calling invisible women

Our writing tutor suggested Jeanne Ray’s Calling Invisible Women as an interesting read- starting from a standard domestic scenario and turning into something different. She was encouraging the notyet writers amongst us to feel comfortable starting with the familiar.

I enjoyed the book much more than I expected- I suppose I was expecting light hearted chick lit, but I found it fun, challenging, political, and ever so slightly bonkers. In a good way. It’s essentially about how the cultural invisibility of menopausal women led directly to a physical invisibility.

Who noticed? Who cared?

What can you achieve when nobody knows you’re there? What power do you have?

What are the freedoms associated with being naked and unseen?

Are we all invisible in some way?

The next book I read was Bedsit Disco Queen, where teenage Tracey tried out her voice for a band from inside the wardrobe. This presented a number of challenges (‘We could hardly take the wardrobe around with us.’) and prompted a sort of reflection many of us will recognise

“Making music is never just about making music. it’s about being heard, fighting for your personal vision- your own version of events- to be listened to, given weight. It’s about making people sit up and notice you, and acknowledge your worth. But while I wanted all this, I seemed to want it in an invisible sort of way. I wanted to be heard without having to be heard, or perhaps more specifically, without having to be looked at.”

Are you invisible? Do you want to be?

What would you change?


12 thoughts on “calling invisible women

  1. Now I want to read it. It is amazing as you pass through your thirties to late forties how you suddenly realise you are invisible to much of the population; just another middle aged woman. In some ways it is quite nice, but at other times you can feel just like Arabella Weir’s character in the Fast Show; completely negated. And it is not just men and younger people who do this. Woman in positions of power routinely ignore those older women of less status and hijack their contributions as their own. I have long said I do not need an invisibility cloak now I am comfortably in middle age. Time has provided me with something equally effective. Maybe that is why writing appeals more and more!

    1. It’s weird to realise how little we are seen/ acknowledged. Sometimes I’m wildly annoyed by it; other times I don’t mind being underestimated- I get to keep the element of surprise 🙂

      1. I bought some headphones a while ago in Argos. Quite trendy ones. When they arrived and the assistant called the number he looked straight passed me at younger folk behind, and then glared at me when I stepped forward. It was very odd, and a jolt. An unpleasant one.

  2. I wonder if it the fourth stage in life where we become ourselves for the first time.
    Stage 1- A child of our parents.
    Stage 2 – The wife of our partner.
    Stage 3 – A mother for our children.
    Stage 4 – Life settles down and we have time to think our own thoughts, be ourselves, step outside the comfortable box, but who in fact are we? Which of our thoughts are totally are own and where do we wish them to lead us?

  3. I feel this more than ever, Fiona. Many of the tangential people in my life look at me like, “Why are you going for dreams now? You’re way too old for that.” And that’s why they’re tangential.

    I can’t imagine you or any of the other ladies I read as invisible women. Through the wonder of the web, I’ve found the strongest, most amazing set of girlfriends. The way you pushed through and spoke up for yourself and people in your position – that is the opposite of invisible.

    1. Thank you, Andra. The charity are organising an event at our parliament next week- the girls realised that press would be there and got ready to let me rehearse my speech. I’m not expecting to be making a speech, but they assume I will. That’s odd, but cool.

  4. I suppose visibility has accountability hand in hand with it, and so though I yearn for more recognition it would be terrifying to have a large number of people combing through my work!! One of Harry Potter’s cloaks would be most useful to choose invisible moments.

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