JOYCE CAROL OATES:
The question is always insulting. The question is always ignorant. The question is always sexist.We seem to have inherited, along with its two or three blessings, the manifold curse of psychoanalysis: the assumption that the grounds of discontent, anger, rage, despair - ”unhappiness” in general - reside within the sufferer rather than outside of him. Psychoanalysis maintains that if the Oedipal aggressions of the male are a function merely of the domestic triangle, arising ineluctably out of the ”family romance,” so too are the female emotions - with the added embarrassment that the female is doomed to the greater imperfection of being both non-male and presumably resentful as a consequence of this condition. Aggression, discontent, rebellious urges, a sense of injustice - these have nothing to do with the outer world, but only with the sufferer; and if the sufferer is a woman, by definition a creature characterized by envy, how is it possible to take her seriously? The territory of the female artist should be the subjective, the domestic. She is allowed to be ”charming,” ”amusing,” ”delightful.” Her models should not be Shakespeare or Dostoyevsky but one or another woman writer. Her skills should be those of a conscientious seamstress.
”Why is your writing so violent?” Since it is commonly understood that serious writers, as distinct from entertainers or propagandists, take for their natural subjects the complexity of the world, its evils as well as its goods, it is always an insulting question; and it is always sexist.