Would we ever think to ask if this is a golden age for men essayists? Is it even credible to use the phrase “men essayists”? Why does it sound incorrect in a way that “women essayists” doesn’t? And why does a writer like me — female, feminist, familiar with the discreet and overt forms of sexism in the literary world and beyond — bristle when presented with such a query, one undoubtedly intended to celebrate rather than diminish the achievements of a category of people I admire and to which I belong?
Probably because I’m of the opinion that as long as we still have reason to wedge “women” as a qualifier before “essayist,” the age is not exactly golden. And yet it’s hard to deny there’s something afoot. Essayists who happen to be women are having a banner year.”