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Women's Labor and Being Silenced

Hummingbird's picture

When reading Olsen's "Silences," I was particularly interested by what she said about female writers and the silencing they've experienced for so long in the literary world. I think even now, it's very difficult for female writers to be taken seriously in "literature" even though they make up a large proportion of the writers in more specialized genres (such as romance novels, young adult novels, children's books, and popular fiction). In my senior year of high school, I took an english class called "Great Books." Of the twelve books we read, only two were written by women. I think, in general, women are simply taken less seriously in the literary world. S.E. Hinton, for example, wrote under that name because she hoped readers would assume she was a man if they only saw her initials. 

On Friday night, my friends and I went to see Gloria Steinem. She spoke about equal pay and how women will never really be getting equal pay until their work within the home is also recognized. She mentioned the fact that one third of all work done in the United States is unpaid housework – and most of it is done by women. And because women aren't getting any pay or acknowledgement for this labor, they're being silenced. Olson quotes the writer Katherine Mansfield saying, "The house seems to take up so much time... I mean when I have to clean up twice over or wash up extra unnecessary things, I get frightfully impatient and want to be working [writing]." Olson then talks about her own experiences with feeling silenced in writing by the responsibility of having to look after her children and then, once the children were all school-aged, the house. By not valuing the work many women do within the household, and by continuing to assume that housework is "women's" work, women will continue to be silenced. 


Anne Dalke's picture

Who's Counting?

In my eco-class, we just read a book and watched a video about the work of Marilyn Waring, a New Zealand legislator, economist, feminist, anti-nuclear activist and environmentalist who (among other things) has taken on the project of "counting" the invisible hours of women's labor. For an engaging 90-minute video of her work, see Who's Counting? (Gloria Steinem also appears in the video, btw.....)