‘I am not a woman writer’: About women, literature and feminist theory today

Toril Moi

This essay first tries to answer two questions: Why did the question of the woman writer disappear from the feminist theoretical agenda around 1990? Why do we need to reconsider it now? I then begin to develop a new analysis of the question of the woman writer by turning to the statement ‘I am not a woman writer’. By treating it as a speech act and analysing it in the light of Simone de Beauvoir’s understanding of sexism, I show that it is a response to a particular kind of provocation, namely an attempt to force the woman writer to conform to some norm for femininity. I also show that Beauvoir’s theory illuminates Virginia Woolf ’s strategies in A Room of One’s Own before, finally, asking why we, today, still should want women to write.