Watching a prerecorded Peter Paul and Mary concert on PBS and knitting I’ve done it I have become Grandma
Lonely Weirdo Hearts
When I was 13 years old, my parents decided that our house would get dial-up Internet.
This was probably the second most influential thing to happen in my pre-adult life, the first being that girls got really pretty in late adolescence. On the Internet, albeit an Internet where it took a solid ten minutes to download a single image file and the sheer concept of streaming a…
"Patriarchy teaches us to care the most about male characters, most often white male characters. Patriarchy says that male characters are the most relatable, the most interesting, the most likeable. Unlikeable female characters are a reason I hear cited for the lack of femslash out there, but it makes me wonder: Are these characters unlikeable because they’ve been crafted this way, or are they unlikeable because we have been trained to automatically find female characters less appealing? We let their male counterparts get away with murder and adultery and bad behavior only to condemn the ladies for being wet blankets or cheaters or “crazy bitches.” It’s called the Skyler White Effect, after Anna Gunn’s character on Breaking Bad.
Is this dislike of female characters part of the reason there isn’t more femslash? It’s probably difficult to write a love story between two women when you can hardly stand the women on their own, when you don’t think they’re deserving of a storyline at all.”
A zine inspired by Sylvia Plath
Every now and then, that screencap of Annie Hall appears on my dash where Woody Allen’s character describes Sylvia Plath as the “interesting poetess whose tragic suicide was misinterpreted as romantic by the college-girl mentality”.
I ranted about this on twitter yesterday (like here and here) but it also inspired me to start working on this zine. This introductory post is essentially an expanded version of the thoughts I shared on twitter.
First of all, fuck Woody Allen. To briefly mimic him: the well-known creep whose abusive behaviour is defended by the pretentious college boy mentality. To be honest, I don’t give a shit what Woody Allen, or really any boys, think about Sylvia Plath. Or what they think about teenage girls admiring her. ("Out of the ash I rise with my red hair and I eat men like air.”) How come the authors and poets teen girls like are mocked, but the idols of teen boys (Salinger, Kerouac, etc) aren’t? Oh wait, we all know why.
Secondly, what exactly is the “college girl mentality”? Oh right, it’s the fact that a lot of teenage girls relate to Sylvia Plath and engage with her work. I think there are definitely misinterpretations of Plath, but instead of pinning it on girls, I think it’s from people who reduce her entire legacy to her suicide.
It’s also ridiculous to be dismissive of teenage girls admiring Plath because it completely glosses over the fact that a lot of Plath’s life and writing was influenced by the male-dominated society she lived in.
For instance, Buddy Willard in The Bell Jar is a figure who constantly belittles Esther Greenwood, trivialising her feelings and her work. Saying girls are “romanticising” Plath (and implying her suicide is the only reason girls are interested in her work) is regurgitating the same idea that what women think and feel is unimportant and insignificant.
When I read her work, I feel understood. 50 years after her death, her writing speaks to the issues girls still deal with: misogynistic attitudes that constantly want to tear them down, issues with mental illness, trying to discover their identities and work out which path they want to take.
To sum up the questions that are driving this project:
- What is the college-girl mentality?
- Why do girls still identify with Plath?
Regarding the latter point, I’m particularly interested in exploring the following areas:
- Facing sexism
- Writing poetry
- Dealing with mental health issues
- Studying literature, especially attitudes towards the male authors who are seen as the “classical greats”
- Attending university (in particular, women’s colleges, such as Smith and Newnham College, Cambridge)
- Issues of identity - Plath was a white, middle-class, American woman, how do other groups of women identity with her work (if they do at all)?
You don’t have to necessarily be studying English Literature or know every single one of her poems by heart (though if you do, that’s certainly an interesting perspective and I’d love to hear from you!) - rather, I’m interested in the personal experiences that girls have had reading Plath’s work and the impact it’s had on their lives!
I am welcoming submissions that cover one of the above points, several of them, or something else entirely that’s inspired by Sylvia Plath and the discussion of the “college-girl mentality”. For instance, I’m going to write something about mental health and sexism as a student at a women’s college in Cambridge.
Responses from essays, poems, illustration, photography, etc, are all welcome! I’m aiming to include as many appropriate submissions as I can and if you have an idea that you’re not sure of, you can ask me about it here! Also get in touch if you feel super passionate and inspired by this, because I have a lot of grand ideas and I could use more people being involved in this.
You can use your own name or a pseudonym, and include your tumblr/twitter/other website if you’d like too. You can submit through tumblr or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’m definitely going to have this zine available online for free and depending on interest, I’d like to produce a printed version as well.