What a Little-Known Ursula K. Le Guin Essay Taught Me About Being a Woman

“Introducing Myself” changed my life at 16, and it’s only become more resonant in the decades since

Le Guin’s essay “Introducing Myself.” “I am a man,” she begins, and goes on to spin a sardonic fable rich with wordplay, arguing, with dripping sarcasm, that “man” is what she must be — since to be a person, one must, it seems, be a man.

That first sentence shocked me with its daring. I read the whole thing through, my heart beating faster with each new paragraph, and when I got done I walked it straight over to the copy machine and ran off two copies and rushed back to my speech coach as fast as I could go.

“We have been told that there is only one kind of people and they are men,” Le Guin writes. “And I think it is very important that we all believe that. It certainly is important to the men.”

.. First, there was an intake of breath at the thought that this was what writing could be: this sort of knowing, joking wit that was also deeply confessional and intimate. And second, a deeper realization that this is what being a woman could be: someone at once wise and self-questioning, seeking understanding and answers, unfeminine but not masculine, unflinchingly intellectual.