Ambiguous Women: The Power of the Female Narrative

Powerful Essays
Ambiguous Women: The Power of the Female Narrative

I do not wonder that men have always felt threatened by strong women. Male insecurity is manifest in the patriarchal infrastructure of society and its enforcement of gender roles that require female submission to the male model. In her book, Writing a Woman's Life, Caroline Heilbrun quotes Deborah Cameron's sardonic statement, "men can be men only if women are unambiguously women" (16). Heilbrun considers the ambiguous women, those who challenge convention. I've developed a deep appreciation for these ambiguous women, for the power of their narratives.

In Black Ice, the autobiography of a black woman recruited into a previously all male elite New England prep school, Carey states, "the narratives that helped me, that kept me company…were those that talked about growing up black in America. They burst into my silence, and in my head, they shouted and chattered and whispered and sang together" (6). Throughout my first semester at Bates, I have identified with Carey. The narratives that discuss growing up as a woman have empowered me. Woolf, Carey, Plath, Rich, and particularly Heilbrun: I recognize the power of these narratives, not only when considered as individual lives or models suggesting alternative realities, but when considered collectively in terms of their life-altering impact. Looking at these works raises critical questions: From where have women come? Have women liberated themselves over the past century and through what means? What has it taken for women to turn their world "right-side up?"

I have wondered why women followed what Heilbrun labels the "male-designated script" for so long, when it was clear to me that it was through education and self-asserti...

... middle of paper ...

... enough to turn the world upside-down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back and get it right-side up again. And now that they are asking to do it the men better let them." (

Works Cited Bibliography

Cary, Lorene. Black Ice. New York: Vintage Books, 1991.

Dangarembga, Tsitsi. Nervous Conditions. New York: Seal Press, 1988.

Gordon, Lyndall. Virginia Woolf: A Writer's Life. New York: Norton, 1984.

Heilbrun, Carolyn. Writing a Woman's Life. New York: Ballantine Books, 1988.

Mill, John Stuart. The Subjection of Women. New York: Dutton, 1928.

Plath, Sylvia. The Bell Jar. New York: Harper & Row, 1971.

Rich, Adrienne. On Lies, Secrets, and Silence: Selected Prose 1966-1978. New York: Norton, 1979.

Woolf, Virginia. A Room of One's Own. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Publishers, 1929.
Get Access