The terms of the debate — which you’ve likely heard already, but which it’s worth rehashing — are as follows. For the defense: Women have never been encouraged to be honest. Traditional femininity both requires a permanent emotional pseudo-virginity — an appealing blankness, a lack of “baggage,” upon which men can impress their own fantasies and needs — and encourages women to fear or pathologize their own feelings, which are always suspect, always potentially “sentimental” or “melodramatic” or “hysterical.” In the old sexist dichotomy, men were proudly impersonal, gifted with transcendence: They slipped the surly bonds of earth and touched the realms of pure, objective intellect. And if they happened to write about their bad relationships or their breakdowns or their various organ-meat-based masturbational tactics, as they traversed these lofty regions, well, that was Art, my good man. High culture, don’t you know. Brave and ground-breaking and explosive and rebellious and all those other nice, laudatory, masculine-sounding adjectives. Meanwhile, women covering the same ground were supposedly stuck in rehashing petty, pointless personal bullshit. Women didn’t write, or even self-express; they just “overshared.” Therefore, women who actually do share a risky or unflattering amount of personal information are pushing back against the system, breaking new ground, and presenting us with a full, complex portrait of female existence that isn’t filtered primarily through male fantasies or fears.
The prosecution’s case can be summed up in one word: “Narcissism.” Specifically, as John Cook at Gawker writes in regard to Girls, “the exhaustion of ceaselessly dramatizing your own life while posing as someone who understands the fundamental emptiness and narcissism of that very self-dramatization.” The act of writing about oneself is self-inflating, a way of recreating oneself as a fascinating character, even if that character is ugly. And it can also be a dodge which allows one to remain stuck in adolescent acts of self-definition without engaging with the larger social context in any meaningful way. There are wars, there is poverty, there is starvation, there are diseases and injustices and super-PACs; writing about your insensitive college boyfriend does very little to solve the problem.