I have had the most difficult time finding and recruiting female writers for Morningside Writers Group, and most recently the Creative Nonfiction Group.
Where are the focused, disciplined, workshop-minded women with a backbone in New York City?
I'd like to think I'm not insensitive to women in any way, shape, or form. I grew up with strong Southern black women who taught their boys to grow up to be men who wouldn't cause women pain. I don't hold a degree in understanding the intricacies of womanhood, which shouldn't be a problem to moderating and participating in a critique group. However, it's been an uphill battle recruiting women writers who will stay beyond a few weeks or months.
Life was easier when I was on stage as an actor. I expected people to behave differently as they enacted characters perhaps unlike their true selves. Acting uses a different muscle than writing, but they're not mutually exclusive. As an actor, I searched deep within myself to create characters younger or older, richer or poorer than I was. As a writer, I use my actor's imagination to create characters that could stand up from the page and inhabit a stage or TV or movie screen. Still, I'm at a loss to understanding women.
I thoroughly enjoyed dancing barefoot in Central Park with the African and Caribbean drummers and dancers. The drums brought together people from all over the world, black, white, European, South American, female and male. I understood back then that women danced differently than men. Women accentuate their bodies unlike men in African dance, each movement or gesture signifying something spiritual or cultural. I danced alongside native and trained female dancers, and was amazed at how they could maneuver their heads and limbs to the sounds of the Djembe and Dun-Duns.
The world of writing and publishing is a different beast altogether. I've never tried to superimpose my idea of what a woman is, could be, or should be as I've searched for writers to interview and add to the groups. I know it would be foolish to compare anyone else to my mother, grandmother, or aunts. Their lives are vastly different, but yet I sit befuddled each time a female writer calls or e-mail that she's withdrawing from one of the workshops for reasons that other men in the groups find silly. We scratch our heads as I replay the disapproving conversation or pore over the e-mail to see what could have gone wrong this time.
Is it merely a female/male disconnect?
Going back to my early theater/commercial/musical theater roots, I think the song Pretty Women/Ladies Who Lunch as sung by Barbra Streisand is an apt ending to this entry. The lyrics can be found here.