• The Salonniere
  • Do You Know An "Invisible Woman"? Because We Want to Meet Her.
Do You Know An "Invisible Woman"? Because We Want to Meet Her.
Contributor
Written by
The Salonniere
February 2011
Contributor
Written by
The Salonniere
February 2011

Last week on a trip to the west coast, I was lucky enough to meet with newly minted She Writes member (welcome her!) JENNIFER SIEBEL NEWSOM, creator of the documentary film Miss Representation, which created a stir at Sundance and will be having its New York premier this Saturday at the Athena Film Festival.  (Organized and curated by SW member Melissa Silverstein, in partnership with Barnard, Athena's catalog is the ideal guide for populating a Netflix queue.)  Jennifer is a passionate, driven woman on a mission that aligns perfectly with the mission of She Writes: empowering women to tell their stories, their way

 

The stakes are high.  What happens when women don't tell their own stories?  Their stories are told for them -- or more often, about them -- and the narratives that result are partial at best, and demeaning, damaging or downright dangerous at worst.  Something else happens as well: real women, the three-dimensional women we know, disappear.  I can name a lot of invisible women.  Women I know in life who don't appear in the media.  Female characters (fictional or non-fictional) about whom I don't get to read.

 

The tagline for Miss Representation is "You Can't Be What You Can't See."  So my question is: do you know an invisible woman, or do you have one in mind when you write?  Is there a character in your work, or in your life (or even in yourself), who is, in most literature and media, invisible?

 

When I taught memoir writing, I came up with this exercise for my students when we were discussing character:  Imagine you are a theater director, and you are auditioning actors to play the character you have in mind.  What lines of direction would you give him/her to convey a quick, thumbnail sketch of who he/she is? 

In this case, let it be a she -- and tell us how to play her. 

Let's be friends

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Comments
  • Rose E. Grier

    I write for all the invisible survivors of interpersonal violence. For those of us that survive molestation and rape it is our silence that kills us. I speak loud and I speak clear for the volumes of us out here who are afraid to talk about their violations and put a face to sexual abuse and crimes of the like.We are a mass growing momentum. So many of us sit inside ourselves looking out of the shell of our body not healing, not know just how spectacular we are and how much we have to offer. Our silence cloaks us in such pain we become invisible as we navigate our lives. It is a crime within a crime that steals innocence and silences a soul into a mere phantom of their former selves. I have created a voice for my survivors. It is a brave soul who bears his grief and become visible and productive through the ravages of interpersonal violence. Let my people go...oh yes.   www.itsneveryourfault.com

  • Robin Lelani

    I write for those of us who have given our lives away, and don't know where or how to find and rediscover ourselves. We, who are immersed in, yet live on the fringe of other folks lives. Us, the perpetual sideline cheerleaders; eager and excited to see others savor the taste of their victories, quietly thirsting for the appetite to sip from the crystal goblet filled with our own sweet, perfectly aged wine.  

    Robminx the Rhythm Rhymer

    www.robminx.wordpress.com

    Facebook: Robin Lelani

  • Acacia Oak

    My first published novel, now in the proof-reading stage, is about a middle aged academic woman remaking her life. After a long marriage and a painful divorce, she struggles to rediscover herself.  She is representative of the many women who pursued a career in education, women dedicated to children/young people, who believed in the power of knowledge, the beauty of learning.  Many of them find themselves side-line and under-respected, their abilities squashed or undervalued. The novel is my effort to open the 'ivory tower' to readers, to describe the challenges, to highlight the challenges, and to describe those heroic people (men and women) who labor to educate the young.

                  Acacia Oak 

  • Sarah Wilson

    This is a shout out to all of the "invisible women" in the Middle East tonight - #Tunisia, #Egypt, #cairo. #tonameafew.

     

    Please share your support across social media communities during this historic time ladies of #SheWrites!

  • Jennifer Noble

    Growing up, I could see the sacrifices my own mother had to make to raise five kids singlehandedly.  I could also see that she was unhappy.  The one thing she wanted in life was to go to college and just immerse herself in education.  She graduated college when she was 50 and I just remember it was the proudest day of my life.  She taught me that I deserve to realize my passions.  

     

    And now that I'm in my mid-20s, I'm meeting a lot of women who still feel like they have to choose between marriage and kids, and self-happiness.  50 years later, we're still struggling with this and it makes me angry, sad, and confused. 

     

    Anyway, these are the women I write for.  My writing often contains a high concentration of females, and tends to feature women who demonstrate that it is OKAY to find yourself and do your own thing while raising a family. 

  • Valerie Nieman

    I think of the farm women, the rural women, who remain invisible even as urban/suburban women gain presence in the media. I grew up in the farm country and western New York, and homesteaded a small farm in West Virginia. Today I live in the city and grow little more than a few greens and tomatoes, but I remember the strength and dignity of women who can raise a garden, put it up for winter, hold a family together with stories and hemstitches, and work side by side with men whether building fence or baling hay.

  • Barbara Ehrentreu

    Stacey,I think the reason the other gender is being reviewed more is genres. Men tend to write more non-fiction, historical fiction, adventure novels, mysteries, and biographies. These are genres that are reviewed more than the majority of genres women write in. 

    Your sister's story is so sad. I remember those early days and the fear of HIV and AIDS. It was very brave of you to have written that article. I hope your sister was able to live a valuable life for the years she had. She was lucky to have a sister like you.

  • Stacey Donovan

    My eldest sister is invisible now because she is dead. When she contracted HIV it was so long ago the hospital quarantined her. My family tried to make her invisible by telling others she had cancer. I wrote an article that a national magazine published, my intention being to make public the fact that a middle class white girl in her 20's could get AIDS.

    This is such a timely and important topic, Kamy, thank you. I'm sure you've seen the recent articles regarding those new studies that expose the lopsidedness of not only which gender publishes more, but is also being reviewed - 2 to 1, at the very least.

    Women are not winning. Is it because they are invisible, or because they are more passive than men in the marketplace?

  • N. Angail

    "What happens when women don't tell their own stories?  Their stories are told for them -- or more often, about them -- and the narratives that result are partial at best, and demeaning, damaging or downright dangerous at worst." COMPLETE TRUTH. This fact is why I wrote my novel.

  • Cindy La Ferle

    I love this too. I put my published essays into a book because I wanted my family, friends, and column readers to remember what life was like for "invisible" women in suburbia, working from home, raising kids, and leading "ordinary lives" that didn't get noticed. I wanted to illuminate the beauty in the ordinary.

  • CeCe Harbor

    I absolutely love this. When I write, I write for the women in my family who wouldn't probably have a voice otherwise. I write for the overlooked, the silent, the silenced, the "I didn't know any better" and the "I didn't realize we could write and tell our stories".

  • Jean Candlish Kelchner

    YOu're right.  We get a bad wrap in history because we had nothing to do with writing it.    I did Bathsheba in my work 'Daughters of Eve, a Herstory Book'  because I thought she got a bad wrap.  We know her more for bathing on a roof than for being the matriarch of the House of David.  We need lots of revisionist history to improve our image to us and others.

  • Rebecca Johns

    This question is particularly interesting to me because my latest book, THE COUNTESS, tells the story of the real-life Countess Elizabeth Bathory, the woman often called "The Blood Countess."  Known as a blood-bather, a vampire, a cannibal, she's such an everyvillian that she even, in Dacre Stoker's sequel to Dracula (THE UN-DEAD), comes off as a monster worse than Dracula himself.  And yet her legend was written entirely by men—some men she knew, and others who took up her story centuries after her death. 

    The question you asked above—"What happens when women don't tell their own stories?  Their stories are told for them—or more often, about them—and the narratives that result are partial at best, and demeaning, damaging or downright dangerous at worst.  Something else happens as well: real women, the three-dimensional women we know, disappear"—was very important to me in the writing of this book.  I wanted to strip away the myths to uncover the real, three-dimensional woman underneath, with all her strengths and weaknesses.  (The blood-bathing stories, for example, as just blatantly untrue.)  The real-life Bathory was a loving mother and daughter, a dutiful wife, a highly educated and successful businesswoman.  These were the sides of her that had never, to my knowledge, been explored in fiction before, and why I chose to write the book in the first person.  It was my feeling that, if anyone were going to write another book about Bathory, it was important not to bother rehashing all the same things that had been written about her before Instead, I tried to find a simalcrum of the voice that's been lost to history, the daughter, the wife, the mother, and in so doing to ask the question of what’s worse: the monster of myth and legend—the witch, the werewolf, the vampire—or the monster who lives in all of us?

  • Toni D. Weymouth

    My characters mirror me. I'm a sexologist. I grew up with parents who believed a girl had the same rights as boys, that she could achieve any goal she wanted as long as she worked for it and as a woman, she could be real without subjugating herself. In my case, I found early on that women who are real often butt heads with those who believe we should not incite social waves by being assertive and demanding or asking for what is rightfully ours. I went through the feminist movement with my head high, fought battles with powerful local's and was blackballed by my profession for my efforts. Time and the constant fight for my rights wore me down. I went underground and stayed there for fifteen years while I attending collage as a single mother. Now that I'm sixty-five, I'm back, writing about women in serious trouble. Women who, like myself, faced isolation simply because of who they are or were.

    My book "Deadly Vibrations" is the story of one woman’s battle against her own chaotic history, an unforgiving public that only recalls her teenage years as the relentless hunter of school-age sex offenders and the detective who wants to possess her. Set in Northern California’s Wine Country, "Deadly Vibrations" unveils how deeply childhood sex abuse can tear apart a young girl’s psyche and how it affects her later years as an adult.

    Sexologist Rocky Wilde has a turbulent past in the scenic tourist town of Hillside. As an eleven-year old from a loving close-knit family, she witnessed her best friend, Susan Chance’s suicide. Some in the small city believe she assisted in Susan’s demise. Others say Rocky shot the gun herself. Twenty-six years later, as Rocky nurtures her own convictions about love and desires redemption for long-ago mistakes a video voyeur seeks revenge.

    The Sex Toy Murder Series, the first of which is "Deadly Vibrations," uses sex toys as murder weapons. Rocky Wilde is a sexologist who collects toys and counsels women on how to use them

  • Carla Francine

    I'm working on a novel about a woman I rarely see: the unromantic woman who isn't an adorable klutz, or just cold-hearted with a secret heart of gold.  She is as messy and unrefined, and successful, as many of her male fictional counterparts (movies seem to be the bigger culprit of this, than books).

  • Meg Harris

    This is my short story about an invisible woman...

     

    Clare Bowdy (the invisible woman)

  • Rose E. Grier

    I am interested Jean

  • Jean Candlish Kelchner

    I write novels exploring women becoming what they can be, but I write memoir too--of women in history--better still, call it HERSTORY in memoir form.  I conjure them up and let them tell their own stories. Men wrote history and most women only made it as they enhanced HIS life.  This is the forgotten woman and the invisible woman whom I believe can reach thru History to support and inspire us, but we don't know her or pay much attention to her.  We are products of our past and it frustrates me that we don't listen to it; e.g.  Christine de Pisan was widowed when she was 26 and she had a lot to say--there should be classes on her and her work today; Artemisia Gentileschi was raped just before her 18th birthday and she--and her work have a lot to say; Mary Edwards Walker fought to be a Civil Was surgeon, fought as a Yankee Abolitionist and Suffragette, and fought from the grave to get her Congressional Medal of Honor restored, finally accomplished during the Carter Administration.  I wrote her Memoir and sent it to the magazine at Syracuse Univ. because she graduated a doctor in their 2nd graduating class.  A woman on the staff rejected it without even reading her.  That's what we do, we don't support each other either.  I don't know what we can expect to happen by bearing our souls to each other if we don't listen to the past--a proud past--support each other, really support each other and be proud of what we've done and who we are. 

    I am getting material together for a book I plan to call 'The Late-Bloomer Chronicle' --about real women becoming what they can be.  Visit my blog for more info if you have a story.

  • Pamela Mahoney Tsigdinos

    In 2006 I was invisible -- an infertile, childless woman unseen and marginalized. That's because society was in the early days of a love affair with all things mommy. Moms Clubs celebrated their "mommy movement." No child, no entrance. It was all the more startling then to read a news brief in the Wall Street Journal about women chronicling their infertility experiences online.

    I was aghast and intrigued. I tore the item out of the newspaper and washed the newsprint from my hand. A few months later in February 2007, I sat down in front of my computer with the news brief next to the mouse and searched online for "infertility blogs." What I found were voices that sounded just like the one I never allowed myself to speak. My first post, written under a pseudonym had me so anxiety riddled — I was telling the world my deepest, darkest secret — I almost got physically ill.  In the middle of the night the fretting continued. I debated deleting it. What if anyone found out it was me? What good can come from this? But it feels so weirdly liberating. This may actually allow me a place to say and be what I can't say or be offline.A place to be seen.

    The blog lived on and the posts poured out of my head. Each day I grew a little braver in what I was willing to disclose about myself, dropping bread crumbs leading from my online to offline self. Read more here or here.

  • I love this topic, though not so much the fact that early women writers (some of my favorites) were invisible, hiding under male pseudonyms, or that women voices in writing and in life are not heard as loudly as they deserve.  In my book, the female protagonist struggles with finding her own voice, and for much of the book lives her life as she is expected to, the only daughter in a patriarchal and traditional home, and then the wife of an emotionally unavailable man.  Writing the ending, when she breaks out of this life, was deeply satisfying.  Too many women are still invisible, their needs are invisible, because they do not feel they own their own lives, or have right to their voices.  I've been very interested in what other writers have posted on this subject; keep the conversation rolling! 

  • Kathleen Kern

    Spike Darbyfield had been born Maeyken Elizabeth Janzen, and her sister Margarethe Christina Janzen—both getting their names from 16th century Anabaptist martyrs.  Spike told people variously that she had been raised in a violent fundamentalist Christian cult that named children after weapons in the Bible (in her case the tent peg that Jael had driven through Sisera's brain in the book of Judges), that she was named after an aunt who had been the only lesbian to die in the 1969 Stonewall Riots, that as a precocious eleven-year-old film buff, she had taken the name in protest when Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing was not nominated for an Academy Award in 1990 and that she had called herself that in homage either to the main character in Shinichiro Watanabe's breakthrough anime series, Cowboy Bebop or the eventually reformed but ongoingly-snarky punk vampire on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel.

    In truth, she had picked the name on the night she, her mother and sister had arrived at the women's shelter in Toronto, the night their mother had first told them what rape was.

     They would have to get new surnames, her mother had explained, so their father could not find them, and that they could never hav

  • Sonya Huber

    I'm always following social class in one way or another, and lately with promoting Cover Me: A Health Insurance Memoir I've been thinking about the many women who are struggling with the patchwork of support services we offer in this country, women who work hard raising kids and sometimes also with jobs or careers who don't have healthcare, or who have health insurance that is so confusing and expensive that they might as well be uninsured. Those busy women work so hard, and then when they or a kid or family member get sick, all is thrown into chaos. I'm anxious to see whether these women's lives will get better in 2014 with the healthcare reform. I'm interested in the silences of these women--those who are so bogged down by their own financial difficulties that they don't have the space to ask who set things up this way; those women who are told that their stories of insurance and financial difficulty are simply their own fault, when that's not the case at all.

  • Rose E. Grier

      strongly encouraged me to write a book based on my presentations.  I resigned at the end of the 2002 school year. And began writing. 

         “Never Ever Your Fault” was granted the 2008 Sharon Komlos-D’Eusanio Award for excellence in the area of victim services training by the Florida Network of Victim Witness Services, Inc.

         I am actively pursuing publication/funding/collaboration.  I appreciate any time, thoughts or effort concerning this project. 

     

         I submitted my work to the Department Of Education in Tallahassee, FL. in hopes of stimulating interest and funding for program development. I met with a task force at the State’s Attorney office and showed my High School PowerPoint.  It received very positive input.  The books are Sunshine State Standard compliant for Health Education. I have also gone to the National level for appeal looking for corporate sponsors. I have received and maintained my Victim Services Practitioner Designation from the Attorney General. “Never Ever Your Fault” is copyrighted with the Library of Congress. All quotes are appropriately approved. I lend myself whole-heartedly to the youth of the world. These are hot societal issues, ripe with purpose.

     

    Thanks again.

    Sincerely;

     

     

    http://www.lulu.com/browse/search.php?search_forum=-1&search_cat=2&show_results=topics&return_chars=200&search_keywords=&keys=&header_search=true&search=&locale=&sitesearch=lulu.com&q=&fListingClass=5&fSearch=rose+e.+grier&fSubmitSearch.x=8&fSubmitSearch.y=10

  • Rose E. Grier

      cardboard chunky book as well called “Today I am”.

     

         The book “Never Ever Your Fault” houses the Educational program. Mapped out in biography format as advised by the ever-encouraging Roger Cram, Director Of Special Projects from Hiram College in Ohio. My work was originally in 5 separate books.  Roger felt I should sew them all together into one book.  Roger donated my site, now with over 11,000 visitors. Many have communicated their thanks.

     

         I co-illustrated this program with our daughter. Her work from age thirteen on, adds an authentic appeal for teens and most of the art pages are actual posters. There is student participation laced throughout my program. I hired a student to make the High School PowerPoint disk cover, and another to create a poster for the program. All art is acknowledged in the Gallery.

     

         The history of my incest experience is in the book.  It is for those who want to read the experience and get a broader view of the healing process through incest to wellness.  It is entitled "Journal of Innocence Stolen"(graphic). It is written journal entry style as a murder mystery. It is a true account of what happened to me, slightly fictionalized.  The poetry compilation "New Light Same Sun" was written during my two years as a victim advocate.  It charts my feelings from anger to forgiveness.

         I was in the classroom full time working with the students and connected directly with their fresh new issues of the day. I asked them what they needed from me. They spoke and I listened. I was told I might have three disclosures a year.  With this program I had over thirty in my two-year term some were boys and teachers!  Being in the fields and trenches, I found and was told much of the material I was given to script from was outdated, condescending and gender biased unfairly tipping the scales against boys. Teachers and students strongly encour

  • Rose E. Grier

     

     

     

    396 S.W. Summerhill Glen*Lake City, FL 32024*

    (386) 758-6067 ba C (386) 365-3057

    [email protected]    

    http://www.rfcram.com/never_ever_your_fault.htm

     

     

         Thirteen years ago, when my husband got sick, I redirected my lifework towards a career that will support our family. My goal is to achieve this by the time my husband is incapacitated or worse. I began work on  “It’s Never Ever Your Fault” to help children that were sexually abused and/or teach students to understand how to help themselves, their family and friends heal from the traumas of abuse, the roots of "Bullying" stem from accountability, boundary establishment and self-esteem issues. Now I am my husband’s full time caregiver and he is in his Hospice bed. In retrospect these years have served my goal. Progress has left a clear trail.

          “Never Ever Your Fault” is an advocate/teacher/counselor educational program with a middle and high school presentation on PowerPoint This is an enlightening and comprehensive program for use in Middle and High school classrooms, guidance offices, or auditoriums. This course teaches boundary establishment and esteem building with the age specific educational material. There are scripts for victim advocates and educators complete with age specific tests and exercises. This curriculum has been field tested for two years with grand success. Currently in development a pre K-5 version called “The Heart of the Matter” together with a poem “Only I can Touch Me there” that can be put to song using a set of parrot puppets which are characters seen throughout the book. Included is a book that teachers can print, cut, fold, and staple together or bind as a project. I hope to make it into a hard ca