VS Naipaul, who has been described as the greatest living writer, does not feel as though there are any women writers, living or dead, that are his equal. While having the honor of being the greatest living writer bestowed upon you is fascinating I am curious as to why he feels that he needs to put his foot on the neck of women writers. This would be analogous to Kanye West saying that there aren’t any better women producers than him, Jay-Z saying that there aren’t any better women rappers than him, Lebron James saying that there aren’t any better women athletes than him, or Ralph Lauren saying that there aren’t any better women designers than him.
Ralph Lauren is a very, very, good women’s designer, as is Calvin Klein, but you never hear them saying that they are better designers than say, Donna Karan, Jill Sander or Donatella Versace. They may think these things, but they never say them. So VS Naipaul brings up an interesting conversation about not just the literary contributions, but the artistic contributions of women. Now you have probably figured out that I am a feminist, for what that is worth, and most of my male writers have probably clicked off by now or checked out one of my movie or album reviews by now, but I must say that VS Naipaul is wrong.
On so many different levels, too many to count, he is just wrong, in general.
If you are a man and are considered to be at the top of your game, the best artist alive or living, or the head one in charge chances are there are more than a few women that supported you in your ascension to this high place.
A lot of women, probably too numerous to count.
I do not know about the literary community, but men are not loyal fans, of anything. Unless we are talking about sports chances are men might appreciate the work, but they aren’t buying it. They might review it, but they aren’t attending any concerts, signings, or live events. This is where women come in, and how you make your money. My biggest cheerleaders of my own work are women; men never comment on my work now they might stop by or want me to hook them up but I cannot tell if they are in my corner.
If you are smart you support those women that are in your corner because you know that they will take that hit for you. They will defend you, they will promote your work they will get you out there. Men on the other hand, they are jealous, or will try to find a way to do it better than you can. That is simply the way that it is.
VS Naipaul feels that women are too sentimental. But those sentiments is how women make their money, off of other women. Those women could care less if you read your work. Now I am a fan of Jane Austin, but my wife is the one who can watch Pride and Prejudice or Emma five times in a row. She has probably watched Pride and Prejudice hundreds of times, and I am not talking about the Hollywood version either, but the BBC version. You know the one that looks like it was shot back in 1980. I like the Hollywood version because it is slick and pulls you in from the first scene. The scene where Keira Knightly reads the letter and contemplates its meaning and you get to see time slowly fade away is one of the best, as is the conclusion where Mr. Darcy cannot get enough of her. The music alone takes you to a different place. But I am not a true fan of the work.
When writing for men you have to address them in a different way. Now some men appreciate sentimental work; I like The Notebook, as cliche as it is and can watch it every single time. I also like An Officer and a Gentleman. But for the most part I do not care about sentimental work. I do not know if Jane Austin is a better writer than VS Naipaul; I think that in today’s world Jane Austin might be considered to be a pop artist because most romance movies that are successful still use the same formula she laid down in Pride and Prejudice. You may have to watch a movie a few times to realize it, but eventually you see the inspiration and you can point out the references. I am not sure that this is the case with VS Naipaul, which could be his point.
But I doubt that Jane Austin was a slick marketer or even knew that she was doing at the time. This was a point in history where women may have used pseudonyms because they did not want you to know they were a woman. Jane Austin probably accidentally stumbled into her success; VS Naipaul may have been more deliberate. Now I do not read novels, but I do enjoy work that a woman has written whether it be a script, lyrics to a popular song, or even a sermon on a Sunday morning. I can tell you that women are very influential and know how to create an audience and develop a relationship with an audience. That is not always the case for men. My own readers come and go as they please I doubt that there are many of you that are just anticipating that next article, which is perfectly okay with me. This is part of life.
Where a male writer may have to be the best ever to gain the respect of other men, a mediocre woman writer can still get herself out there because of her loyal fans and the relationship that she has with them. The biggest challenge that a woman has, is that she does not own the infrastructure that artists have to use to get the word out there. The media is still dominated by men; they own the websites, they own the labels, they own the magazines, the newspapers, the publications, the television and radio stations. There are a lot of influential women in high places, but it is still a male world. Men want to sell and move the product, but most times they are willing to promote women that are selling sex because that appeals to them. There are few men that truly understand or recognize when a woman that is just that good is before them, and that is the struggle that good women artists have. That is why women artists have to be as good as they are to succeed. It isn’t that people would not support them, but a lot of times men simply do not understand the message that is being conveyed.
On the other hand women also give women artists a hard time because women do not always support good material themselves. Instead of supporting women that have a good message, they support the women that appeal to them personally. So then you get a lot of the same artists that women turn around and complain about when they become larger than life. Well you supported those women. You were apologists for those women when someone else said that they were shallow and said “well no they’re a feminist” or you just do not understand where they are coming from. We all know that the industry is all about marginalizing and diminishing that feminism to a point; never completely abandoning it because a regular girl cannot get ahead without speaking on behalf of a woman somewhat but at the same time they want feminism on their own terms.
At the same time a woman can criticize another woman more thoroughly than a man ever could. How much of an opinion do I really have? All I can do is articulate my position and leave the building and leave the rest of you up to your own devices. You probably disagree with me anyway, whether or not I support the artist. At the end of the day a lot of women are just better at marketing themselves; they might use sex, but that is the gift that was given to women, and they may as well us it to their advantage. It is not as though sex is enough for most women; only pretty/sexy girls can use it and you need a gimmick and you have to hold a position that intrigues people and captures their imagination. There are thousands of video girls and young women in men’s magazines that are not going anywhere in life. There are a lot of models that are not going anywhere in life. They might make a few hundred thousand, which isn’t bad on your income tax statement, but the average person does not even know that they exist.
Give women writers the benefit of the doubt. If the opposite sex were to abandon your work you would be one of those great writers that used to be. Then we would say well you are great, but you bit the hand that fed you and that is why you are not selling as many books as you used to back in the day …