Salon posted a piece called “Sponsored by my Husband” that’s been getting a lot of traction in the past few days.
Ann Bauer is the author, and her essay is all about, well, privilege. Granted, she acknowledges her privilege–as a woman whose husband is the primary breadwinner, which has afforded her a leisurely life of yoga and writing lots of books. That’s great. Really, I don’t mean to sound bitter. I’d do yoga and write all day, too, if someone who loved me and whom I loved was willing to foot the bill without lording it over me.
What I take issue with about Bauer’s piece is her suggestion that no one talks about privilege. She ends her essay on a “I showed you mine, now you show me yours” note. I do think people are talking about privilege quite a bit, but, and this is Bauer’s point, it isn’t the people enjoying the privilege who are coming out in droves to share their stories. The ones talking about privilege are the ones who don’t have it. The well-off don’t talk about it because, I guess, they are busy having book release parties.
Truth is, I don’t really wanna know. That’s my problem with this piece. Ann, I don’t really want to know how great other people’s funded writing lives are, because how exactly is that helping me, or anyone? Why do the other richies need to “show theirs”? I assume you think it is helping someone because the tagline for this essay is: “The truth is, my husband’s hefty salary makes my life as a writer easy. Pretending otherwise doesn’t help anyone.” So…who is helped if you all DON’T pretend NOT to be rich and privileged?
I do, however, like a response piece by Brevity’s managing editor, Kelly Sundberg, called “This Writer is Sponsored By Herself.”
In this essay, Sundberg admits that she was “sponsored” early in her career–by a husband who ended up abusing her. She left him and managed to not only keep, but build her writing career–as a single mom, a survivor of domestic violence, and a much less financially stable adult. Good for her. Sundberg’s story could actually help people.
Like me. I’m a single mom and a survivor of domestic violence. I’ve always worked, always. I worked as many as three jobs at a time during college (and made dean’s list and published poems!). I worked full-time while completing my MFA. I’ve always made more money than any man I’ve dated (which does not mean I’m rich by a longshot), while simultaneously publishing books, serving as editor of an online lit mag, and being as active in my myriad literary communities as possible. So what. I made those choices and lived the way I wanted to live. “Sponsored by myself,” just like Sundberg. And proud of it.
Bauer claims to have been shocked by a rich man’s omission of his wealth when prompted by a question after a reading about the means for his success. She also professes outrage at a well-connected woman whom she witnessed tell a student that if she wants to be a serious writer, she shouldn’t have children. But then she says this: “Because I used to be poor, overworked and overwhelmed. And I produced zero books during that time.” Um. I’m poor, overworked, and overwhelmed, and I have a few books, and more coming (optimism!)…
Bauer also says this: “In my opinion, we do an enormous ‘let them eat cake’ disservice to our community when we obfuscate the circumstances that help us write, publish and in some way succeed.” So, um, what are you gonna do about it? What service is your coming clean providing for me, the poor woman who you probably can’t BELIEVE can find the time to write between her two jobs, her toddler, and her exhaustive attempts to get bills paid on time while living paycheck to measly paycheck?
My ultimate point: I am now accepting sponsors. Not husband prospects, thank you. Just sponsors. Serious inquiries only.