On not needing permission

A few weeks ago, I encountered the following quotation from Trinh T. Minh-ha on my Facebook feed:

S/he who writes, writes. In uncertainty, in necessity. And does not ask whether s/he is given the permission to do so or not.

Trinh T. Minh-ha, Woman Native Other (8)

I love this quotation and the book it comes from. I’ve used and taught Woman Native Other many times. Her belief in the writer who doesn’t ask for permission is a nice contrast to Elizabeth Gilbert’s idea that women need permission and that she, as a hall monitor, can give it to them (she’s said this in many different interviews. Here’s one source).

I meet people who want to be doing interesting and creative things and they’re stuck,” she says. “Women especially seem to feel they need a permission slip from the principal’s office before they’re allowed to do anything, and I’m so happy to just be constantly writing those permission slips for everybody.

I’m the hall monitor: You have a pass and you have a pass and you have a pass,” she says, handing out imaginary passes. I’m very happy to have that be my job, or one of my jobs.


Yuck. As a teacher/guide/mentor, I’m not interested in granting permission. Why reinforce the power structure of an Authority figure who must say it’s okay? Why have a hall monitor?