Lately I've been re-reading some of Lorrie Moore's stories, from both Self-Help and Birds of America, especially Self-Help. I'd been meaning to do so even before learning that she had a new novel out (A Gate at the Stairs), but certainly its appearance moved the stories a little higher on my pile. Then I read this post from Paul Dorell at flyover about the novel and its reception. The post has more to do with Moore's depiction of the American Midwest ("flyover country") in the book, but I'm more interested here in the short comment thread that followed. One reader referred to an allegedly "strong undercurrent of Misandry in her stories", which was supposedly exemplary of the "male-bashing cant [that] became a kind of popular de rigueur" in recent decades. I replied that "no such undercurrent exists". Dorell took the reader's side, saying that in Moore's work "the men are often implicitly responsible for the relative unhappiness of the women" and "tend to be ciphers whose main significance is their bringing of grief to the women", and that Moore has "virtually nothing to say about how [a functional adult relationship between a man and a woman] is possible or worthwhile".
Well, two things occurred to me when I read these words. First, the characterization bore little resemblance to my memory of Moore's stories. Therefore, I thought to myself, I will read them again. Second, and much more important, who fucking cares? That is, since when is it Lorrie Moore's responsibility to write about "functional adult relationships"? More to the point, it is not her job, nor any other woman's job, to make men feel better about themselves, nor is it the writer's job to objectively depict all sides of every one's reality, as if that were even possible. But, for many women--I'd go so far as to say most--it is in fact men who are primarily responsible for bringing grief and misery into their lives. Writing from such a perspective--the perspective of a woman's actual experience--is not automatically "anti-male" or what-the-fuck-ever.
Having now read many of the stories again, I am not in the least surprised to find absolutely nothing to support the kind of hyper-sensitive reading I am responding to. Naturally, I needn't have bothered. For I returned to flyover, looking for the link provided above, and I see Dorell's final comment, responding to me. Apparently Lorrie Moore's recent stories are "more male-neutral" (thank God for that!) but "some of her earliest writing seems to seethe with the the sort [of] anti-male feminism that was the hallmark of her generation of women who are now in their early fifties to mid-sixties". Thankfully, he says, we are now in a "post-feminist world". Golly.
No. It takes a certain kind of man to make such a remark. Basically, if you're capable of making a blanket statement about "anti-male feminism" then you have been missing the point on a massive scale for years. Frankly, men in general are lucky that most feminists are nothing like "anti-male". They'd certainly deserve it if they were. Look, men are in no position to criticize women on this score. It doesn't mean that every woman is always right or that every man is always wrong, but the experience of women means something. It matters! If the preponderance of women report that things are a certain way, then it would behoove men to fucking listen. And when it comes to fiction? Though I don't think Lorrie Moore's stories can in any way be characterized as "anti-man", if it so happened that they could be, my position is that men need to get over it.