I’m Just Being a Bitch Again
So HTMLGIANT, I’ve been told, serves a mostly young male community in its comments sections. I wasn’t sure that was true, but apparently, that’s the hope:
On HTMLGIANT, Blake Butler (who is also the editor of HTML) pimped a new mag, “We Are Champion,” that his work appears in; Elisa Gabbert pointed out that it’s an all male-issue without being publicized as such. I posted a reply to Blake’s post this morning, twice. My comment has not appeared (pasted below tho – miraculously, ten minutes after this post appeared, so did my comment), but what did is Blake’s new antagonistic query:
“When you are reading or editing an issue of a magazine, do you perform a contributor penis and vagina count, to verify a decent mix? Do you perform a race count? Do you verify the range of the letters in the last names?”
Let him know what you think (here). As usual, there is no serious address regarding why folks might “accidentally” publish and award men’s writing in disproportionate numbers, over and over, how this bias could be systemic, buried so that we’re unaware of how we inherit it, etc – it’s all without thought (i.e. thoughtless), or so goes the defense, don’t you know? And because of course, I’m always the bitch, the “last name letter counter” or whatever smarmy-ass pitch gets sent my way for pointing such gross disparities out. No real engagement or consideration; just a call to arms from the young men he hopes will mock the very question.
By the way, here’s my magically-disappearing comment that Blake won’t let through – pick up a copy of PARROT while you’re at it:
I love Gary Lutz and Mike Young, but I ain’t buying this mag. Three women writers in the entire contents of two issues? And it’s a new mag?
I’m sure the editor, or someone, will come along and insult me, call me bitchy names, mock my face, etc in “defense” of the contents and for pointing out such obviousness, but it’s plain and simple: here we go again, repeating the old exclusive boy’s club traditions of what we thought was fading. Shall we all retreat to Black Mountain and sit at Olson’s feet whilst we write poems for Pound? Oh, I’ll shut up; that’s my job.
I’ll post my response in advance so that I don’t have to return for the certain vitriol:
I’m not saying the work in this mag is bad! I’m sure there’s good stuff within. But it’s exclusive. SUPPORT MAGS THAT PROMOTE A VARIETY OF WRITERS, AND SINCE WE’RE AT LEAST HALF THE WRITING POPULATION, THAT SHOULD INCLUDE A FEW WOMEN. MORE THAN THREE OUT OF EIGHTEEN. I just subscribed to Parrot yesterday. Do that. It’s not hard to find excellent, complex, thrilling writing by women published with excellent work by men. It just isn’t. And if you say it is, well, you’re not trying hard enough.
Subscribe to PARROT and receive all the individual titles from the PARROT series for $42.00 or pre-order the Limited Edition hand-bound set of the collection, signed and numbered 1-50 for $75.00.
PARROT will print the work of Stephanie Rioux’s My Beautiful Beds, Harold Abramowitz’s A House on a Hill (House on a Hill Part 1), Amanda Ackerman’s I Fell in Love with a Monster Truck, Will Alexander’s On the Substance of Disorder, Amina Cain’s Tramps Everywhere, Allison Carter’s All Bodies Are The Same and They Have The Same Reactions, Kate Durbin’s Kept Women, Joseph Mosconi’s But On Geometric, Amaranth Ravva’s Airline Music, Mathew Timmons’ Complex Textual Legitimacy Proclamation, Allyssa Wolf’s Loquela as well as the work of Michelle Detorie, Vanessa Place, Brian Kim Stefans and others…
Subscribe to PARROT for $42.00 and receive each of the individual titles as they are released.
NOW THAT’S A MAG TO WRITE HOME ABOUT.
p.s. Blake, in his efforts to spearhead all good editing practices, has added a classy response for those who don’t like to think but prefer the kind of “humor” that divorces:
- i am going to start asking submitters with names like Jan Richards and A. Wethersby to send pictures of their genitals if they want to have their work read. just so i know what kind of stats their language is carrying.
Good one, Blake.
When Issue #1 offered the work of three women (Blake Butler, Mathias Svalina, Rachel B. Glaser, Ally Harris, Adam Robinson, Jonathan Papas, Carl Annarummo, A. Minetta Gould, Christopher Higgs, Giancarlo ditrapano), Issue #2 of “We Are Champion” got pissed and chose to obliterate any and all female poetics completely.
Issue #2 of “We Are Champion” now stars the All – Live, All- Male nude revue: Jimmy Chen, Chris Oklum, Mike Young, Ben Mirov, Joseph Goosey, Tyler Flynn Dorholt, Miguel Morales, Mark Leidner, Reynard Seifert, and an interview with Ben Marcus.
p.s. The We Are Champs’ editor has changed the contributors’ names to mislead & protect the innocent (of course, into women’s names). Now that is WAC! UPDATE: My bad. The editor did not change the names; I was mislead by a jpeg-look-alike of the mag created by one Jimmy Chen, WAC contributor. I should have found it funny instead of just misleading. Ha. ha. So. Funny.
Gender Politics Poetry Sexy blake butler editing editor editor's response editorial responsibility GENDER giant html HTMLGIANT Magazine Online Literary Magazine Poetry statistics WAC we are champion Women
AMY KING View All →
Amy King is the recipient of the 2015 Winner of the Women’s National Book Association (WNBA) Award. Her latest collection, The Missing Museum, is a winner of the 2015 Tarpaulin Sky Book Prize. She co-edited with Heidi Lynn Staples the anthology Big Energy Poets of the Anthropocene: When Ecopoets Think Climate Change. She also co-edits the anthology series, Bettering American Poetry, and is a professor of creative writing at SUNY Nassau Community College.
your comment got blocked because your IP address was new and it had a link in it, which makes it get pushed to spam. i just unspammed it. there it is.
Weird since I’ve posted before from this very computer, no problem. And then your query appeared after my comment should have … huh.
it hadn’t appeared with links in it before: that’s the main thing that makes the spam filters think it is spam. i don’t edit comments.
language over body.
Blake, I’m a bit surprised by your reaction over on HTML. It’s a bit oversnarky considering that this is a pretty serious consideration, *and* one that has been popping up re: HTML Giant too, with frequency. I don’t get why examining one’s editorial biases is so taboo. It may be painful, but ultimately it’s rewarding. I hope the doors of this conversation are flung wide & that it can transcend the unproductive snark.
Amy –right on. From one writer with lady bits to another: the issue of gender disparity has driven me crazy for years, and I’m appalled (but not surprised) and the flippant sarcasm that your observation raised.
Yes, I do look at the ratio of ladies to gents when I buy or read a mag so that I will have an idea of whether my work is likely to be included, and because I’m not down with sexism, be it intentional or unintentional. And when I have the time, I look into ethnicity to the best of my ability too. Because I’m tired of getting the same white heteropatriarchal shit over and over again, participating in the way it is repeated and therefore confirmed and legitimized over and over, and because I want to live in a world where voices like mine are heard and respected.
Three ladies out of 18 writers is a pretty sucky ratio — something that this mag appears to have in common with most New Yorkers. Here’s hoping that the editors read your post and confront the possibility of their own quiet, accidental prejudice head on.
if women don’t submit their work to journals that don’t have a lot of writing by women, this will only continue to be the case. i’m sorry that it’s not the seventies and you ladies missed the revolution. really, that would’ve been sweet. but i wish you would stop making tigers out of tissue paper.
“i’m sorry that it’s not the seventies and you ladies missed the revolution. really, that would’ve been sweet.”
oh, i’m just trying to rile yr feathers. honestly, i hope this ‘controversy’ results in more women submitting everywhere. i publish women all the time. in fact, i think it’s safe to say i’ve published as many women as i have men. not to put women on a pedestal or anything, after all, as they say, that makes it easier to see up their skirts, but (and this’ll be the first sexist thing i’ve said all day) i think that, on the whole, from my own experience, women have a better ear for language and create more interesting scenarios than men.
I’m with you on the language over body thing, Blake, but the fact remains that your “happening” to choose almost exclusively the language of males could very well betray a bias against, what, women’s perspectives, perhaps? Feminine issues?
Considering the history of patriarchy, it just seems like a thoughtful person would, well, THINK about these things, and make some attempt to provide a balanced selection. And when the imbalance is pointed out, try not to be flip about it. Joking about pictures of genitals does not exactly carry the conversation forward.
But as an editor, of course, you’re free to select the language you want to publish. But I am also free to make my choices, and as a woman with a rather feminine perspective & poetics, I won’t be submitting, since it seems it would be a waste of time. I don’t think I’ll be subscribing, either.
Sorry I misread…I see I missed a crucial detail in that you didn’t make those choices. Why you were defending them is beyond me.
(BTW, Amy, love the snarling raccoon. My sentiments exactly.)
Cute raccoon picture.
Men need not be dragged kicking and screaming into the light of understanding; we can recognize a thousands year-old campaign to marginalize women and silence their voices and take responsibility for opposing – and thereby ending – it. That doesn’t have to mean a “penis count” nor does it even mean we will always get it right. But it DOES mean accepting responsibility (and criticism) maturely for our own actions and the actions that have been perpetrated on our behalf for the last 5,000 years.
It doesn’t even seem like a complicated matter to me. How about saying, “Jeez, Amy, you’re right…I screwed up, and I’ll pay more attention to this very important issue in the future. Sorry.” You will have earned respect, a friend, and you would have done the manly thing of owning up.
Thanks, Danny – I noted something similar at HTML:
For the first issue of Spooky Boyfriend, I went out of my way to solicit work from women writers because no women had submitted at all. I think it’s important to strive, in whatever way(s) that can be accomplished, to have at least equal representation in literary magazines, because men have traditionally dominated these spaces.
And did saying so make you hurt or fall apart, Nate? Did the extra effort slice slivers from your soul?
I ask in all seriousness. Because acknowledging that bias exists, that we learn and practice it, aware or not (all genders do) seems to be painful in the extreme when one considers the lengths folks will go to to deny its existence. Some would like to remove “bias” from the OED, I suspect.
Later, Blake wrote another string of reductionist responses:
letters in a last name are just as arbitrary as sex parts when it comes to language.
how many caramels did you eat last year?
how many pears have you seen?
So Blake, experience has nothing to do with what one writes? Only the muse saunters up from the void and fills our heads with words?
We live in a gendered world. People are raised and get treated accordingly. Writing, hopefully, can do something about that. But denial, why that’s just a river flowing from your pen.
the poetry issue of Ploughshares i edited back in 1987 has 27 fem/25 mal contribs
every general litmag should at least try to have gender parity,
I disagree, Bill. I think that the numbers game is made to be more important than it is, and can be an act of tokenism, which I believe is on a par with intentional gender favoritism.
Only when gender is seen for its arbitrary nature will these issues lose their shrill importance. Representation by numbers fails to address any idea of equality’s essence. I would argue that the essence of equality lies in gender blindness, not in setting up a tally board and making sure that ratios are politically acceptable.
It’s easy to dismiss numbers when they’re always in your favor. What about equal pay for equal work? Silly, arbitrary, shrill?
Gender disparity has everything to do with ratio, but nothing to do with intention. What you are suggesting here is that there are some systemic issues in the area of inequality at HTML Giant. I’m calling bullshit on your presumption, because it falls significantly short of a rational response. Amy, what sort of data are you basing your information on? Correlation does not imply causation. You cannot simply infer that because there is a published ratio of 1 woman to 6 men in the issue then this means there is an editorial intention to favor men over women. I understand that you work in the humanities, but you are an academic, right? This sort of factual relationship should make sense to you? But you create an emotional relationship where, at the very least, a rational inquiry should first exist.
Blake’s responses are silly and representative of his exasperation at the misguided charges made against him. I would suggest that somebody asked Blake how many women submitted work to the issue. If the ration was 1 to 6, then Blake deserves an apology. Only when you know the answers to your inquiry, which I am suggesting that you didn’t make in the first instance, should you be free to come to a conclusion. And not before. I would suggest that you also have a moral responsibility to feminism, and that in not wanting to abrogate the sincerity of this responsibility with shoot-first-ask-questions-later-gender-politics, you should fact check first.
Blake wasn’t even the editor of the magazine in question. Blake deserves an apology? He was never attacked. You don’t even know who or what you’re defending.
I am hypocritical in that respect. That is a gun I jumped. Sorry, and for that I apologise. I didn’t stop to read.
I do know that I am arguing against the importance of this issue in contemporary poetry. I do not agree that gender bias is at work. Even unconsciously. I’m still waiting for evidence. The numbers themselves do not imply causation. That’s an indisputable fact.
So, Jé Maverick, what exactly are you waiting for as “evidence”? I list of 200 male editors to realize that they are unconsciously enacting a gender bias, and a signed apology from all of them? Isnt’ the evidence of a gender bias at work the prevalence of the male in literary publishing?
je, you’re an idiot. go fact check yourself.
Of course I am. Thank you.
To be fair, I think asking contributors for pics of their genitals is just good policy.
Not because it will necessarily curb any biases based sex or gender (or race?), but because looking at genitals is fun. (Generally.)
Why not an all-genital issue of a lit mag? Overlay the text right on the author’s genitals.
Je, while it could very well be that Blake received more submissions from men than from women, there is always the possibility of soliciting work from women whose work he admires. What Amy and others are saying is that an editor ought to do his/her best to achieve something close to equitable representation. It’s really pretty simple. It’s NOT rocket science.
I would also argue that it isn’t rocket science. Which is why I can’t fathom the inability that people seem to have in wrapping their brains around the idea that gender parity in any field falls short of being the peak of human flourishment. That is a bland equation, pure ratio. Tokenism at its rank worst. Soliciting work for the sole purpose of “making the numbers” is tokenism, in my opinion.
I would suggest that the peak of human flourishment is not the mere ratio of equal representation (which is a continuation of an us/them mentality in an extremely subtle form), but that the peak of human flourishment is gender blindness. I would not mind if there were more women than men in the journal if the true measure was the aesthetic (which we must presume was the measure by which submitted poetry was chosen for inclusion). Equality in gender ratio doesn’t trump the aesthetic in the realm of arts, nor should it in politics, medicine, space travel, etc… It is so far removed from issues of true importance, creating needless schisms where none ought to exist.
Why are you setting up a term/position that’s an absurd claim? “the peak of human flourishment”? What the hell is that? We’re talking about a variety of voices being heard throughout the literary landscape, not just male viewpoints. Not ‘flourishing the peak of humanity,’ or whatever digression you’re trying to establish here.
And blaming women for not going where they don’t feel welcomed (i.e. this mag publishes nearly all men, I think I’ll submit my work there!) is just old hat bullshit straight out of the woman-hating play book. I strongly recommend you do a little more listening and investigating and even study up on logical fallacies while you’re at it.
Nicholas, you just prove the point further. Reductionist much?
Je, I’m asking two questions in all seriousness:
1.) Have you actually read what’s going on? Blake didn’t edit the journal.
2.) Are you actually “calling bullshit” and “witch-hunt” in the same uninformed comment in some misguided attempt to portray yourself as a kool thing? Have you ever heard of soliciting work?
If you’d read through, you’d have read the mag’s editor (We Are Champions) own admission of his laziness and how he doesn’t ‘give a fuck’ about editorial responsibilities (along with his insults) here:
“yeah. here’s the thing. that magazine is solely my baby. i really don’t give a fuck if you and your forehead and your paisley wall get pissed. i solicited plenty of women. guys too. for some reason this was an all male issue. but guess, what? you’re right. we’re only two issues out. and the first one had some women in it. [he published 3 women writers and 18 male writers, so far – I have a feeling this will change with the next issue]. … i love women. i love women writers. but i also had a deadline to meet and the writing to think about first and foremost. man, woman, child, alien. none of that shit matters to me. i took the best pieces that came to me in the order that they came to me in.”
Je, Did you read Nate’s note about editing his mag above? Bill Knott’s? How about I give you some more samples of some other editor’s takes now:
“There are some really interesting points being made in this thread. As an editor, I don’t read thinking about gender or other diversities. I read for work that fits our aesthetic. As I assemble issues, I absolutely do try to find a balance, particularly where gender is concerned. I think a collection writing borne from diverse writers makes for a more interesting magazine. It is not about quotas or political correction but rather, it is about acknowledging that there is a wide range of experiences in the world and I am personally invested in doing what I can to giving access to as many of those experiences, and styles of writing, as I can. There are some diversities that are very hard to come by. Finding writers of color to submit feels near impossible. I’m pretty sure we’ve published no more than 10 writers of color ever and yes, that troubles me. It troubles me greatly because I know that is not an accurate representation of the writing community. I think it should trouble everyone, I really do. I’m an editor who is Haitian and a woman but that does not magically invite submissions from women or people of color. We don’t do much soliciting so we have to hope that we are creating a magazine where everyone feels welcome. Up to 80% of our submissions are from men but somehow that doesn’t result in heavily male-skewed issues. I don’t know why.
I don’t think it is wrong to voice concerns about an all-male or all-anything issue of a given magazine. Pointing out that kind of imbalance does not detract from the writers who are included. Discussing these imbalances is bringing attention to what is absent, not what is present.”
“I’d like to reframe the discussion and make it a little bigger–not just journal publishing.
I have applied for limited amount of state run grants to support a poetry festival I oversee. Every single one wants to know who is the population that is served; what are the racial, ethnic, and gender breakdowns of the artists; and how will the targeted community be served by the event’s proposed artists.
So, I literally have to go through artists I know, sort of know, don’t know, and then choose with these mitigating factors in mind. Do I think it compromises the event? I do not. In fact, I’d venture to say that I’m working against my natural biases, and being forced to take writers I would not otherwise take–much to my benefit in the longrun: I’m forced to see what is going on in poetic communities I don’t naturally gravitate toward, and by doing this, I’m getting a better range of writer. So even though I may have to use quotas to get a grant, I wind up having a lot of different but cool writers I would not otherwise be able to engage with.
And then I have to think about my audience–and the grants often want underserved populations–what are they looking for? Often, if not forced, I’d just keep it in my comfort zone–but I can’t with these grants. I am forced to branch out.
Now, for a journal–that kind of aesthetic range might make it seem indistinct and boring. I don’t know. I don’t edit a journal and don’t plan to. And I realize that journal editing is an entirely different process than putting together a reading series. But I like to think that there are enough good writers that even if some kind of quota system is in place, it doesn’t mean mediocrity and compromise of aesthetic integrity.”
Kool Thing? Very good. Fear of a female planet? I don’t think so. ;)
I’m brewing a major response to this very minor problem. I think you’ve cherry-picked your responses, but I will go away and read and listen and philosophise as you wish, and come back to this in due course.
What I find interesting and problematic here is the idea that seems to bubble below the surface of “gender blindness” and “language above body”: that gender somehow doesn’t influence experience (and therefore writing). Of course it does. The fact that I am a woman absolutely influences what and how I write. Not just mother poems, but the vulnerability that women experience (men are stronger, some are predators), the harassment and put-downs we’ve all experienced, the slights (like this one!) we’ve all experienced as women. Any man who can’t wrap his brain around THAT ought to sit down and shut up.
I’m sorry that you feel that way. But it’s not about you. It’s about US.
Je, my poetics are all about the unity of our species (and beyond that, the unity of the biosphere, and even beyond that…). But pragmatically speaking, we live a daily life in which differences exist and have a reality that is reflected in our art and language. And that diversity is beautiful. When a journal fails to reflect that, it falls short of what I look for in human expression. That’s what Amy’s railing against. It’s not about quotas, affirmative action, or attempting to deny the progression toward the unity of consciousness of humanity. But we are not there yet, and to pretend, for example, that parity was achieved by the women’s movement in the 70s, or that the struggle for civil rights for minorities ended when blacks were allowed to use the same restrooms as whites, is ignorant and unhelpful. It makes me wonder if you are simply uncomfortable with the fact that you experience unearned privileges by virtue of being male and therefore seek to deny it.
I’d want to look at any magazine/journal over a period of, say, a couple of years to determine any kind of gender bias. The latest two issues I’ve received–one of Hudson Review (poetry edited by a woman) and The New Criterion (poetry edited by a man)–don’t display any bias, and over the years these two, at least, seem to be about equally divided. Some magazines do announce thematic issues which may be more attractive to either men or women. I wouldn’t expect, however, a magazine like, say, Gray’s Sporting Journal (which regularly publishes poetry) to display an equal ratio, though I’m sure it would be interested in poems about women’s experiences in the areas it covers.
I agree with Sam, above. From my experience, whenever I have organized either writers, readings, or any sort of journal, gender has been the last thing on my mind (is that wrong?)–I have always looked first and foremost for writing that knocked me down and out. You could argue that this sort of writing might have certain gender tendencies, but in my case, unconsciously (I promise) it has tended to favor women over men, for no reason that I can clearly understand. (I am organizing a reading now and I had to take a count after reading Amy’s comments – so far, four women, two men that I have requested to read.) When I discuss my favorite writers on the web, the ratio is about the same. Again, someone with insight into the way my brain works might help, but that someone isn’t me–suffice to say, I have an unconscious poetry and prose selection preference against my own gender, or so might an observer suggest.
That being said, I suppose you can boycott the purchase of a journal because of what you perceive of gender bias, but aren’t you allowing therefore the possibility of missing something wonderful, for all the wrong reasons? Why not boycott based upon content? That works much better for me. I love to boycott, personally, and more and more as time goes on, but not when the selection in a journal apparently favors one gender over another, and perhaps has been done so for no other reason than the quality of the work submitted at that particular time. I would love to believe that the best writing is broken down 50/50 gender, but in an issue by issue case, that is rarely so–at least I hope not.
Dear Je Maverick’
There are plenty of blind studies that have been conducted in numerous fields around the world on gender preference, nearly all have found a statistically significant bias (or as cognitive psychologists like to call it “predictible cognitive error”) that favors work when the respondent believes it was created by a man. You could start by looking up “Orchestrating Impartiality” by Rouse and Goldin, a study of what happened to American orchestras when blind auditions were instituted. Women now dominate the first chair of the violin sections nationwide. jj
Thank you, Julia. I will be sure to look up this example. It’s a shame that you couldn’t offer more.
God damn all this talk of “gender blindness”, “language over body” “quality” etc makes me ill.
“women can’t paint; women can’t write” [VW, to the lighthouse] I suppose that goes for crazies (and dykes can’t fuck w the heteronormative either)
it implies that vaginas get in the way of writing well if you look for quality and don’t publish girls
same agenda as assimilationism
erasure of difference
fucking easy if your on the side with the bigger stick (so to speak)
heh the biopower of writing
(necropower of erasure?)
FIT THE AESTHETIC
why is the aesthetic homogenising, a hegemony?
aren’t people who break that awesome?
Joyce, woolf, genet, guyotat, mansfield if she’d lived long enough
killed the novel – it comes out of the ashes something new, with blood on its face, and eyes aflame – what if that never happened?
all of this shows the fact that poeple get really uncomfortable about reading difference, reading
poems (or whatever) that aren’t mirrors (if I want that I’ll go to the bathroom)
I want poems to break me
(and amys do)
ignore this is the rant of a crazy if you want i should be asleep but no.
do i make sense myself clear? [cf end of preceding line]
for rambling incoherently
No need for sorrow here – how about MORE! I dig it, Ross – thank you. There’s that symphonic cacophony I keep hoping for ….
Gak. I’m starting to feel a little Twisty Faster about all this: http://blog.iblamethepatriarchy.com/patriarchy-blaming-the-twisty-way/guidelines-for-commenters/ !
This is a real issue, and a bit of a sore spot, from the perspective of a curating editor (in the works…). I made an effort to solicit in a balanced fashion, and announced the submission process in a few places, and still ended up with a certain lack of parity that I’m very frustrated by. I wonder if other editors who take the time to worry about such matters have similar experiences.
But it’s a real issue, and I’m glad you’re here to tell it like it is.
Lots of hugs,
amy, did you even read anything over at htmlg or elisa’s blog? also, i never changed the names of the writers into women’s names. seriously? this is so misinformed it’s ridiculous. jimmy chen posted a silly graphic with the names changed into women’s names, something i had nothing to do with.
No, I just linked to their posts and commented on them; I didn’t read anything – this has all been a guessing game for me.
Am I harming your mag by listing the names of the contributor’s, Gene?
no, but that PS is false. if you would’ve taken a second to realize that not only was the url wrong but that you couldn’t click on the links. whatevs. i’ve said my piece on both elisa’s and htmlg’s blogs. take a second to check things out or actually ask questions of people before jumping to conclusions is all i’m saying.
Well, I haven’t read the links in the last 10 hours – I assume that’s when you posted? I do have other things going on in my life. I don’t sit and click refresh for each post I’ve linked to in my life every few hours.
And as far as “taking a second to check things out or actually ask questions”, I might suggest you do the same when next you edit.
on the list of aesthetically pleasing people/things at WAC, of the 27 examples that are poeple, 2 are female.
Oh, and this thread is all gristle and spit, apparently. (christopher, in comment stream at mike young’s blog)
Perhaps the true balance comes from constant vigilance, that we — as men, especially — shouldn’t be asking “Are we feminist,” but rather, “Are we feminist often enough?”
I’ve read and skimmed some of the comments about this, and one of the problems that I see that hasn’t been addressed is this idea that once post-feminist, we need not worry about feminism or inclusion any longer. This is always false: in fighting for gender, racial and marital equality, among others, there’s no arrival, no moment when your actions are good enough, passable. If the brain is gendered, then it’s also gendered to slip back into behaviors that objectify and exclude, because the brain, as center of the individual, exerts its primacy according to the identity of whose head it’s in.
I’m going to give an example then I’ll get out of here…
I am, by most measures, a feminist. I know that there are ways in which I can improve my behavior: that my upbringing (catholic) affected me would be an understatement. I’m also a man, and so have reactions that reinforce that identity, EVEN WITHOUT MY KNOWING.
The other day I was watching Antichrist, the shockfest from Lars von Trier. (Don’t read on if you haven’t seen it!!!!). In this movie, there female/male and female/self violence, mostly involved genital mutilation/castration/pulverization.
Not even conscious of this until after I finished watching, I had to admit that my reaction to the violence against the man was much more visceral than that against the woman (they don’t have names in the movie…he/she is employed). I find this to be revealing, and to be a grave issue that I need to examine, since I’m unsure if this is mainly due to “I can relate ” to his pain or “I don’t take her pain viscerally enough” and what this latter question might mean.
Anyway…so but while I think that on one hand there are always inequalities in our choices (whether we admit them or not), to not examine these choices when others notice them and only to further obscure them when dialog is attempted, seems to me to be the equivalent of allowing the behavior in Antichrist to continue ONLY IF it happens to someone who isn’t you.
not say people are “making assumptions”, or that “it just happened”, or that diverse publishing is necessarily tokenism.
Doesn’t make sense much
This lack of gender balance is a problem everywhere in the arts. Check out this essay from yesterday’s Guardian.
It’s cool that you’re upset about the lack of gender parity; if that’s your bag (your issue, your identity ), then go for it. But what about other groups that are (typically) underrepresented? How many black writers were published in WAC (or in the magazine you trumpet, for that matter)? How many “people of color” in general? And how does class skew? How many of the mag’s contributors are without college degrees? And how many have attended M.F.A. programs?
You’re being a tad myopic, don’t you thinK?
Yep, all of those are considerations: don’t forget the queers, citizenship status, religion. Of course, I can’t exactly name-identify all of those facets, but all oppressions are certainly connected and are worth interrogating. Who gets left out? Why? What did they write that wasn’t publication-worthy? What views, styles, subject matter, mode of presentation, etc.
Of course, implicit in your question is the assumption that I don’t work against those oppressions, which is a false assumption — but you didn’t ask did you. You took the insult route, that way you can point a finger and feel good. And of course, pointing out obvious disparities isn’t a solution at all. It’s just a start. I don’t have the answers, but I see the evidence – and I’m not going to shut up because I don’t see all of the evidence at once. Myopic? Only if you sit complacently, reducing the questions to someone just having a “bag”, as though they are the ones with the problem, not you and your enlightened self. What’s your “bag”, Alex? Or shall I take a stab and guess: we’re all just writers, dude, human bodies and the social constructs forced onto them don’t mean a thing, right? You know, when those urban black folks are systematically denied things like good educations, college, health care, and job opportunities, it’s all just figments of the imagination – not any realities attached to their bodies, no race, class, gender constructs trying to pin them in and limit their opportunities. Just like women and those damned monetary literary prizes – it just so happens that men have always been better writers, no bias! They should just write their way out of it! That’s the joy of privilege though: you can sit on a pedestal and ignore what those constructs mean for other people because they don’t actually affect you! You can just say that bodies don’t mean anything! We’re gendered, so what? Being a guy just means I get to write without querying what that means! Hooray for privilege!
Amy, Amy, Amy. A little quick on the trigger, don’t you think? I didn’t mean to insult you, and I certainly don’t think I’m enlightened (and I am aware, or try to be aware, of my own relative privilege). To answer your question, my own issues with literary prejudice–my own personal “bags”–revolve around class and race, hence the previous questions. (I was being sincere.) I went to an urban high school that was about “half urban black folk” and half urban white folk. I’m brown. There were big economic disparities at the school, as well (I was pretty close to the middle). Then I went to a private college where I saw a bunch of wealthy white people, for the most part, men and women both, arguing about questions such as these. So while I’m sympathetic to your feminism, and recognize how all of these “identity issues” are interrelated, I always wonder why race and social class, especially, seem to be missing from these discussions.
Don’t get how systemic oppression of one kind is meant to render that of another non-existent or less important… Does that make sense to anyone? It reminds me of those dogmatic marxists who argue that we can worry about gender/ethnic/whateverthefuck oppression after the revolution because talking about that now betrays the cause…. not sure how that is meant to work, but poeple seem to believe it. somehow.
Never said one was less important than the other…
the use of the word myopic was, at the least, condescending – and thus lessening the perceived status of the struggle for gender parity.
No one said that Class or Ethnic oppression was any less important either, but you came in here with your violent rhetoric, which seemed aimed at knocking people down a notch – that’s not going to help anyone.
If you’d said “hey, gender issues are important, but there are no people of colour or working class people here either – we should look at that as well”, then you would probably have found a much more hospitable welcome.
p.s. Obviously the second half of my little diatribe is aimed at those who have dismissed the gender disparities I point out as irrelevant because we’re all “just human” or “just people.” Not that you did that, Alex. I guess I’m tired and annoyed at all of the resistance, which is starting to blur together now, in its many dubious shapes, finger pointing, and dismissive guises/ways of trying to reductively frame the evidence / effects of systemic bias (i.e. “my bag”). Whatever. Good luck.
I understand that. Keep up the good work.
Calling this post–and the comment thread–“myopic” may have been harsh, but it wasn’t meant to be condescending. It also obviously wasn’t “violent.” Calling it so is just ridiculous.
Myopic implies damage, disability. “your bag” is condecending as all hell. The self-satisfied rhetoric of the barrage of questions (and the assumption that one cannot advocate for more than one cause) is meant to be demeaning, to dismiss this cause, this act of advicacy as unimportant or insufficient. That sounds like violence to me. Lack of self-awareness or intentionality doesn’t negate that.
As does the implication that I’m ridiculous in thinking so – therefore dismissing the value of my contribution to the discourse.