Long before Carrie Bradshaw’s blinking cursor, long before Lena Dunham’s unapologetically proud nudity, long before The Vagina Monologues, live posting, My So Called Life, Snapchat stories, curated feeds, and every other avenue for sensational, confessional, personal, and sexual exploration by women anywhere in the public realm, really, there was Anaïs Nin. Possessed of a certain mad genius, a laser focused inner drive, a haunting beauty, a revolutionary stance on sexuality and feminine power, and a wholly necessary IDGAF attitude, in the sense of owning one’s story, Anaïs is one of the first truly modern women. Thank you, Ms. Nin, for making everything that’s come after possible.
Why we love her: Known most widely for her diaries, which outline the exploits of the star-studded cast of (essentially exclusively male) writers and bon vivants she ran with in Paris in the 1930’s, her diaries also contain long and beautiful meditations on the nature of the self, on what it means to be a woman in this world. A passage like this:
“How wrong is it for a woman to expect the man to build the world she wants, rather than to create it herself?”
Unfortunately, still feels somewhat revolutionary even now…Imagine the reaction it must have gotten in 1940? Bold.
Haters gonna hate: She was also an almost never-before-heard-from-rarity: a woman who write explicitly about sex from a female perspective, who celebrated herself as her most fascinating character. She blurred the lines of autobiography and memoir by cataloging her own sexual exploits, both in attitudes of celebration and dissection. Deplored by her critics for decades, many considered her writing, with its frank and unapologetic eroticism, to be the ultimate act of narcissism. One headline famously called her “a monster of self-centeredness whose artistic pretensions now seem grotesque”. Despite the brutal backlash, she continued to work relentlessly, even going so far as to set her own type to self-publish most of her seminal works. We’d like to think that Anaïs invented the concept of “haters gonna hate”.
Inspiration: We’ll be lighting a candle or two, slipping into our silk dressing gown, breaking out our dogeared copy of “Delta of Venus“, and reminding ourselves of this: “The possession of knowledge does not kill the sense of wonder and mystery. There is always more mystery.” Amen, Anaïs.