One byproduct of the linguistic asymmetry between male and female behaviors is that there are dozens more scripts by which female participation in the public sphere can be invalidated. One of the most available scripts condemns the woman who is too public by specifying that she is too available sexually (the slut) or too fame-hungry (the attention-whore). Neither term lets her participation in public life be understood as anything other than venal and self-serving. But what the latter term does, more or less, is pathologize a woman's desire to make a name for herself.—Lili Loofbourow, in her terrific piece "The outing of Elena Ferrante and the power of naming."
And we are so quick to reduce female artists to their names. That is, to identify how their artistry is infected by self-interest, to tarnish their artistic efforts with the horrible, calculating language of "branding." When a woman speaks, there's a knee-jerk impulse to focus on how exactly she might be operating in bad faith: The question is less what is she saying? than how does saying it benefit her? What base desire for attention does it gratify?
Elena Ferrante short-circuited that reflex. She couldn't be writing great literature "for the attention" because she refused to accept any. She hacked a system that pathologizes female bids for greatness.
Posted by Melissa McEwan at Wednesday, October 05, 2016
[Content Note: Misogyny.]