MFA holders will, I related to Watkins' frank discussion of the weird way in which white, male privilege pervades the world of books.

Just today, another piece emerged, that, like Watkins', concerns women in the literary world, and also like Watkins' made the rounds on blogs and Twitter, but this one urges women to read sexist authors to learn a thing or two, because IDK I guess now that it's okay to call out Jonathan Franzen's sexism nobody will read him anymore? Haha, good one. It seems at best a misguided effort and at worst a project of bad faith to suggest that feminist objections to sexist writing present a censoring scourge against freely liking Franzen or Bukowski or whoever your misogynist du jour happens to be (e.g., I like Hemingway, no one has ever tried to send me to Bad Feminist Writer Jail for this fact, nor do I deserve a cookie for it). This is not a good look, and it shouldn't be mistaken for bravery.

Claire Vaye Watkins, on the other hand—just go read it. Now. If you're not convinced, consider Tin House's intro to her piece, emphasis mine: "This essay, which is featured in our forthcoming Winter issue, was originally given as a lecture during the 2015 Tin House Summer Writers’ Workshop. It was met with enthusiastic applause."