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FUNNY WOMEN #100: Writing the Next Great American Woman’s Novel

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“It appears that gradually, over time, editors have begun the process of moving women, one by one, alphabetically, from the ‘American Novelists’ category to the ‘American Women Novelists’ subcategory.” –Amanda Filipacchi, “Wikipedia’s Sexism Toward Female Novelists,” The New York Times, April 24, 2013

“Around 90 percent of Wikipedia editors are men, and it shows.” –New Scientist

A lot of women people (as opposed to men people, or just “people”) are upset that Wikipedia editors have created a subcategory for “American Women Novelists.” But I’m not. I’m stoked! This could be the best thing that’s ever happened to women novelists like me.

First of all, I can stop competing with Jonathan Franzen. Franzen has been a real pain in my lady parts, and now that we’re not in the same category, I can stop feeling so awful about my writing. While I knew in my heart’s core we would never be in the same league, now we’re literally never going to be in the same league. Such a relief! I mean, for real.

B.) There’s also less competition within my segregated field. Because fewer books by women are published, I have a higher probability of success. (That’s how math works, correct?) Like my woman parent always says, “It’s easier to win when everyone else is losing. Now let’s go clean the toilet!”

novelApparently the list of “American Novelists” is too long, so I see why subcategories are necessary. It’s like when my inbox is too full and I have to archive certain emails and forget about them forever. (I have email folders for “Etsy Sales,” “Sephora Sales,” “The Atlasphere: Ayn Rand News, Dating & Social Networking Newsletters,” and so on.) Organization and labeling are supreme virtues, above most other less supreme virtues like equality and fairness. I’d like to see Wikipedia continue this helpful sub-categorization. “American Women Comedians” is an obvious one.

I was immersing myself in women’s literature the other day—by that I mean I was reading a cookbook—and that’s when I knew what I should do. I will write the next Great American Woman’s Novel. It’ll be part romance fiction/journal/doodles/musings/sestina about kittens and friendship/an illuminating treatise about the way we live now/word cloud, and it will cover the typical subject matters women write about: marriage, motherhood, yogurt, dating as a competitive sport, emotional warfare, housework, tampons, rainbows, midwifery, gardening, hysteria, beauty products, weight gain, weight loss, the art of being shrill, divorce, magic, and light bondage.

One chapter will be an audio file of Taylor Swift songs.
One chapter will be just emojis.
One chapter will be my grocery list.
One chapter will be a link to my Pinterest page.
One chapter will be manufactured with drops of my blood, sweat, and tears.
One chapter will be me making a sandwich for all the “American Novelists.”

If I have any deep, universal, logical thoughts or opinions, I’ll write them down on Post-Its and then chew them up and swallow them to maintain the illusion women don’t write about those things.

Of course I’ll write TNGAWN with BIC for Her pens, designed to fit a woman’s hand. The XY pens I’d been using were heavy and obstructed my flow of words, but BIC for Her’s comfortable and innovative design makes writing a pure pleasure. The pink one is for writing thoughts I’m thinking and the purple one is for feelings I’m feeling. I’ve outsourced the typing to a man helper to whom I pay 30 percent more for the work than I would ask to be paid were I employed as an outsourced typist.

I’ll publish the novel via my self-publishing operation Books by Her, and some smart men in design and marketing will slap on a cover that my cervix can really identify with—like a canary yellow cover depicting high-heeled shoes atop a glistening martini glass made with bits of the glass ceiling we just totally cracked by letting it crash to the floor.

It’s true that books by women aren’t reviewed as often in thought-leader newspapers and magazines, and it’s a vicious cycle—women are systematically underrepresented in reviews, so they have fewer “credible source” citations on Wikipedia, so fewer wombyn are “notable,” so people who browse Wikipedia based on notability won’t readily see them—that I’d rather stay out of. And anyway, more women than men buy books; ergo, my novel will be a bestseller even if no one hears about it.

I could fight subcategorization—encourage writers of femininity to start editing Wikipedia, to create new entries and flood the system with new perspectives, maybe alter the way information is organized, possibly influence how a story gets told, just do tiny, fixable things that make it easier for women to gain equality—but that’d take me away from writing the next Great American Woman’s Novel—tentatively titled All the Single Ladies Just Wanna Have Fun!—so, you know, pass.

I guess what I’m saying is, maybe this is a high point. American Women Novelists are special. Chosen. In a category all our own.

Man, we’ve come a long way, baby.

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[N.B. In “Yes, Wikipedia Is Sexist -- That's Why It Needs You,” Deanna Zandt offers resources available for beginners to get started editing Wikipedia:

  • Wikipedia has a welcome library of resources that includes handbooks and videos on principles of editing and how to use the editing tools.
  • WikiWomen is a collective of people interested in supporting women’s activities in the community. It’s both a rallying cause and resource for women’s participation, as well as a supportive environment in which to learn.
  • The Teahouse is a community gathering spot on Wikipedia for newcomers (of all genders) to ask questions and get help with problems they might be having.
  • Of course, [Deanna’s] own work: I teach introductory webinars and workshops on Wikipedia principles, tools and resources, and have tailored those workshops to primarily women-centered groups.]

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Elissa Bassist edits the Funny Women column. Follow her on Twitter, and visit elissabassist.com for more literary, feminist, and personal criticism. More from this author →