There are many cultural phantoms that we must face as we write and read in todays society. Adrienne Rich, author of an article titled When We Dead Awaken: Writing as Re-Vision, tells us of a gender phantom who prevented the development of her writing. To this day, gender inhibits female creativity, but in this day and age, so does sexual orientation. Today, readers are not only affected by an authors gender but by whom a writer decides to love. For gay and lesbian writers, this is continually a hindrance.
As if being a female writer was not difficult enough, now a woman must worry about her sexuality getting in the way of success. Adrienne Rich tells us that because she was a typical housewife in the 1950s her writing was restricted. She explains that even when she started writing she wrote to please her father, or rather, not to displease him. Men and women have been assigned specific gender roles through socialization. (Kimmel,1987). (The Role of Casual Attributions in Competitive Situations). Rich blames the times for her inability to overcome her creative blocks.
In an article called Professions for Women, Virginia Woolf calls this sort of block her angel; one that peers over her shoulder telling her to conform to male society. Rich uses this angel to describe how she felt when she tried to write for anyone else but herself. Rich explains that because of this type of repression, today, much poetry by women- and prose for that matter- is charged with anger. Due to this repression, society often decides that an opinionated woman equals a bitch. Even more so, lesbians are considered to have an attitude because they express different views.
Their work is not allowed to be published, they are subjected to sexual discrimination, and, sometimes, even name-calling. Some publishers automatically assume that a lesbian writer is going to be a man hater. On the contrary, a group of woman today has organized The Lesbian Herstory Archives in order to prevent historic distortion. This organization, started by Joan Nestle and Deb Ebel, is found in Brooklyn, New York. They have an exclusive collection of 1950s lesbian comic books. These books, The Sisterhood for example, cost thirty-five cents.
The authors had no say over the final drafts. There were few real names used, mostly pen names. If there were sex scenes in the story, the lead character would have to lose her child, lose her job or die during the course of the story. Miss Nestle and Miss Ebel have created this organization to inform the public of sexuality discrimination and just how long it has existed. Some publishers may assume that lesbian writers are trying to promote the ways of homosexuality, which in todays society would be a big faux pas for young readers and certain religious groups.
An author writes to get a reaction, but publishers who refuse writing based on its authors sexual orientation take away that chance. They do not stop to think that someone might learn something from their writing. Maybe, if people read this published material, they might form a different opinion. That would be a nonconformist thing to do, and God forbid publishing companies and the government let people think for themselves. This repression applies to all types of female writers, whether they are gay, straight, young, old, whatever.
The angel that Virginia Woolf speaks of plagues all women. Even now, women are programmed to please a male dominated society. With writing, they are trying to break that mold and are trying to reach the female reading population. No male writer has written primarily or even largely for women, or with the sense of womens criticism as a consideration when he chooses his materials, his theme, and his language. But to a lesser or greater extent, every woman writer has written for men even when, like Virginia Woolf, she was supposed to be addressing
Many lesbian writers are trying to reach out to all women but cannot due to unfair publication. No matter how much women try to break free from writing for men, they are somewhat forced to comply with male point of view. In order to get published, it seems a woman must write to please a male point of view. She may not get too creative with any opinion or she may risk being called outrageous. Women must fight this angel and must take the risk to be different. They must fight for the right to write.