In Defence of Young, Silly, Female Writers
I, as a writer, know a lot of other female writers or women would like to call themselves a writer one day. Whether we call ourselves journalists, bloggers, songwriters or authors - we love to write. We write about our feelings, feminism, equality, sexuality, motherhood, technology and anything else people will pay us to talk about.
Most of us are considered "young", anywhere from 24 - 35 and we would write even if no one paid us to do so. As the skin on Lady Gaga's left arm states:
“Confess to yourself in the deepest hour of the night whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write. Dig deep into your heart, where the answer spreads its roots in your being, and ask yourself solemnly, Must I write?”
The answer for us is always yes.
Yesterday over on The Atlantic, Jamie Tarabay questioned television's puzzling fixation on with who are writers - specifically Hannah Horvath, Lena Dunham's character in Girls, and Carrie Bradshaw, Sarah Jessica Parker's infamous character on Sex and the City. Why exactly having two TV shows, one that began in 1998 and the other in 2012, that dare to have a TV show led by a female writer is puzzling, I'm not sure.
Yes, a memo went out to all television studios saying that all leading ladies of shows about women HAVE to be writers with "slacker cred".
Except that Zooey Deschanel's character in New Girl is a teacher, Mindy Kaling in The Mindy Project plays an OBGYN, and Max, the main character in Two Broke Girls, is a waitress/baking entrepreneur. They may not be lawyers, marketing executives or whatever other occupation that Tarabay might approve of, but you can have other types of female protagonists in "these types of shows". Whatever that means.
The point of Tarabay's article seems to have less to do with TV's "fixation" with female writers, but rather a distaste for creative, twenty-something women who don't have their shit together. Specifically those who claim to share her profession:
"Forgive me, but Ernest Hemingway, George Orwell and Jane Austen were observers of the worlds they inhabited and there always seemed to be a lesson in their words. Hannah is barely out of college with little to zero experience in the real world —that we've seen—and is jealous of a friend whose book success stemmed from the suicide of a lover. She has an e-book deal she keeps bragging about, and the OCD anxiety over how to fill it by her deadline."
I suppose there should be an age limit on writing then? Maybe keep all pens, paper and keyboards away from young women who are just out of college, as surely they couldn't possibly have anything to write about as they've barely even lived!
What Tarabay doesn't seem to realise is that part of the audience's love/hate relationship with Hannah is that they know she's absolutely ridiculous. When her then boyfriend Adam yells at her, "You think because you're, what, 11 pounds overweight you know struggle?!" Hannah helpfully points out that she's THIRTEEN pounds overweight, actually, and it has been VERY hard for her - but that's being 20, isn't it? Some of us know what older people would call actual struggle, and some of us only know self-inflicted struggle that seems fluffy and superficial from the outside looking in.
But why should any of that stop Hannah - or any other 20 year old woman - from being a writer? How do those more serious writers in their thirties, forties and beyond even know how to string a sentence together if they didn't write about the friviloty of their twenties?
I find it incredibly irritating that Tarabay seems to despise what Hannah represents so much as I personally know so many Hannahs. To some extent, I am an over-grown Hannah - and us Hannahs have more aspirations than just to "see one's name in print, alongside something suitably witty, possibly snarky, and always insightful." Um, we'd also like a regular paying column and a book deal, as well, thanksverymuch.
I'm confused as to why Tarabay, who is a journalist and thereby a writer, thinks that having a 9-5 makes you more aspirational? As if being freelancer is such a fucking breeze.
There is something incredibly powerful about seeing the journey of a twenty-something woman who is a bit of a mess on TV, rather than that of (another) polished woman in her 30s with a big shoe collection and walk-in closet.
The lives of young women are rarely portrayed in a realistic or honest fashion, and while those like Tarabay may just put young, creative women down to having a "bizarre" sense of entitlement and "ugly" sex, I would rather be a part of a generation that's represented by Hannah Horvath than Carrie Bradshaw.
Women on TV might be a bit nuts at the moment, but I don't think there's anything dangerous or harmful about women like Hannah - or Marni, Shoshannah or Jessa for that matter.
Sure, messy, creative types might make people like Jamie Tarabay uncomfortable, but getting out of your comfort zone is good! That's where the magic happens, remember?