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Yet it doesn’t sit right with me.
A review of opinions and articles on this subject yield a surprising range of opinions, and yes- a fair amount of generalizations. Mind you, these are not MY opinions, just a sampling of thoughts about the subject of female representation in small press:
-There is no disparity, it just means that you aren’t reading the “right” kind of publications. Move away from the frat boys and you will move away from their mentality.
-Men have less dignity, like dogs, and just want their bellies rubbed. They follow editors around and sniff their asses.
-Women are less concerned about “credit”, possibly because they are often conditioned to be less competitive. They aren’t looking for notches on their pencils.
Men, on the other hand, think with their pencils.
-Women are less aggressive, more selective, and submit to fewer publications in general because they have higher standards.
-Women tend to produce fewer, but more “finished” pieces and simply have less work to send. Women tend not to write by the pound, and take a more discerning view on their prospects.
Another point, complicated and difficult to address here lest we go hog wild, tangentially, is the idea of the “male aesthetic”, which many editors simply prefer or consider to be their target audience. Identifying a particular male aesthetic is a challenge in itself, but perhaps it would be helpful to try as this might also be a factor, as is the “transgressive genre” which might bring us into areas of different comfort zones when it comes to associations with sex, for example.
Are women more fearful of these associations, because of their social situations and societal expectations, and therefore further limited in their options? Are women judged differently for the literary company they keep?
Now I am not making these generalizations, and I am not saying “women are more afraid to get their hands dirty”. But what I am saying is that there is a lot of writing out there that attempts to shed some light on the question of female representation in small press and what they offer can be seen as food for thought.
One thing rings true to me, regardless of the reasons and the reluctance: You are responsible for your own silence, for keeping your work in a drawer, for bemoaning a dominant aesthetic when you can/should push your own as equally valid, right alongside. Your reluctance and your excuses are for you to own in the world of small press, and there are plenty of gates that you might just have to crash down yourself.
So let’s get out our big girl boots and start crashing.