One of the things that I aspire to be is a man writer. Yes, a man writer, as opposed to a woman writer, who is different than me. It is difficult to be a man writer, but it is far more difficult to be a woman writer. In Sarah Ahmed’s essay “Orientations Matter” in the volume “New Materialisms,” she describes the differences and objective opposition between being a “writer” and being a “woman writer.” For a woman to get behind the writing desk means to break free of the paternalistic home life. As a man writer it means something different for me to get behind a writing desk. There are struggles that I deal with on an individual, personal, familial, political, and existential basis which hinder me in my quest for literary certitude.
As an individual man writer, I am the unique purveyor of my male thoughts and the shaper of my male literary destiny. Sometimes I struggle to get out of bed in the morning, to put on a shirt, or to shave my face more than once every three or four days. These things are stumbling blocks in my path that I and I alone face. I say that I face these things alone, but I really mean by myself, without anyone to guide me, hound me to get back to work, or perform a function of my job as a male writer. Sarah Ahmed describes the free time that women have during and after work to sit down at the writing table. They have distractions too, yet from Sarah’s perspective they go much deeper than the non-structural issues that I fiddle with.
The grievances that I bring to the writing table are many, I must admit. However these pale in comparison to the feminist ideologues which permeate some of todays most powerful women writers’ work. I’m thinking Diana Cole, Samantha Frost, Donna Haraway, and Rosi Braidotti, among others. I often question myself whether any of the personal attachments and mental pseudo-neuroseis that I come upon within the darker reaches of my psyche are really as meaningful as they seem. All too often it seems that they are not, and a surge of will to overthrow them overcomes me, compelling me to write about which one I got rid of this week. These mental complications of will come from all parts of society, and also my past, recent and ancient, and from the apprehensions and hopes about my future. In many ways, as a man writer, I hope to be the mirror image of some of the best women writers out there. That is, a man writer as opposed to just a plain old writer (boring!).
My family is supportive, loving, and strong, but too often they can also be overbearing, and archaic. While they allow me to focus on my studies, at the end of the day there can be a painful reminder that family does come first, even when you don’t want it to. For Sarah Ahmad in “Orientations Matter,” this experience draws a parallel. Unruly children tugging at their mothers arms at the exact moment when she sits down to write can be a stopping block for any aspiring or professional writer. I may experience this when I do have children, but for now, when I am writing, often the thoughts that come to mind are of things that I would (or wouldn’t) want my parents to read, let alone my grandparents. Of course this limits my options significantly.
It is rare that we are reminded that women can be philosophers too. A desk, when you think about it can be in many places. The differences between men’s and women’s desks isn’t difficult to imagine. The opaque male desk with its aura of tradition, stands bare next to a modern, intelligentistic desk of the female philosopher. These political machinations run through my mind as I try to determine who I can and cannot be as a man writer.
The class struggle and the collapse of the social structure of society, through writing brings about a different lens from my male view to the view of Ahmed in her essay. While she writes about the ability of middle class white women to write though the labor of African American and latino women, I think of structures that are inherently different in scope. While her stories are personal, moving and call out to rational sense, my ideas of libertarian and capitalistic writing are not inherently on a different plane than what she writes.