A Woman Writer
Written by
Jae Misra
November 2010
Written by
Jae Misra
November 2010
I've thought a lot over the last years about what it means to be a woman writer. It's more than just being a writer who happens to be a woman. If someone had told me ten years ago that I'd write a book exploring what it was to be a woman in the 20th century, I would have scoffed. As a Gen-Xer, I simply didn't see that my gender mattered. I'd blindly bullied my way through school and into a male-dominated profession (still, in 2010, the faculty on which I teach is only 20% female). I was used to being the only woman in graduate classes and later in committee meetings. I remember once when I was young telling my mentor (male) who was on the university's Affirmative Action committee, that if I ever found out I'd been hired for a job because I was a woman, I would quit. If I couldn't play with the big-boys, I didn't belong in the game. I still stand by those words affirming them 20 years later, but being a woman in the 20th - now the 21st - century is complicated. I'm one of the lucky ones. I've been able to pursue my chosen career with the support of my husband (also a Gen-Xer who doesn't seem to mind that I don't actually live with him for half of the year) and have encountered very few obstacles related to my gender. (Ironically, the two most obvious gender-discrimination experiences I've had came at the hands of other women - Baby boomers who I'm sure fought hard for their careers and may have been a little miffed at how easy it was for the next generation of women.) Equal rights seem well entrenched in our society and yet I still see evidence every day that they are not. I see women pursuing college degrees they will never use and women deferring to men even if their skills/knowledge are superior. I see women following their husbands to a new job, but rarely is it the other way around. This year, I had a graduate student drop out of school mid-semester because her husband thought she wasn't giving the house and the kids enough attention and she knew her career would always be secondary to his. This in 2010, my student a member of Generation Y. Being a woman writer is more than being a woman who writes, it's about exploring through a story what it means to be a woman. I'm just finishing a novel exploring the changing roles of women in the 20th century - the protagonist, a reluctant Baby Boomer. I've used my mother's life as the template trying to understand the decisions she made and what she might have thought as the century unfolded and her world changed. I've come to the end with a greater understanding of my mother and also my place as a woman of Generation X, but I've also come to the conclusion that there is much that has not changed.

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