I don't understand why you, a biracial, bisexual writer
who is raising a son with another woman, would be moved
to see the male sex as an oppressed group and champion men
in your new anthology, ''What Makes a Man: 22 Writers Imagine
the last 50 years, women have been intensely re-envisioning
femininity and what it means to be a woman. I think that
same scrutiny should be applied to men.
feminism began because women were at a social disadvantage.
Men, as a group, are not socially disadvantaged, so they
don't need special pleading.
I don't agree with that. The feminist movement came into
being because women were fundamentally in pain and unable
to develop to their full potential. And men are similarly
hampered by this masculine ideal, in which they are expected
to repress their emotions.
In the introduction, you say that you dislike the idea of
having your son play soccer or baseball. Why?
think you have to come to terms with the kind of child you
have. Not every child is a dominator or a competitor designed
to be a gladiator in the American cultural marketplace.
isn't Little League fairly innocuous as masculine pastimes
got my son into it when he was 8 or 9. There was a lot of
pressure on the kids, and I couldn't imagine them trying
to hold the weight of winning or losing a game. I wanted
him to be liked and admired for who he was, not for some
identity he felt he had to put on by involving himself in
a physically aggressive sport.
the point of sports is to help boys channel their innate
aggression into something more constructive than punching
each other out.
think it's a cop-out to say that boys are biologically determined
to be aggressors. Playing sports should not be the mandatory
requirement for masculinity. Our definition of masculinity
is so limited. Look at male nurses. They devote their lives
to healing others but have a hard time being recognized
as full men.
lot of this reminds me of Robert Bly, who started these
camps in the 70's where men ran naked through the woods
to find their softer, more expressive selves.
I am doing is nothing new. I am contributing to the work
of many men who have been raising these issues. It is very
difficult to challenge entrenched values. I was just reading
something that said if you let the culture happen to you,
you end up fat and broke, in a house full of junk, with
no time. If you just sit in front of a television and let
it carry you along, without making an effort to resist it
or deconstruct it, you really suffer.
the daughter of the novelist Alice Walker. Why did you decide
to take her name instead of your father's, who is a lawyer?
not that important for me right now. Can we talk about something
have now written and edited several works of nonfiction,
including your memoirs, ''Black, White and Jewish.'' Do
you think you will ever write fiction?
2001 to 2003, I tried to write a novel. I struggled, and
I struggled, and I was at my studio toiling away writing
these terrible pages. But I just don't have that particular
kind of mind. I don't think that experience needs to be
cloaked in the subterfuge of fiction. I just can't get invested
in the device of it.
you show your mother your novel before you abandoned it?
I really don't show my work to anyone before the final stages.
sounds either very sane or very insecure. I'm not sure which.
might be a little of both.
you think you have to be monstrously selfish to be an artist?
I was growing up, many female artists adopted the masculine
paradigm of the artist, that kind of heroic notion of my-art-at-any-cost,
intimacy-not-so-important. There has got to be a way for
artists to be both thrillingly productive and also emotionally
you saying that artists can actually be nice people?
am at a point where I want to explore the possibility of
being a writer who is deeply mindful of the importance of
taking care of people, and holding them in a way that isn't
harmful. I don't know if it's possible, but I am going to