V.S. Naipaul, the Trinidadian-British writer whom many believe to be one of the best on the planet, recently sat for an interview with the Royal Geographic Society and, wouldn't you know it, said some things that just might get him in some hot water. In brief: women don't make good writers. Not in brief: Jane Austen was hampered by sentimentality, as are most women. (Silly, hormonal women. Get your head out of those paperback romances and get in the game.)
But don't take my word for it. Take his:
I read a piece of writing and within a paragraph or two I know whether it is by a woman or not. I think [it is] unequal to me… And inevitably for a woman, she is not a complete master of a house, so that comes over in her writing too… My publisher, who was so good as a taster and editor, when she became a writer, lo and behold, it was all this feminine tosh. I don't mean this in any unkind way.
I got a serious Mean Girls flashback with that last part. Of course, the argument that women are too sentimental, or too limited in their view of the world, is an old and tired one that's been used to argue against women's presence in many spheres. And the argument that women are "not complete master[s] of a house" and therefor unqualified for X thing is the kind of logic that eats itself — you can't do this because you're not in control, so let me control this because I can do it, and on and on.
Can we just put a moratorium on claiming that all women (and all men) are or are not good at one thing? These are not monolithic groups, which should be obvious. Live in the world, people.