Sunday, November 13, 2005

The Woman Question -- Can Girlie Girls Be Taken Seriously? (Or, Are They Just Nice To Us Because . . . ?)

I haven't read Maureen Dowd's Are Men Necessary? but I did read her touted article in the NY Times. Generally, I very much admire Dowd and her style, but her attributing her partnerless status to men not wanting to settle down with smart and ambitious women rubbed me the wrong way. I must agree with Wonkette's snipe, "Thank God we aren't as smart as she is or else we'd never have found a husband."

That aside, I've always respected that she pursued her career on her own terms. She doesn't try to mimic the other male columnists. She doesn't try to meet their standards. She meets her own. When I read her columns or watch her on Meet the Press I never for a second forget that she's a woman. So often we're led to believe that to succeed we need to mask being a woman or at the very least, not put it out front and center.

But do men ever get so distracted or so impressed that they forget we're women? When it comes to our art or our careers, should we take one second to consider "how will this play to the men?" That seems awfully distracting.

Perhaps it should be a consideration if we work in certain sections of advertising.

A couple months after I launched No Tell Motel, I noticed that we were accepting a lot of work from women. This surprised me because the majority of literary journals publish a majority of men. I like a lot of male poets. I even assumed I preferred male poets. I had read a lot more men. I mentioned this to my friend and he said, "That's because men aren't sending to No Tell. The design. All that pink! What man would want his poems there?"

This worried me. I wondered if by simply being myself was I alienating/turning off potential male contributors?

I have some anecdotal experiences that suggest that might be the case in some instances.

But let's do the man thing and look at the numbers. As of tonight, No Tell has published (or agreed to publish) 31 men (46%) and 36 women (54%).

A noticeable lean towards women. Compared to many other poetry magazines we're practically the Lifetime network.

But my friend was wrong. Apparently many men want do want their poems to be surrounded by sweet girlie pinkiness. 55% of our submissions have been sent by men while only 40% are from women. I am not sure about 5% -- the authors either used initials or have gender neutral names.

When I read a poetry magazine, I never start counting women. If it's a 60/40 ratio (either way), I'm probably not going to notice. But when it's around 80% male, I do notice. How could I not? It's the same way when I walk into a room. If there's 20 people in a room and only 4 are women, it's a sausage party.

I'm writing that matter-of-factly. That doesn't upset me. There are lots of reasons why publications lean certains ways. Most of these reasons aren't nearly as insidious as some might suggest. I guess I could spend a bunch of time pointing out why this is and what they should do to change and make themselves more open or representative or do something they're not doing.

But who am I to tell you how to do your job? I don't want you to tell me how to do my job. I don't want my job to be pointing out everything that's wrong with your job.

I'll just show you how it's supposed to be done and you can either appreciate what I'm doing or you can find reasons to dismiss or ignore the job I'm doing.

It's OK. I don't want to conquer the world. I want to co-exist.

And be worshipped.


At 2:52 AM, Anonymous oliver said...

Reb, if you have published 54% female-sourced poetry and only 40% of your submissions come from womoen, you are certainly providing a statistically significant bias in favour of female poets - even without the colour scheme ... I assume you are aware of that, and certainly I have no complaint with it - but if you gradually see a change in your submissions profile, this could be why!

At 9:48 AM, Blogger Reb said...

Oliver -- yes, I do realize our unintentional and unconscious bias and was honestly surprised by it at first. It's always been that way and up to this point it hasn't seemed to change the submissions. The last thing I would ever want to do is discourage someone from submitting because they think they have less of a chance.

Molly and I have never said, "Oh, we already have a boy poet this month, do we really need another one?"

We are not making any attempt or point in statistically leaning female. I suppose that both editors being female -- we have a slight inclination towards poetry by other females. So I don't get outraged if male editors have that inclination towards male writers. And while I don't know the numbers at other any "male-run" journals, I assume their percentages skew even more towards men. Maybe some male editor out there would be brave enough to share their statistics?

Instead of trying to beat down the doors of certain male editors who don't have inclination towards (generally, this is all generally) women's work -- I'll just spend my time doing what I'm doing. I don't need to jump and up down and tailor my poems for a shot at the Sausage Party Review. I don't care who thinks they're the greatest and most prestigious and influential. They're not even a blip as far as I'm concerned because I decided I don't need to play that game.

At 11:02 AM, Blogger Charles said...

Mr. de Mille called. He wants to know if you're ready for your close-up now. ;)

I think men want to be in No Tell because it's a brilliant idea executed brilliantly.

Or because they're gay.

At 6:27 PM, Blogger shann said...

I have on frilly panties and I'm a poet- worship me!

It's all in the underwear you wear-
Good poetry is red and satiny-
or purple-

At 10:49 PM, Blogger JWG said...

Are the stats about the same in the Bed side Guide?

surround me, reject me, post me.

At 12:30 PM, Blogger Reb said...

Jim -- I don't have time to check the stats for the Bedside Guide right now -- but working off of memory, I remember a lot of guys sending me poems about their cocks. We did take a couple of them -- but for most, we passed.

At 3:40 AM, Anonymous Oliver said...

That really was an excellent response to my comment - thank you!

The fact is that there is a great deal of excellent poetry out there and as long as there is a dependence on excellence and not on gender we all benefit. Sadly, a male-dominated world will tend to produce male-dominated poetry - or published poetry, at any rate - so it makes sense that a female-edited journal would be female-leaning. hasn't yet had such a surfeit of submissions that we're calculating percentages - but when it does, I'll let you know the stats from a 2male, 1 female editing team ...

PS book still out Jan, right?

At 1:23 PM, Blogger Reb said...

Oliver -- sweet Jesus, I hope so! But January is coming so soon.


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