Fourteen Years

abstract purple party background to which I've added text reading: Happy 14th Blogiversary to Us!

Fourteen years ago today, I launched this blog as Shakespeare's Sister.

That reference, from Virginia Woolf's essay "A Room of One's Own," was also my pseudonym, and, for a long time even after I disclosed my real name, I was still known as Shakespeare's Sister, or Shakes. So when more and more people arrived, and this became a community, we became Shakesville.

Woolf's essay concludes thus:
[Shakespeare's sister] lives in you and in me, and in many other women who are not here tonight, for they are washing up the dishes and putting the children to bed. But she lives; for great poets do not die; they are continuing presences; they need only the opportunity to walk among us in the flesh. This opportunity, as I think, is now coming within your power to give her. For my belief is that if we live another century or so—I am talking of the common life which is the real life and not of the little separate lives which we live as individuals—and have five hundred a year each of us and rooms of our own; if we have the habit of freedom and the courage to write exactly what we think; if we escape a little from the common sitting room and see human beings not always in their relation to each other but in relation to reality; and the sky, too, and the trees or whatever it may be in themselves; if we look past Milton's bogey, for no human being should shut out the view; if we face the fact, for it is a fact, that there is no arm to cling to, but that we go alone and that our relation is to the world of reality and not only to the world of men and women, then the opportunity will come and the dead poet who was Shakespeare's sister will put on the body which she has laid down. Drawing her life from the lives of the unknown who were her forerunners, as her brother did before her, she will be born. As for her coming without that preparation, without that effort on our part, without that determination that when she is born again she shall find it possible to live and write her poetry, that we cannot expect, for that would be impossible. But I maintain that she would come if we worked for her, and that so to work, even in poverty and obscurity, is worth while.
I haven't been called Shakes in a very long while, but I have been Shakespeare's Sister for 14 years, and I am still.

I am also the heir of Shakespeare's Sisters before me, who carved out rooms of their own, tiny pieces of space and time, in which they formed the habit of freedom and mustered the courage to write exactly what they thought. I heard their whispers, their haunting encouragements, telling me to put on their bodies laid down and become born. And on October 5, 2004, I was.

It is because they worked for me, all of Shakespeare's Sisters who went before, because they worked for me in poverty and obscurity, that I could be born. I took up their legacy with breathless gratitude and compelling need, and I created a room of my own, built of 1s and 0s. Here I began to honor them, as best I could, drawing my life from their unknown lives, being born and born again every day, as Shakespeare's Sister, beneficiary of a legacy I only deserve if I endeavor to enrich it with my own contributions, no matter whether infinitesimal or grand, as long as they are honest and true.

It is here that I work for the Shakespeare's Sisters who will come after, so that they can put on my body and be born. It is here I write exactly what I think, with whatever gumption I can muster. It is here that I fight, for myself and others, working my teaspoon.

I fight because I have to. My obligation. My muse.

I fight and I expect more. Because I don't know how to expect anything else.

That is the context of this room. It was built by a woman. A feminist woman who fights and who dreams long and lustfully of a better world; who wants it like the cracked earth of the desert wants rain. Shakespeare's Sister, carrying the weight of all of Shakespeare's Sisters with her, as she clumsily stumbles toward making long, greedy use of the opportunity they provided her, sucking up every last drop of the chance she's been given to do what others could not and pay forward with interest the chance to another sister of Shakespeare who may just now be warily peering into this room and thinking there's something I like in there…

I want her to be born, too. More than I want just about anything else. I want her to know the feeling of putting on their bodies, our bodies, laid down, putting them on and finding home.

Especially now. In this time of refusing to listen to women. In this time of telling us that we don't matter, that our lives are worth less, that our bodies are not our own, that our voices won't be heard. In this time of trying to silence us.

I am Shakespeare's Sister, and I am born, and I scream so that you can be born, too.

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