Thursday, February 10, 2011

F-Bombing for Women

Real title because Blogger won't let me use a strikethrough in post title...

Blame Submission(s): Ask Real Questions Before I Burn This Mother Father Down

Reminder: it is 2011. That’s going to depress the soul right out of you in a minute. Whether it depresses the soul out of you because we should be more advanced as a society by now or because it isn’t 2012 (read: capitalismpocalypse) yet and we still have to live in this world remains to be seen.

Still, where them Paxils at?

History lesson: mid-2010, Jennifer Weiner hate-tweets New York Times Book Reviews (more on the pejorative “chick lit” label later*), and Jodi Picoult coins the phrase “white male literary darlings.” Thanks, ladies, and I mean this in the most sisterhood-y way, but duh. Okay? DUH. And ya’ll got criticized (paragraph 5), and I’m not touching that, either, cause this is just a history lesson. So anyway, blogosphere whips itself into a troll-filled frenzy.

Enter VIDA. Wait. Whiskey first. Paxil. Whatever your coping thang(s). Ok, now click. The horror. Pop, sip, repeat.

Nevermind. We know this shit. Women know this. It isn’t that VIDA is telling us new and mind-fucking things. It’s that now, there are numbers. Crazy things happen when you show numbers to a bunch of letters people. Shit’s legit now. The maddening, homicidal rage-inducing fury I feel when I read impotent responses—not just in comments sections, but from supposedly educated writers researching and crafting counter-arguments—is soooo not good for my heart. Or anyone standing close by. My favorite: “Women just aren’t submitting.” With all the strength I hereby possess, I will turn from the colossal Freudian slip of that statement and simply say, FUCK YOU.

Can we for one second be grown-ups here, be intelligent, critically thinking grown-ups and say that “women just aren’t submitting” is a woefully inadequate, unproductive, unilateral statement that does NOTHING in terms of addressing a real problem, NOTHING but put the blame back on women, NOTHING but divert attention from every single legitimate real obstacle facing women writing today? This is the literary equivalent of saying, “Maybe if women didn’t wear such short skirts, they wouldn’t be raped so much.” FUCK YOU. Let’s talk about WHY women aren’t submitting. Let’s talk about what these journals, presses, book reviewers, and publications are doing to court talented female writers. Let’s talk about how maybe if these venues PUBLISHED work by women, they’d be more INTERESTING to women, and maybe SUBMISSIONS by women would pick up. (Am reminded now of Rain and Thunder Collective’s instruction to “Submit to no one” when they ask women to please “contribute” to their publication. Happy face.) This is chicken-and-egg elementary shit!

It’s time for a real conversation about this, and thankfully, VIDA is asking for the same thing. My girl Annie Finch knows what’s up. My favorite part of Annie’s practical, applicable, five-part call for more productivity and less sitting around and bitching (oops, is that what I’m doing?) is #3, which I’m quoting here in its entirety because it’s that damn good: 3. Read with double awareness. When you are reading a literary offering from a woman (as with any writer whose background differs from the majority white-male-upper-middle-class), be extra careful to notice your responses. When you find yourself reacting against something in a piece, ask yourself honestly whether gender might have something to do with your response. For example, women’s writing is often rejected by (female or male) editors because of an “overly personal” or “too emotional” tone; “sentimental” diction or imagery; or “trivial” themes. If your judgment is based on any of these reasons, think again, and imagine for a moment that you live in a world where writing is routinely rejected not for these things, but instead for being “overly impersonal” or having “too much thinking,” for being “too violent” in theme or plot or “too cold” in diction, tone, or imagery. THANK YOU, ANNIE! Because as Jessa Crispin of Bookslut points out, “There is absolutely nothing about The Atlantic that screams out to me: We are totally respectful of women and their various viewpoints, and we'd be interested in publishing the work of a single, globetrotting, pro-choice feminist who does not under any circumstance want to write about her relationships, her femininity, or her sex life.” Hey, The Atlantic? FUCK YOU. Writing about sex and femininity and relationships doesn’t make us uninteresting to anyone but you and your likeminded. (And those who apologize for that kind of women’s writing? FUCK YOU, TOO. Writing about sex and femininity and relationships doesn’t make us submissive, anti-feminist drones*. Die in a fucking fire of your own self-righteousness.)

Now scroll down and read the refreshing response to Crispin by Michael Schaub (THANK YOU, MICHAEL!). Highlight: “At the risk of sounding arrogant, I am completely and totally free of any bias when it comes to the authors I choose to read…. (This sounds like something, right? A sentence beginning with ‘Some of my best friends are’ and ending badly?)” Schaub goes on to cough up his own stats as a book reviewer—73% written or edited by men.

Bam, there you go. Let’s talk about that. Because the real questions we should be asking aren’t whose fault this is (because it’s society’s fault, and we’re all part of society) or when we went wrong (uh, inception of patriarchy) or if the issue is really overblown (it isn’t) because numbers DO lie (they don’t). If we’re going to have a productive conversation about this—and so help me, we fucking better—it needs to be epigraphed thusly:

To say that quality will always rise to the public eye, regardless of gender and ethnicity, assumes that sexism and racism are conscious. There is enough evidence already, thank you, that sexism and racism are deeply engrained modes of thought which we do not understand and which do not appear at present to be controlled by our will. The avowed sexist is less a problem to me than one who is blind to his own dismissive, offensive, abusive, or aesthetically naive treatment of women. As a reader and viewer, look to the margins, look for your own blindness. –Alison Hawthorne Deming, from Girls in the Jungle: What Does It Take for a Woman to Survive as an Artist

THIS IS ALL OF OUR FAULTS. There is no bandaid here. Pointing the (middle) finger at anyone else while not also pointing it at ourselves is as unproductive as asking, even in jest, which form of discrimination is the worst. (Yeah, that happened this week, too. Fml. Is this shit funny to anyone??) F-bomb free and heartfelt plea alert. Please read up on this and join the conversation, here or at VIDA or elsewhere, anywhere. K, I lied—fucking ENOUGH, already!

Where my matches at?


  1. why do the comments section on htmlgiant seem to me like the literary equivalent of a huge circle jerk?

    an htmlgiant commenter, a pussy, & a PBR walk into a bar. pussy says, i ain't paying, pbr says, don't touch me, htmlgiant commenter says, fap fap fap...

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.