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Had I not created my whole world, I would certainly have died in other people’s.” – Anais Nin

For so long, creative achievement – to make something out of nothing, to shape meaning out of raw experience, to impose your soulprint on the world — was the province of men.

‘Woman artist’ was an oxymoron: such a person was not a real artist (a lady artist, a dilettante) or not a real woman. To be a creator is to be the one who looks and invents instead of being looked at or invented, who chooses instead of being chosen.

A female creative is by definition a rebel, and a rebel is a dangerous woman. @justinemusk
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She’s dangerous because her full-blooded, authentic spirit and its insistence on expressing itself through her chosen medium cuts against what it means to be traditionally feminine. To be feminine, as our culture would have it, is to be quiet, inoffensive, self-sacrificing, restrained, pretty, pleasing and nice.

It is to discount your inner truth when it threatens to be even remotely disruptive, as truth tends to be; it is to listen, nod and smile; it is to be weaker and lesser; it is to strive for a level of perfection that isn’t so perfect it might intimidate other people, especially men; it is to split off the stormy emotions and tamp them down deep where they can’t hurt anybody – except maybe yourself.

It is to learn to see yourself from the outside in, constantly adjusting your image while knowing that you’re somehow, in some way, constantly falling short: as an object of desire, as a wife and mother, as a woman who doesn’t want to be a mother, as a working woman trying to Have It All.

It is to navigate words like slut, ballbreaker, bitch, golddigger, crazy, overly sensitive, ugly, overweight, selfish, spoiled, old.

It is to shy away from words like ambition or power or greatness.

It is to feel a kind of blankness, mental fog and/or vague sense of shame over personal finances.

It is to go shopping a lot.

It is to see other women as the competition, or the enemy.

It is to try to be all things to all people without knowing who you are at core.

It is to keep yourself modestly sized, including dreams and ambitions that aren’t related to being in a long-term monogamous relationship or having babies.

Writes Linda Austin:

“The bolder a man of achievement is, the more he is actually conforming to his gender stereotype; his social position becomes safer than ever, and he thoroughly gratifies the expectations of his parents, family and society. For a woman, boldness puts her distinctly at odds with the role that society expects of her. She leaves the safety of conformity to group expectations for a solitary adventure that is hers alone.”

From necessity, then, a female creator is creating from the ground up, her own sense of what it means and how to be a woman.

That is the challenge — and the opportunity.


Justine Musk is the author of three traditionally published dark-fantasy novels and blogs about the relationship between creativity, shadow, personal power, and sexuality. She believes that being uncooperative with bullshit is to be cooperative with your own audacious truth.


Image courtesy of Simone De luliis.