I volunteered to write the first editorial post for Switchback’s re-launched blog months ago, not thinking about the PRESSURE. Not thinking about the WEIGHT. I have opinions, especially when it comes to women’s writing. I think some things and speak of those things often. Where, I wonder, are those things now? Now that I stare at this screen, this pulsing cursor? I am my own hand across my mouth. I’m stitching my own lips.
Much has been said about the VIDA statistics. Important and big things. As a writer myself, as the managing editor of Switchback, as a reader and lover of literature I am aware and I am riled up. I read reviews of women’s writing and I’m nauseated by the way some women, the writers themselves, are picked at and pathologized and verbally stoned for being audacious, for being young or old or intense or flippant. I have things to say. I should have more to say. And yet here is the cursor, blinking and pulsing with so little behind it, with nothing in front.
I’ve sent this blog post to our social media manager days after my deadline and it’s because I am afraid. I’m afraid that I don’t know what to say, that I’ll say the wrong things, that I’ll say too much and not enough at the same time. I am policing myself. I am my own hand across my mouth.
A self-editorial stance: remove your own fucking hands from across your own mouth.
I can only come at this with honesty, I think. I started writing about the body and women’s writing and Cixous, wrote about navel gazing and the ways women writers are so often vilified for writing about themselves. I began by using longer sentences, more lyricism and rhythm, more craft. It felt forced, felt like slinging a veil over something I only kind of want you to see.
So I will be honest: Women’s writing is political because the lack of women’s writing is political. Publishing women’s writing is political because the lack of publishing women’s writing is political. We are at a pivotal moment when it comes to women’s writing, to the lack thereof. Sometimes the words to discuss these issues aren’t there, the confidence isn’t there because the gendered inequities are stunning. Sometimes the right word or phrase isn’t there because the issue seems too vast to comment on and sometimes the right word or phrase is almost there, is hiding out behind the lips that I’ve stitched myself, behind my own self-imposed, culturally-perpetuated (or is it the reverse?) silence, behind the hands covering my mouth and I want to let the word or phrase slip out; I want to utter, to allow the way Cynthia Arrieu-King demands in her oft-quoted poem “Into the Celery Doors”: “The word city opens its sliver robe like a stick of gum. Let it.”
Colleen O'Connor is an MFA candidate in nonfiction at Columbia College Chicago, where she is an assistant editor at Hotel Amerika. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in [PANK], Everyday Genius, and Another Chicago Magazine. She is also the managing editor of Switchback Books, the greatest poetry press in the world.