by Victoria Barrett
Oh, look! A man, this journalist named Claudio Gatti, pursues private information about a person who very plainly prizes her privacy and publishes that information in some kind of worldwide exposé about that woman, and then defends himself by saying that "the lies were hers," that because "she lied about her personal life that she chose to present" in the form of her new "autobiographical" book, readers — and apparently Gatti — "acquire[d] the right to know" who she really is.
Huh. Where have we heard this before?
The similarities in invasiveness, entitlement, and utter disregard for a woman's humanity on display here are not even nominally new to anybody who's paying attention. The original report (which we're not going to link, because ugh) exposes the alleged "real" person behind the fictional persona/pen-name Elena Ferrante, author of many books of really good fiction, most notably the Neapolitan quartet including My Brilliant Friend, The Story of a New Name, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, and The Story of the Lost Child. Her books have sold more than two million copies in the U.S. alone, which sounds like a whole lot of people entitled to the garbage Gatti dug up, including financial and property records and her entire family history. Gatti's claim that he "has acquired a right" to her very identity, with details from that identity used in a circular defense of his actions, sounds a whole lot like a rape defense.
Read more: 10 Things I Totally Blame on Feminism
Would a man be unmasked in the same way? Perhaps. People were certainly obsessed with the details of J.D. Salinger's life. And would the literary world be as collectively outraged if Ferrante had been investigated and revealed by a female journalist? Again, maybe so, if only because Ferrante has said that she will continue to write but stop publishing if her identity is made public. But neither of those examples are what happened. What happened was that a man determined that he was entitled to parts of a woman's life that she had explicitly declined to share, availed himself of those parts, and then exposed them to anyone who might be interested in looking. In a world full of men who feel entitled to take whatever they wish from women, whenever they wish to have it, this is a particularly disgusting and sad development.
Victoria Barrett's fiction and nonfiction have appeared in Glimmer Train, Salon, PANK, and other outlets. She lives and writes in a house full of men and boys (even the pets) and tries not to feel too bad about it.