Why is women’s writing invariably reduced to the personal, or dismissed as “confessional”? This week my book Unspeakable Things is published in the UK and in the standard set of interviews you do when you have a book out—in which you turn up in a clean T-shirt and try not to sound stupid—that’s the one question that has come up every time. Why do you write about “personal issues”? Why do you include your own experiences when you speak about sex, power, and politics—and such intimate experiences, too? Why do you talk about addiction and date rape and television? Aren’t you being too “provocative”? Aren’t you being too “confessional,” as women always are?
The first point is that when men write about their experiences in a political context, it’s never called “confessional”—it’s just “literature”, or a “memoir”. The second is that male political experience is never coded as male—it’s just universal truth.