My Friday morning began in a bit of a moody, irritated haze following a night of restless sleep (or lack thereof). I didn’t have anywhere to be until my call-time for the show that night at 6:30pm, but I didn’t necessarily want to sleep the day away. So, I swiftly transitioned from the bed to the couch, made myself a cup of pour-over coffee, ate a leftover slice of cherry pie (not a normal breakfast choice, but this was not a normal morning), and I popped open my laptop with the full intention of picking up where I left off in Season 3 of Gossip Girl on Netflix. A promising start to my decidedly lackluster afternoon. Instead, I came across one of Netflix’s more substantial offerings, a stand-up comedy special titled “Nanette” by Hannah Gadsby. I knew this would be the more educational choice, and I happened to be in a mental state where I was actually in the mood to consume thought-provoking content, rather than idly scroll through every mindless app on my phone while Gossip Girl streams in the background. Let’s just say I made the right choice.
In the course of one hour I went from laughing out loud (alone, mind you) to openly sobbing to being struck with laughter yet again, my emotions spiraling. After it ended, I sat on my couch in silence, in shock. I picked up the short novel I’ve been meaning to finish for the last couple of weeks, a Don DeLillo story with a female protagonist, and I found that I couldn’t get past a few paragraphs without feeling incredibly tense and uneasy. In that moment I decided I didn’t want to read a man’s words. I didn’t want to watch another Netflix comedy special by a male comedian. I had to get out, I had to seek out a woman’s voice. So, I throw on some clothes and walk two blocks to the nearest used bookstore in my neighborhood that I had been meaning to check out. Not 10 steps into my walk, I feel the unwarranted glare of a homeless man in my path before then hearing him yell “SMILE!” at me, a command I obviously do not obey. After I pass, having never even made eye contact with this man, I hear him say, “Or not!” I’m fuming inside, but my pace increases as I seek out refuge in this quaint little independent bookstore. Once I’m inside, I think, “Surely there must be a plethora of female-authored books to dismantle my tension!” I look around and pace the aisles as my heartbeat quickens, my breathing becomes audibly labored, I’m quite literally panicking in the middle of this little library, surrounded by books that are overwhelmingly written by men. It’s only after about forty minutes of panicked perusal when my eyes land on a copy of “Bad Feminist” by Roxane Gay priced at $4 that I decide to check out and leave. I exit the store with another woman who turns to me with an inviting smile and says, “It’s a great book. You’re going to love it.” I had finally found solace.
I don’t want to reveal too much or try to summarize Hannah Gadsby’s Netflix special on here because I think it ought to be required viewing by everyone. But I will say that it really made me realize that I personally need to seek out more female content for myself — female stories about women BY women — I mean, what a concept! It reminded me of a feeling I had a couple months ago when I read the novel Marry Me by John Updike, one of my favorite contemporary American authors that I had read quite a bit of in college as an English literature major some seven or eight years ago. While the prose and plot-line drew me in, I couldn’t quite ignore the sound of the author’s voice tinged with an air of male chauvinism as he narrated the perspectives of the two female characters intertwined in a love triangle with the male protagonist. It depressed me for a couple of reasons, one being that I didn’t quite agree with Updike’s perspective of a woman’s thoughts and feelings, and the other being that in many passages throughout the novel, I discovered that I actually related deeply to how these women felt — these women, these fictional characters being voiced by a man in his portrayal of their existence in this complicated love story. It fucked me up, to say the least. Had I experienced these same unsettling feelings when I studied his works in college? Or had I even registered them as feelings at all?
I don’t really know where I’m going with this, but the wheels are certainly turning up here in this frazzled mind on this hazy day. I’m feeling all sorts of feminine energy stirring up, and I want so badly to connect on a deeper level with my fellow humans about these things. We live in an age where information and inspiration is buzzing right at our fingertips just awaiting our eager consumption. There is a plethora of authentic female content out there that exists in all mediums, be it literature, art, music, theatre, etc. I think it’s important as women to seek out and share this content because it helps us to identify aspects about ourselves in a much bigger picture and makes us feel less alone. Let’s keep learning, let’s keep listening, let’s keep sharing. And let it come from an open place, from a place of humility, of empathy, of love. Always. And, please! If you’ve got any recommendations, let a girl know.