10 Women Writers on Womanhood

How will you be celebrating the women in your life and across the world for International Women's Day? Brunching? Checking out I Am Malala from the library because Malala? Hosting some sort of witchy moon ritual in your backyard? (...can I come?) Whatever you choose to do, here are some ruminations on womanhood by our favorite women writers to inspire you and to keep you fighting for women's achievement.

Alice Munro — "Too Much Happiness"

Always remember that when a man goes out of the room, he leaves everything in it behind... When a woman goes out she carries everything that happened in the room along with her.

Nomy Lamm — "It's a Big Fat Revolution"

My body is fucking beautiful, and every time I look in the mirror and acknowledge that, I am contributing to the revolution.

Virginia Woolf — A Room of One's Own

When, however, one reads of a witch being ducked, of a woman possessed by devils, of a wise woman selling herbs, or even of a very remarkable man who had a mother, then I think we are on the track of a lost novelist, a suppressed poet, of some mute and inglorious Jane Austen, some Emily Bronte who dashed her brains out on the moor or mopped and mowed about the highways crazed with the torture that her gift had put her to. Indeed, I would venture to guess that Anon, who wrote so many poems without signing them, was often a woman.

Alice Walker — "In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens: The Creativity of Black Women in the South"

Virginia Woolf, in her book, A Room of One's Own, wrote that in order for a woman to write fiction she must have two things, certainly: a room of her own (with key and lock) and enough money to support herself. What then are we to make of Phillis Wheatley, a slave, who owned not even herself?

Audre Lorde — Sister Outsider

I began to ask each time: 'What's the worst that could happen to me if I tell this truth?' Unlike women in other countries, our breaking silence is unlikely to have us jailed, 'disappeared' or run off the road at night. Our speaking out will irritate some people, get us called bitchy or hypersensitive and disrupt some dinner parties. And then our speaking out will permit other women to speak, until laws are changed and lives are saved and the world is altered forever. Next time, ask: What's the worst that will happen? Then push yourself a little further than you dare. Once you start to speak, people will yell at you. They will interrupt you, put you down and suggest it's personal. And the world won't end. And the speaking will get easier and easier. And you will find you have fallen in love with your own vision, which you may never have realized you had. And you will lose some friends and lovers, and realize you don't miss them. And new ones will find you and cherish you. And you will still flirt and paint your nails, dress up and party, because, as I think Emma Goldman said, 'If I can't dance, I don't want to be part of your revolution.' And at last you'll know with surpassing certainty that only one thing is more frightening than speaking your truth. And that is not speaking.

Curtis Sittenfeld, Prep

The interest I felt in certain guys then confused me, because it wasn't romantic, but I wasn't sure what else it might be. But now I know: I wanted to take up people's time making jokes, to tease the dean in front of the entire school, to call him by a nickname. What I wanted was to be a cocky high-school boy, so fucking sure of my place in the world.

Marge Piercy — "For Strong Women"

A strong woman is a woman who loves / strongly and weeps strongly and is strongly / terrified and has strong needs. A strong woman is / strong in words, in action, in connection, in feeling; she is not strong as a stone but as a wolf / suckling her young. Strength is not in her, but she / enacts it as the wind fills a sail.

Anita Diamant — The Red Tent

If you want to understand any woman you must first ask about her mother and then listen carefully. Stories about food show a strong connection. Wistful silences demonstrate unfinished business. The more a daughter knows about the details of her mother's life — without flinching or whining — the stronger the daughter.

Caitlin Moran — How To Be a Woman

We need to reclaim the word 'feminism'. We need the word 'feminism' back real bad. When statistics come in saying that only 29% of American women would describe themselves as feminist - and only 42% of British women - I used to think, 'What do you think feminism IS, ladies? What part of 'liberation for women' is not for you? Is it freedom to vote? The right not to be owned by the man you marry? The campaign for equal pay? 'Vogue' by Madonna? Jeans? Did all that good shit GET ON YOUR NERVES? Or were you just DRUNK AT THE TIME OF THE SURVEY?'

Lorrie Moore — Self-Help

Say: 'Hey. I am a very cool person. I am tough.' Show him your bicep.