From the Margins: Women’s Writing and Unpaid Labor
almost 2 years ago
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"Writing as art can be what economists call a “non-market” activity. The time we spend writing poems or novels, like the time we spend doing laundry, is usually time not spent earning a dollar, even if we hope to see payment for that work down the line. But unlike domestic work, it can be difficult to convince others of its value, at least until we publish widely or earn our sole income from it. The value of writing and the training or talent that enables us to do it can also, like emotional labor, be openly devalued or dismissed. G. tells me that introducing herself as a writer sometimes prompts people to demand to know if she makes money doing it, as an attempt to determine whether she and her work are owed respect. Both G. and S. recall encountering people who think that anyone can write, perhaps because unlike other arts, all literate people have access to the building blocks of writing. This belief is compounded if the writer in question is a woman, more so a woman of color, even more so if one is also young."
"Women who have the education and privilege to earn their own money and spend it on time devoted to non-market creative production are in some ways acting out Woolf’s dream. Every time we sit down to write, often in the economic margins of our own lives, we choose ourselves and our work over activities whose value has been set by others. Simultaneously, we determine a value scale for our writing that’s different from the one set by a magazine’s pay rates, a tenure committee, or the book-buying public. This value scale is reflected in women’s goals for their writing. When I asked the women I spoke with about the endgame of their work, their responses were civic and existential, not just commercial: to create books people read and want to talk about, to exchange ideas, to make beautiful things."
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