A first-wave throwback, by Mary Stein


While NC stalwarts await the much-anticipated results of the erasure contest, I thought I’d shed light on a matter much less but entertaining, but outrageous nonetheless. VIDA, Women in Literary Arts, recently published some stats highlighting gross gender disparities in the world of publishing and book review. I was hesitant to post a link to Ruth Franklin’s article, “A Literary Glass Ceiling,” published on The New Republic site. I didn’t want to be downer, and I felt the article missed an opportunity to address this surface information in greater depth: As Franklin herself admits, the information is by no means comprehensive. It seemed too obvious, and it frustrates me that, though this conversation may have evolved within conscientious circles to further address other forms of disparity in the publishing world, little seems to have fundamentally changed. It pains me that the article smacks of a truth I’ve always known to exist—a truth I have constantly tried to push aside in favor of attaching myself to idea(l)s of a greater (and spectral) gender and cultural inclusion. But alas, the article is read and the wound reopened—and it begs the question, Why is this truth so obvious?

I’m happy to have the opportunity to post a throwback to the demands of first-wave feminism on a blog as conscientious as Numéro Cinq. Lest the glass ceiling (which I have always hoped was an antiquated concept) exist in a state of invisibility, I think it’s important to pause and simply acknowledge it: The underrepresentation of women in publishing and book review is clearly systemic—and obviously there is no simple or singular answer. VIDA hosted an AWP panel that discussed why more women don’t submit to literary journals. (I have to admit, I didn’t attend the panel. I read the title and thought, “I know, I know. I need to start submitting.”) Below is the link to their article that looks at this stark reality dead on (prepare to cringe):

‘Numbers don’t lie.’ ‘What counts is the bottom line.’

Such sayings sound definitive, like the dead-end of a boring story. But as these facts come to light–no longer imagined or guessed at–so does the truth of publishing disparities, the unfortunate footing from which we can begin to change the face of publishing. We are no longer guessing if the world is flat or round; we are wondering how to get from point A to B now that the rules of navigation are public and much clearer. Questions long denied will lead us to new awareness, to challenge current publishing practices, and to query the merits of selection on the level of individual publications and review journals alike.

(Read the rest of the article and view the stats here.)

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