W, the women who write in first person plural, come to this point of view from different angles. We want to speak for a group. We want to show the danger of group think. We want to feel solidarity. We want to expose fracture. We want to try something new. We find it’s the only way to tell the story we want or need to tell.
We hold these truths to be self-evident that not all of us are created societally equal. That this inequality is built into, perpetuated by, the language itself. That women and non-binary people should not have to fall under the label “men.” The first person plural can be a way to tell the truths we hold.
In 2004, Laura Miller wrote, “the communal inclinations of women, though often praised, are riddled with ambivalence, and that makes the first-person plural a particularly fraught choice for women writers” but our choice isn’t always fraught, our inclinations not always riddled with widespread ambivalence (at least not enough so to sway us). She wrote this long before the Women’s March, long before #metoo, long before more women started speaking out en masse, through hashtag, through political campaigns, through bodies on the street. Rather than fraught, we’ve found the first person plural can be fierce. It can be freeing. Sometimes it can even be fun.
“There was something joyous, almost ecstatic, about the ‘we’ voice,” Julie Otsuka said in an interview in Harper’s about her novel The Buddha in the Attic. “I think of it being more like a song.”
Some of us come to the choral voice because we know heroes aren’t always singular, know that the idea of a the individual hero (most often traditionally the individual male hero) has led to so many silenced stories. We want to give voice to silenced stories, want to expand the idea of what a story can be and who can tell it.
Some of us come to the choral voice because we know heroes aren’t always singular, know that the idea of a the individual hero (most often traditionally the individual male hero) has led to so many silenced stories.