“the ambition condition, women, writing and the problem of success”

Read, “The Ambition Condition” in the fall issue of Bitch magazine, written by by anna clark, this article made me get up our of my chair and grab a highlighter. She begins by talking about Emily Gould’s cover story, “Exposed” in the New York Times magazine last May, and how after the story ran, the criticism aimed at the writer was so overwhelming that the magazine had to shut down the comments option 24 hours after the story ran. Ms. Clark asks us to examine our cultural discomfort with ambition in women.

Here is some of what she says about women’s ambition in writing and specifically MFA programs,

“Later, I applied to a single MFA program, and told no one until I got in. I just didn’t want anyone to know what I wanted most. Perhaps I was preparing for failure: If I said openly that I not only wanted to be a writer but that I worked hard at it, my ambitions could be judged against external awards-and easily dismissed when I missed out on them.”

Wow. I didn’t tell anyone about applying to the Queens University MFA program…was I scared of failing at what I “wanted most”? Or scared at voicing what I wanted most because by saying what you want instead of keeping it quiet, keeping it close to your chest, makes you accountable, makes it real. Clark continues,

“It can be tempting, then, for women in particular to write quietly and hope that the work will speak for itself. But by not owning up to her ambitions-whether they are in the public or private realms-a writer feeds the machine that discounts the aspirations and talents of all women writers.”

I will think of these words the next time someone asks me what I do, besides being a mother, and I will answer with my chin held high, that I am indeed, a writer.

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