Shit, if I know. He tells me that 10% of his submissions come from females, with some plus or minus for names he can’t decipher. Does R.J. have a vagina?
“You want me to ask?”
He claims that if I did a women’s anthology, I would be all about the sisterhood. If he did the same, I’d come kick him in the nuts. I assure him I would not. His wife is fond of them, and I am all about the sisterhood.
But I consider his claims of a double standard, and my own conflicts about the remedies. Gender disparity in small press is not an easy issue to tackle, and I don’t think the answer lies in moving away from hard work and merit to a quota designed to interject numerical balance, contrived with good intentions but ultimately reducing women to token status. I think ladies can hold their own in that regard, on merit and talent, and I want to see the work selected because it is good. I am not proposing some kind of poetry affirmative action.
Ideally, I would take the physical characteristics and social circumstances out of the equation but would hope for that same neutrality in our opportunities.
We should also consider this idea of merit honestly. Like many social realms, we can see that there are other factors: who you know, whose ass you kiss, where you went to school, how many hot pictures you share, reciprocity,who writes flattering comments on every damn thing you put on facebook… Are we kidding ourselves when we talk about blind judgment? Sure, most editors will claim a level of integrity but the fact remains that the acts of curating, soliciting, editing… all of these involve their biases. So in that context, suggesting that editors have an eye for balance on the surface seems like a positive remedy.
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.
by James Carney