a ~ In the room the women come and go

In the room the women come and go…

Virginia Wolf had it wrong. You don’t really need a room of your own. Yes, it would be nice. But a luxury.

And even when the writing gods do intervene and I am alone with only four walls for company, still there are voices. Carol Shields. Jane Austen. Tana French. Anne Tyler. Ms. Wolf herself. The men speak up, too, but not as pleasantly as the women. They are the ones who are a humming in my ear. They are the ones who care enough to hang around while I make my own proverbial scratches on paper that isn’t paper.

There’s been talk (again, still) of how women are poorly represented on the shelves, in the awards lists, in the reviews. Where they swell in numbers – the lines at the bookstores and libraries. And I want to feel passionately and outrageously, I want to march in a street and wave a homemade banner, I want to loudly insist that people who buy books buy a consciously equal amount of male and female writers, I want to at least add a halfway smart comment to the article, but… I too selfishly guard my time away from my dearies. Maybe when my hair is gray and too long for modesty I’ll march arm in arm, but for now I sit in a room, or a car, or a hallway, and type away, and listen to the women.

(Why should we all consciously buy an equal amount of male and female writers? Because if we don’t do it consciously, we won’t do it all. Listening to men is something we do automatically because they talk so loudly, even the quiet ones, even the ones who say lovely things. We do it automatically because when we turn on the radio to listen to a political debate – it’s all a deep timber. And that, yes, trickles down. Listening to women is a learned skill. Learn it, go on, I’ll wait.)

Madeleine L’Engle, Tasha Tudor, Betsy Byars, Paula Danziger – these women taught me to listen a long time ago, and while my house is filled to the brim with male mutterings – which carry – it’s their voices I listen for, still.

In the room the women come and go…

About andi

Writer, editor, wrangler of small boys and dogs.


  1. mdiehn

    I’m sorry, did you write something? 🙂 Seriously, though, I think I have read that men hear men’s voices more easily and women hear women’s and children’s voices more easily. Has to do with the pitch and timbre and our ears’ sensitivities. And given the male domination of politics and our tendency to be loud, it makes perfect sense that in order to hear women, we’ll need to practice and work at it and make a concerted effort. [And for all that, we are going to need to be well rested and well nourished. So, then – to the men, I recommend naps and snacks.] And then for your next book, take a chance and pick one by a woman. You may be uncomfortable at first – they read differently, but once you learn to listen to them, it’s such a refreshing change of perspective you’ll wonder how you’ve managed so far without them. And go talk to your wife and your mother. I think I hear them calling! 🙂

  2. Susan

    Thank you for introducing me to The Language of Love, which I wound up absolutely devouring. I’d enjoy getting a brief list of books you two really love. Future post, perhaps?

  3. Oooooh, a book post, what a fantastic idea! We’ll work on it… And so glad you love Language of Love!

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