Erica Jong, best-selling author of "Fear of Flying" and "How to Save Your Own Life" said last night women have not resolved the conflict between 20th century ideas of sexual liberation and the moral codes their parents told them to obey.
Women are in conflict between two centuries, between two modes of living, Jong said after a poetry and prose reading at Boylston Hall sponsored by The Harvard Advocate.
Speaking to an audience of about 70, Jong said "Patriarchy in this country stunts women and their ambitions. Women are kept down in this society. It's her acceptance of her secondary status that keeps her there," she added.
Jong said she believes many women writers today, including Joan Didion and Mary McCarthy, "eroticize pain" in their works. "All women writers have for role models are suicides, spinsters and madwomen," she said.
She said Colette is one of her favorite authors because "Colette is a beacon of health in a world of madness."
Jong advised young writers to write about their fantasies. "As I got in touch with the fantasies in my own life, I found I was getting in touch with the fantasies of other people's," she said.
The role of a writer is to become "a mouthpiece for something many people feel. If you become a writer you are in a sense writing for people who don't know how to write," she added.
Although she said she believes her books became successful because women could identify with the struggles of her heroine, she added "The Fear of Flying is revolutionary because Isadora endures."
Jong said she draws her writing material from her own experience. "It's been a hard struggle to begin writing about things in my own life," she said, adding that women's need for male approval often makes it hard for them to find their own artistic identities.