Female Literary Form?

I am preparing to teach Angeles Monrayo, Tomorrow’s Memories, in Pinay Lit this week. I have been thinking of how to introduce the form itself to my students. How not to take the diary for granted, to cast it as non-literary before we even have an opportunity to examine it closely. How much of that taking for granted is already gendered. Is the diary a female realm. When male writers keep diaries, do we not call them “journals.” What’s the difference, except for perspective and history.

So the diary as female, as epistolary, as in, “Dear Diary….” The diary itself is the confidant, listener, secret keeper. Remember those diaries we were gifted with as young girls, pink and floral, with gold leaf edged pages. And a tiny lock. Each page contained one day of the year. So then, perhaps brevity is also important in recording our private female thoughts. And so is penmanship! We think of diary as highly subjective and casual, with that “I,” which we don’t think of as a literary “I,” but a personal, an intimate “I.”

This is certainly different from blog and any other social media, even when we have adjusted the privacy settings on our accounts. Is there still naïveté about privacy online? Do we still believe no one can access us there? Is there still such as thing as private and secret spaces for girls?

In social media, in public platforms, we are hyper-conscious we are being read and viewed. When we blog, we are engaging in public discourse. Our online writings can travel, and be cited. Hence, we perform. We create public personae, which may resemble or intersect with our “true” selves. But as these public people, our thought processes become performance, our relationships are performed, our outrage is performed, our grief is performed. My guess is, performance has become so much our norm, we are “on” all the time. Even when we make proclamations that we are “switching off,” or “checking out,” we are performing that as well.

In the private diary, ideally there is no performance mode –Anne Frank certainly did not know she would be so widely read by so many people, in so many different languages. The diarist is honest about her beliefs, hopes, and dreams. She is sincere about what she knows and witnesses. It is the perfect medium for a girl, lady, woman, who has been instructed for generations, not to tread into public space, not to participate in public discourse.

And yet, there’s a contradiction, isn’t there. These same girls, ladies, women, have also been instructed for generations, not to prioritize, focus on, centralize the self and her opinions. But in the diary, she is the center, and it is all her opinion.

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