When I was in high school, I read an essay about the importance of women writing in first person. I can’t recall the exact words, or even the anthology I read it in, but the gist of it was this: third person is considered more literary, and the attitude from which men write, because men wish to be hailed as literary. Women write in first person, not because they do not wish to be literary, but because to write ‘I’ and be recognized as a woman, is still a fresh and beautiful thing.
Recently, authors Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Weiner took on the New York Times in a fairly public manner, decrying the paper as sexist for routinely skipping commercial reviews in favor of literary ones. Here’s what Jennifer Weiner had to say, from their interview with Jason Pinter, over at The Huffington Post (26 August 2010):
“I think it’s a very old and deep-seated double standard that holds that when a man writes about family and feelings, it’s literature with a capital L, but when a woman considers the same topics, it’s romance, or a beach book—in short, it’s something unworthy of a serious critic’s attention.”