M:F ratio at the Atlantic, Boston Review, Granta and others

Look at these pie charts. Just look at them. Jesus. Here’s one as a taster:

Via HTMLGIANT, which I’m sure is seconds away from erupting into another round of HOW CAN YOU SAY THAT DON’T YOU KNOW THEY’RE JUST PICKING THE BEST STUFF THEY CAN FIND wangst.

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13 Comments

Filed under Fail, Literature, Publishing, Reviewing, Social justice

13 responses to “M:F ratio at the Atlantic, Boston Review, Granta and others

  1. Jon

    Nick – without wanting to be too contentious, I’m not sure how worked up anyone should be getting about this. I can follow the idea that editors have a moral responsibility to prioritise inclusivity and don’t, therefore, have the excuse that men submitting are far more numerous/persistent. But this is the liberal arts. Systemic gender bias in government is seriously objectionable because government permeates our day-to-day life in all manner of ways. Same goes for big business and widely disseminated imagery (magazine covers, etc). With publications like these, when they don’t live up to their boasts or their image, you dump them and deny them.

    Maybe I’m just saying that as someone who already likes to put out of sight and mind most of these titles because the ingrained biases of style and content, on all sorts of levels, are instantly demoralising.

  2. Jon

    Hmm … scratch that, actually. The article is worthwhile, pointing it out is worthwhile and generating interest is worthwhile. The only thing sending me somewhat to the other corner of the ring is the shrill comment near the top: “Privilege is blind, and protective. The dominant narrative is male …”

    Maybe true, but reads like kneejerk slogan-regurgitation.

  3. Nicholas Liu

    Answering the question of “how worked up anyone should be getting about this” is a burden you need not take upon yourself. Everyone will get exactly as worked up about it as they are inclined to, depending on how much they care about the issues involved. I don’t understand your (initial) response.

    “Dump and deny” sounds good, but surely it’s a problem when many of the most prestigious, widely-read magazines in a particular field are markedly less hospitable to women than men. I mean, I’m free to “dump and deny” lots of things, and in fact do–like anything to do with sport, television, or computer programming–but that is not good grounds for dismissing the significance of sexism in those fields.

    Maybe I’m just saying that as someone who already likes to put out of sight and mind most of these titles because the ingrained biases of style and content, on all sorts of levels, are instantly demoralising.

    Really? I find that a bit surprising. I do not see what’s demoralising about PR, BR, NYRB or Poetry as publications. If I found their contents in a small press mag, I’d be endlessly impressed. Could you explain? (Yes, it’s off-topic. But I’m interested.)

    The only thing sending me somewhat to the other corner of the ring is the shrill comment near the top: “Privilege is blind, and protective. The dominant narrative is male …”

    Maybe true, but reads like kneejerk slogan-regurgitation.

    And maybe it is “slogan-regurgitation”. So? That’s what a slogan is for: the reiteration of a simple, crucial observation that the majority would much rather ignore, and in fact continues to ignore. Slogans expire when they become unnecessary or are wholly defeated. You, an avowed ally, will only go so far as to concede that it is “maybe true”–clearly, then, the idea is something that bears repeating still.

    P.S. “Shrill” is rather an unfortunate word to use here. (For consistency, I should mention that the author’s use of “blind” is also regrettable.)

  4. Jon

    I mean, I’m free to “dump and deny” lots of things, and in fact do–like anything to do with sport, television, or computer programming–but that is not good grounds for dismissing the significance of sexism in those fields.

    Agreed; it’s not good grounds for dismissing it. But – and this ties in with why I talked in terms of “how worked up anyone should be getting about this” – it may be, on balance, the better reaction in the case of the liberal arts. By ‘better’ here, I’m weighing the personal and social benefits of publicly decrying something that’s wrong against the personal and social benefits of, say, using that same time and energy to enthuse about – or simply enjoy – something that’s right. It’s pretty much the same sentiment as: “Don’t let it get him to you – he’s not worth it.”

    In the case of something absolutely embedded in culture, of course we, collectively, owe it to ourselves to be loud in pointing out is failings. In the case of something that may well wither and die once its more modern replacement comes along, once people stop paying attention to it, the ‘dump and deny’ tactic could be, overall, a more efficient use of everyone’s time.

    But as I say, I’m not sure I stand by the original call I made on that. It comes down to judgement, in the end.

    Really? I find that a bit surprising. I do not see what’s demoralising about PR, BR, NYRB or Poetry as publications.

    OK, not all of them. But the TLS, the New Yorker, Granta – and I’d add in the Guardian literary section – are all publications which I’ve turned away from with a confused anger welling up inside me. I can’t say that it’s to do with exclusion of any particular group; it’s more to do with a common set of assumptions – or perhaps a lifestyle – reflected in the writing that seems to me comfortably disconnected from reality.

    If I put it this way perhaps: most of the people I know are at least a little (if not very) distrustful of the literary arts, and when I read these publications, I often empathise with them – which upsets the part of me that *is* very interested in literature. I want to wholeheartedly recommend that people invest more time in it, but because so many of these writers and journalists seem to be off in another world, I end up feeling I can’t. You could maybe put it down to a class thing, but that would probably be an over-simplification.

    And maybe it is “slogan-regurgitation”. So? That’s what a slogan is for: the reiteration of a simple, crucial observation that the majority would much rather ignore, and in fact continues to ignore.

    Reiterating the same observation in the same manner hardens the ear and heart against it (or rather, it gets very old very fast), not least because it’s rare for anything simple to be entirely true, and the more it is insistently repeated, the more it looks like all further intellectual inquiry has been abandoned because the stopping point arrived at is comfortable and safe. See how the entire right wing in the UK is besotted with phrases like “PC brigade”, happy that it explains everything they can’t deal with.

    I say ‘maybe true’ because I recognise a degree of truth in ‘privilege is blind and protective … the dominant narrative is male’ but also recognise that these are imperfect ways of interpreting what’s really going on in the world, in the sense that talking of any social ‘narrative’ is only going to be an aid or step toward understanding, and ‘privilege’ may often be all too aware of what it’s doing – and in fact, take comfort and satisfaction in looking down through the glass ceiling.

  5. Nicholas Liu

    It’s pretty much the same sentiment as: “Don’t let it get him to you – he’s not worth it.”

    Sure, I get that. But when the other party has thought about it and is quite convinced that it is worth it, the advice can have the opposite of its intended effect.

    In the case of something that may well wither and die once its more modern replacement comes along, once people stop paying attention to it, the ‘dump and deny’ tactic could be, overall, a more efficient use of everyone’s time.

    That’s possible, but there’s something a bit contradictory in saying that while continuing to submit to print mags and put out chapbooks and books, isn’t there? ;)

    (I get that you’ve changed your stance, so don’t feel like I’m demanding further responses on this and the previous point. Just thought I’d comment.)

    Re: The New Yorker & co., I’d be interested in seeing you elaborate on what you mean, though maybe this isn’t the place. Any chance you might write a blog post on that? Seems like a meaty topic.

    Reiterating the same observation in the same manner hardens the ear and heart against it (or rather, it gets very old very fast), not least because it’s rare for anything simple to be entirely true, and the more it is insistently repeated, the more it looks like all further intellectual inquiry has been abandoned because the stopping point arrived at is comfortable and safe.

    But when the slogan is a starting point rather than a stopping point–what then? That’s the case here.

    I say ‘maybe true’ because I recognise a degree of truth in ‘privilege is blind and protective … the dominant narrative is male’ but also recognise that these are imperfect ways of interpreting what’s really going on in the world, in the sense that talking of any social ‘narrative’ is only going to be an aid or step toward understanding, and ‘privilege’ may often be all too aware of what it’s doing – and in fact, take comfort and satisfaction in looking down through the glass ceiling.

    So which part of this sets you off and sends you part of the way “to the other corner of the ring”? Sure, it’s an “imperfect” (by which you seem to mean “incomplete”, really) way of phrasing it–as if perfect phrases existed. So is “water is wet”, but we usually don’t have a problem agreeing with that, despite its susceptibility to pedantic-but-meaningful objections like “not when it’s frozen it isn’t” or “not if you define wet as a description of sense data, and there’s no observer around to feel it” and so on. It’s not perfect, but it’s good enough to call true.

    My reaction, for what it’s worth, was to nod and move on, as I do with every elementary observation made because it may not be elementary to someone else.

  6. Jon

    That’s possible, but there’s something a bit contradictory in saying that while continuing to submit to print mags and put out chapbooks and books, isn’t there? ;)

    Ah, I know that’s a light-hearted comment but I think putting out chapbooks and books goes hand in hand with what I was advocating. That is, instead of trying to change the publications that command everyone’s attention, we – and I mean, a whole generation – publish our own vehicles for critical, cross-cultural discourse of all varieties.

    I’d be interested in seeing you elaborate on what you mean, though maybe this isn’t the place. Any chance you might write a blog post on that? Seems like a meaty topic.

    I’d have to spend some time working it out. It’s one of those things I haven’t pinned down yet. It may even be a whole bunch of disparate things that add up to demoralisation.

    But when the slogan is a starting point rather than a stopping point–what then? That’s the case here.

    Is it though? Did the person who left that post come back and make more considered remarks? It reads like a terse summary. “To conclude then: ‘slogan’.”

    There is this as well – you spoke of how particular phrases or terms of art grant a kind of solidarity to those who use and understand them. Slogans perform a similar function. And the other side of the coin is that it solidifies the ranks of your enemies. It becomes like a uniform (or, erk, a purity bracelet) – something that marks its users out.

    “So?” you say. I have two objections. 1) I don’t think it’s good to give the right any easy targets. A slogan is an easy target – it is, by its nature, highly mockable. 2) Because it creates the appearance of solidarity, as well as the feeling, it leaves people who are undecided/open-minded thinking, “Well, it looks like I have to be in or out.” Outside of short-lived crazes and long-running cons like organised religion, people are more likely to opt for ‘out’. Or they may opt for ‘in’ for the wrong reasons – because they want to feel part of a group and be given a purpose/title, not because they really believe in the ideals. Either way, this seems to me obstructive to the cause. You want people to join you in the sense that they find your observations and recommendations eminently sensible, fair and well thought out, and pass them on, not in the sense of signing up for membership.

    You suggested a while ago that I perhaps didn’t need the solidarity that is provided by the unity of purpose represented in slogans, terminology etc. I’d prefer to think that it’s partly because I’m extremely wary of getting attached to any particular group. If my views happen to line up nicely with a particular group, then that’s absolutely fine but I don’t want it to be because I took on an attractive name and identity.

    So which part of this sets you off and sends you part of the way “to the other corner of the ring”?

    I would say something that leans towards villainising white maleness at the very least pushes me towards a devil’s advocate position. I see feminism and liberal politics as a significant part of an overall drive towards inclusivity and fairness. Inclusivity has to include white men as well. Our standing is to be reduced in relation to everyone else’s, for sure, but we’d still be there.

    Identifying the dominance of the male narrative as a problem is obviously right, but I think it can slip very readily into identifying maleness as a problem, especially when – as here – the denouncing of that male narrative has become a combative slogan. I might come back and find a more elegant way to phrase that …

  7. Nicholas Liu

    instead of trying to change the publications that command everyone’s attention, we – and I mean, a whole generation – publish our own vehicles for critical, cross-cultural discourse of all varieties.

    First off, why the “instead”? Amy King, for one, has been doing both.

    Anyway: if/when (y)our own vehicles manage to command attention the way the current worthies do, how, then, should (y)our fellow writers and readers react? Should they stop paying attention? I’m all for the new, but not for eating the old. They don’t taste good.

    For me, the bottom line is that many of these magazines are places where exciting work is (still) going on. I discovered Heather Christle in the pages of BR, as well reviews that made me rethink my premature dismissal of (the fantastic, in parts) Bob Hicok as Billy Collins for aesthetes. I first read Ben Lerner in PR, which published a generous extract from Mean Free Path. NYRB is for my money still unbeatable at the long, lucid review-as-essay. Poetry these days is an admirably broad church, the broadest, maybe; I may not be too hot on the work at one end of the spectrum, but that doesn’t alter the fact. It still surprises me on occasion, and won’t let me get too comfy in my Soft-Avant shoes. (It has published features on VisPo and Flarf–can you imagine Denver Quarterly doing a feature on New Formalism?) Und so weiter.

    I’d be lying if I said I thought these mags didn’t matter. They do: they’re widely read and they print some damn good stuff. Why not hold them to account?

    Is it though? Did the person who left that post come back and make more considered remarks? It reads like a terse summary. “To conclude then: ‘slogan’.”

    A summary isn’t a starting point?

    A comment on a blog comments thread is a conclusion?

    I disagree, too, that the remark wasn’t “considered”. It seems spot-on to me–just necessarily incomplete.

    *

    I’ll address your concerns about tactics later, but first I’d like to ask a more meta question: why are you (and of course I’m only generalising from a sample of two exchanges here, so feel free to correct me) so eager to talk about tactics–in particular, their effect on you–at the expense of the issues at hand? Here we have a post containing convincing data on disproportionate male representation in literary magazines, and your initial reactions were:

    1) Why do people care so much? and
    2) I don’t like the tone.

    Is that not a little odd? Don’t get me wrong, there’s a time and place for discussions of tactics, but it’s not “always and everywhere”. I’m happy to engage you on these issues; at the same time, I wonder how you’d like me to respond to all your posts about what’s wrong with UK poetry (and so on) purely by complaining about the (hypothetical!) infelicities of your style, the inadequacy of your rhetorical arsenal, and all the ways you could have done a better job of packaging your content in order to convince me. Even if I thought that (I don’t–generally ;), I wouldn’t take that approach, because that would make the discussion all about me (my reaction) and about you (your rhetorical ability) rather than the thing to be discussed.

  8. Jon

    First off, why the “instead”? Amy King, for one, has been doing both.

    Both is great. I come from the position of assuming it’s impossible, or very difficult, to do both particularly efficiently. I know I already spend too much time cursing the darkness as it is.

    why are you (and of course I’m only generalising from a sample of two exchanges here, so feel free to correct me) so eager to talk about tactics–in particular, their effect on you–at the expense of the issues at hand?

    First of all, I generally don’t chime in just to say “I agree” much. So take it as read that I read a lot of things where other people have adequately summed up the issue and I don’t feel the need to say anything; I simply take it on board.

    Secondly, when I disagree with something, I don’t understand myself the exact combination of circumstances that makes the difference between me wanting to chime in and simply moving along. I’d like to think I weigh in partly where I sense that my points might genuinely make a difference to someone else’s opinion – something for *them* to take on board. I don’t think it’s arrogant to think that sometimes I have something useful to point out – I assume that’s the case for everyone.

    In this case, it ticks me off to see, as I see it, evidence that a movement I always saw as being naturally in the right, requiring of nothing but level-headed reason, is taking on some of the characteristics of movements that are more thuggish and reliant on rhetoric. Left, liberal reactions to topics on the internet shouldn’t look like the mirror image of right wing reactions on other sites, as I see it. The ‘invoke truism already accepted by your tribe and fold arms’ post is one I thought absolutely typical of lazy conservatives haunting Have Your Say forums. That they think they can just parrot each other’s sayings and expect to convince anyone else of anything hints at the major failing of their philosophy; ie. yhey think it’s so obvious that anyone who can’t see it is already their enemy.

    It probably doesn’t affect my life one way or the other. Maybe, as you’ve suggested previously, real equality would actually decrease my own social standing. So why do I care? I just have a very pedantic or idealistic sense of right and wrong, I suppose, which includes a sort of general opposition to segregation, as much along hard ideological lines as anywhere else. Nearly every unpleasant argument I’ve ever got into on the internet, someone wants to put me in a group. They want to do that because then they can tar me with the same brush as a bunch of other people and avoid considering the actual arguments. Grouping ourselves or other people together therefore seems to be done in order to avoid meaningful communication and reconciliation.

    You may say it’s none of my business. Fine – so is any issue that doesn’t affect me directly. I still get het up about them and I still want to say something – and I think that’s because I just want to get things straight, both in my own mind and with other people. If there’s something missing here – if there’s some real advantage or explanation for why progressive movements need to assume the kind of character I always associated with fundamentally desperate conservative movements – then I’ll be happy to hear it.

    Is that not a little odd?

    I see the point your making. My answer is: I have nothing much to contribute to the topic on any other angle. I can’t – and wouldn’t want to – argue with those pie charts. Other people can and have elaborated on the reasons better than I could. It doesn’t mean I’m ignoring it – but I’m more likely to actually ‘discuss’ it with someone somewhere else who tries to say that the disparity doesn’t exist.

    In your counter-example, if you were really quite frustrated over my style, rhetorical ability etc and thought it would benefit me greatly to fix some of these problems, I don’t see a problem with you saying so.

    So in summary, I guess what I’m saying is that you’re going to end up with a skewed picture of me, because what I’m going to end of talking about mostly with you is where we conflict, not where we see eye to eye. And I actually think it’s more worthwhile having these sorts of arguments than, say, ones with MRAs because we won’t shut each other out completely.

  9. Nicholas Liu

    I come from the position of assuming it’s impossible, or very difficult, to do both particularly efficiently.

    Maybe it is difficult in the sense of taking effort , but look around and I think you’ll find that people who only complain are in the minority.

    And anyway, if someone only has enough energy to complain, what of it? That’s useful too.

    Left, liberal reactions to topics on the internet shouldn’t look like the mirror image of right wing reactions on other sites, as I see it. The ‘invoke truism already accepted by your tribe and fold arms’ post is one I thought absolutely typical of lazy conservatives haunting Have Your Say forums.

    What you say is fine for outreach, but not everything is outreach! When you and I talk to each other about poetry, we’re unlikely to spend a lot of time explaining what we mean when we say Picador is too conventional, or to cite reams of evidence for the unjust (by our lights) neglect of NMS writing in the UK scene. We’re more likely to mention it offhand, as a basic assumption underpinning the discussion to follow, and move on to more interesting (i.e. contentious, for us) matters. Why, then, demand that everything a feminist (or a leftist) says on a thread about gender imbalances be crafted for non-feminist (or non-leftist) consumption? As if always speaking on a tapped line, the principles of the conversation dictated by the enemy’s agenda? No, that’s no way to conduct a discussion.

    You may say it’s none of my business. Fine – so is any issue that doesn’t affect me directly. I still get het up about them and I still want to say something – and I think that’s because I just want to get things straight, both in my own mind and with other people.

    If you believe in working towards a more equal world, then of course it’s your business. I never said otherwise (and of course it would be absurd if I did, since I’m just as much a beneficiary of privilege as you are–perhaps more, in some ways). But here’s the thing: is there no better way to go about your business than by policing how (other?) feminists go about theirs? Let’s say you’re right about tactics. Let’s say feminists really do need to do more outreach and less talking to each other. Well, go do that outreach, then. For some, it’s too taxing, or just not their inclination, but you apparently don’t find it to be so–so what’s stopping you from doing the job? Why expend that effort instead giving allies a hard time for not doing what you think they should be doing? (For that matter, why the lukewarm response to the link I posted which was about, um, encouraging feminist men to do more outreach? Isn’t this the sort of thing you want?)

    And yes, I know I said earlier that one can very well do both. But that’s in a context where both things are helpful to varying degrees. In this case, I don’t see how bossing other people around and telling them how they’re Letting The Side Down is at all helpful; on the contrary, it seems quite harmful. For one thing, it gets your supposed allies quite riled, and for another, despite your concern for winning the uncommitted over, it doesn’t seem to me that anything you’ve written on this thread or the last is/was geared towards doing that. (“But,” you might well object, “I wasn’t trying to win over non-progressives here. I just wanted to discuss the topic at hand.” And you’d be quite right to do so. Which is the point.)

    Note that no one has told you that you need to start getting more strident and less conciliatory towards the unconvinced, or that you ought to engage less with opposing views. By all means choose the tactics you think will be most effective in practicing your brand of progressivism. What would be useful, though, would be for you to stop getting in people’s faces over how they practice theirs.

    I’m not really talking about myself here, mind. It isn’t “as real” to me in the same way it isn’t (I submit) “as real” to you. I can choose to disengage any time and go back to a world where I’ve three times the chance of being reviewed in BR than my female clone would, where I won’t have to take shit from people just for having an opinion, where my age and appearance won’t be used as a weapon against my artistry (“Gluck had a cranky moment, in our opinion, for a very simple, human reason: she regrets her youthful beauty is gone and that it can no longer participate in any acclaim”), and so on. Think about how much less inclined to discourse civilly with you I might be if none of those things were true. And then think about whether conversations like this are the best way to support the people who have to swallow the shit we don’t.

    My answer is: I have nothing much to contribute to the topic on any other angle. I can’t – and wouldn’t want to – argue with those pie charts. Other people can and have elaborated on the reasons better than I could. It doesn’t mean I’m ignoring it – but I’m more likely to actually ‘discuss’ it with someone somewhere else who tries to say that the disparity doesn’t exist.

    I can’t believe this (though I’m not saying you don’t believe this, for whatever reason). You co-edit a zine and a press. You are a writer. You must have something to say about it. How’s the Fuselit breakdown? Is it pretty much even? If it isn’t, are you going to do anything about it? If it is, have you made any special effort to achieve that, or did it just happen? If it just happened, what do you think might have contributed to it, and are there any lessons we can draw from this example? And so on.

    So in summary, I guess what I’m saying is that you’re going to end up with a skewed picture of me, because what I’m going to end of talking about mostly with you is where we conflict, not where we see eye to eye.

    Fair enough.

  10. Jon

    Maybe it is difficult in the sense of taking effort , but look around and I think you’ll find that people who only complain are in the minority.

    And anyway, if someone only has enough energy to complain, what of it? That’s useful too.

    Yes, it is. I just can’t get away from feeling that it must be the same for the majority of others as it is for me: complaining (often, not always) uses precious time and energy that could be used more efficiently and more creatively, and in a manner which better engages other people, and it’s worth reminding ourselves of this because it’s an easy thing to slip into. Of course it depends on the nature of the complaint, and you’re right – if someone is unable to do anything else, it’s better than doing nothing.

    Perhaps rather odd in the sense that I seem to be spending more time ‘complaining’ with regards to feminism than creatively supporting it, but uh, I often back myself into these situations.

    Why, then, demand that everything a feminist (or a leftist) says on a thread about gender imbalances be crafted for non-feminist (or non-leftist) consumption?

    Minor point: isn’t it an outreaching thread? It seems very public to me – not aimed towards internal discussions. Yes, that comment I’m criticising is just like the pub bitching in poetry circles. You make a wry remark you know the people you’re talking to agree with, and it’s smirks all round. But it’s not what I do when I write my blog posts – I might be getting it hopelessly wrong, but I try not to assume the reader agrees with me on anything. Otherwise I could just write: “Come on – we all *know* the prize circuit is a stitch-up.”

    OK, so now my main defence:

    Why, then, demand that everything a feminist (or a leftist) says on a thread about gender imbalances be crafted for non-feminist (or non-leftist) consumption?… Why expend that effort instead giving allies a hard time for not doing what you think they should be doing?

    Because while we can rest easy with people who are ideologically mean and selfish being wrong on all sorts of levels so that they look foolish, surely it’s desirable for feminists to be right and in the right as much as possible – an extension of telling a friend: “Don’t sink to their level.”

    Even in internal discussions, while we can make some allowance, there’s a danger in casualness, in moral and rational sloppiness. I irk Kirsty sometimes because she’ll remark, in relation to some story in the papers, that someone is a prat, knowing that I must essentially agree, but instead of just agreeing, I start going: “Uh, well, maybe that should be seen in the context of …”

    I do that because I want to get things exact. This is, I would postulate, a sort of preparation for getting other people on-side. If you start making casual assumptions and drawing simplistic conclusions in private – even in your own mind – there’s always the danger of not being prepared for the fight. You can see that in the article you posted, I would argue. It looks like it’s supposed to be outreach, and yet it doesn’t make a strong enough case because it preaches to its audience as if the audience are the choir. I agree it’s not totally ineffective (that would be a very harsh thing to say), but the argument seems weaker than it should have been, and actually unfair to the people (or rather, the men) in the audience, reducing an awkward situation to ‘you didn’t act in an ideal way because you don’t care enough’.

    It’s not, as it were, letting the discussion be dictated by an enemy’s agenda. I don’t think it’s that at all. It’s working on making the overall argument more watertight, more illuminatingly, obviously right at every level, which means, to my mind, getting rid of unnecessary judgementalism, not being happy with imprecise conclusions or dictats coded in academic language, but demanding ones that hit the nail right on the head, and in plainspeak if possible.

    Here’s a comparison: what am I more likely to attentively and fiercely critique? A novel by a friend which I think could be excellent but lets itself down in places, or something woeful? That’s, in part, my answer to this:

    And then think about whether conversations like this are the best way to support the people who have to swallow the shit we don’t.

    It’s certainly not the only and maybe not the best way of showing support, but I think it is showing support – maybe not as much for the individuals already involved with the cause of feminism as it is for the women who can benefit from feminism but currently don’t because it’s still widely regarded as being ‘difficult’ or somehow extreme. The less scary and judgemental it looks, the faster it will spread. The more rigorous feminists are about getting it exact among themselves, the stronger the outreach will be.

    I’ll get back to you on the Fuselit stuff a little later.

  11. Jon

    How’s the Fuselit breakdown? Is it pretty much even? If it isn’t, are you going to do anything about it? If it is, have you made any special effort to achieve that, or did it just happen?

    Firstly, Fuselit’s content is edited by Kirsty. I do production and the ‘extra’ booklet. I hope I don’t do Kirsty an injustice in summarising the situation thus: the breakdown is not usually even, partly because of the m/f disproportion in submissions. The view taken is that rather than balance ‘male’ writing and ‘female’ writing, we’re aiming for an overall sense of openness, inclusiveness and neutrality that makes us more approachable than other magazines. Writing by women isn’t necessarily ‘feminine’ and writing by men isn’t necessarily ‘masculine’, so that the precise mathematics in a small-scale publication don’t mean as much as a general sensibility of promoting a range of voices. If we were to start trying to get the men/women divide exactly equal, then we should really also look at class, sexuality, race, wealth, etc, and the logistics would become impossible (Fuselit is hard enough work as it is).

    The literary establishment, as represented by the magazines in the pie chart, is strongly tied to an anti-egalitarian mythic figure: the fierce, verbose, educated intellectual adventurer – male, white, middle-class and middle-aged. That’s the reason, I think, for the disparity at all levels, and isn’t addressed very well by individual editors publishing black or female voices as a kind of gesture (here I’m taking issue with the editorial tone accompanying such published material, not the material itself).

    I think the mythic figure is clung to because of the ‘floodgate’ fear – the idea that if you don’t have ‘high standards’ (read: a model of what a serious author is supposed to look like and write about – see the TLS editor’s comments about women readers), then the world will suddenly be a sea of unstructured literary underachievment. We’ve already seen poets and journalists complaining about new technology damaging their profession by increasing access to ‘amateurs’.

    So it’s intellectual protectionism, and I personally think the attitude Kirsty has to the content of Fuselit is a more effective way of kicking against that than to focus on the male/female ratio. The problem is that I can’t prove this as the effects are not measurable – unless, of course, as I hope will turn out to be the case, we simply get a wider variety of contributors as we go on. I think a look at the shifts from issue 1 to the present would imply that trend.

    So I suppose my previous answer that “I can’t and have nothing to contribute” was wrong. It’s perhaps more accurate to say that I prioritised confronting the issue of feminism undermining itself (as I’ve characterised it). That’s only true, however, in terms of arguing on the internet. In terms of having a more constructive, creative reaction, I would say an awful lot of what I think I’m doing with Fuselit/Sidekick Books is geared towards making literature more open and inclusive. I don’t ever write poems or conceive of books or ideas with the underlying aim of critiquing feminists, but I do often do so with the aim of critiquing the culture of exclusivity.

  12. Jon

    I was also just looking at our online reviews for last year, and we clock in at 8 out of 24 on women poets. We can but aim higher.

  13. Nicholas Liu

    A lot to respond to there; will reply when I can. Thanks for taking the time.

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