The dichotomy drawn here is false-and not false. I mean in reality there's no split. It's the same person who feels and who discourses about epistemology. The problem is that you can't talk about your private life in the course of doing your professional work. You have to pretend that epistemology, or whatever you're writing about, has nothing to do with your life, that it's more exalted, more important, because it (supposedly) transcends the merely personal. Well, I'm tired of the conventions that keep discussions of epistemology, or James Joyce, segregated from meditations on what is happening outside my window or inside my heart. The public-private dichotomy, which is to say the public-private hierarchy, is a founding condition of female oppression. I say to hell with it. The reason I feel embarrassed at my own attempts to speak personally in a professional context is that I have been conditioned to feel that way. That's all there is to it.
I think people are scared to talk about themselves, that they haven't got the guts to do it. I think readers want to know about each other. Sometimes, when a writer introduces some personal bit of story into an essay, I can hardly contain my pleasure. I love writers who write about their own experience. I feel I'm being nourished by them, that I'm being allowed to enter into a personal relationship with them, that I can match my own experience with theirs, feel cousin to them, and say, yes, that's how it is.
[...] I read like five male coming-of-age novels that had intense, long passages about masturbation. These books taught me a lot about what it must be like to be a young man, and gave me some terrible ideas about the kind of woman I didn't want to be, in order to not be thought dull or needy by the intelligent, masturbating young men I liked, but they did not help me understand my life. [...]
[...] These were the books that were handed to me, and so I thought, this is something that I have to get used to. I knew that if I had been a young man, I would mimic these novels too. The realization that there were parts of that acting out that I didn't get to do, solely because of my gender, and other parts in which my acting out was seen differently, not as fun but desperate, was devastating. I can't even explain how devastating that was. I couldn't even think of the ethics of any of it because all I saw was the role I was confined to in those stories. I can't think of a book that I would've given myself that would've armed me against that feeling. I got really mad at the books. I remember getting mad at a boyfriend who had lied and saying, "YOU THINK YOU'RE THE HERO OF A FUCKING UPDIKE NOVEL." But it was my role I resented, the role of the bovine female, while he was the Julian Sorel, the deceptive, neurotic, charmingly flawed hero balancing competing claims for this affection--again, the bearer of narrative.