OK, first and foremost for those of you looking for Heather today don't be dissuaded: we switched days so that she could do the Feminist Award Round-Up for women in the other academy.
Picking up--in some ways--where Heather left off, I'm writing today about the F-Bomb. No, not this one. I'm talking about feminism. I'm also talking about women, specifically women writers and readers, as well as readers of women writing.
A few weeks ago Vida: Women in the Literary Arts posted what is now being referred to as The Count. Simply put, The Count, compiled by Amy King, is an easy to read blue and pink pie chart that details the percentage of male and female writers reviewed in major (US) publication. It is hard to ignore the results. Bloggers have responded to The Count at the The New Republic, The New York Times Arts Beat, The Guardian, and many others which I will list (with links) below. The Editors at Vida have been diligent in keeping a list of responses, and have this to say about gender imbalance, representation, and the glass ceiling:
While the Count seems to quantify what many women have privately suspected for some time—that male writers take up most of the space in established literary venues in the States and in Britain—the much thornier question our literary community needs to ask is why. We at VIDA know these numbers bring up a complicated set of issues that deserves much more than a superficial response.
I became aware of The Count via Lemon Hound, a blog originated by Canadian poet and writer Sina Queyras and now run by a collective of writers including Queyras herself. Queyras also calls for a serious response to these imbalances. In addition to asking why they happen, she offers some very clear suggestions for women writers. (Go here for the full how-to's):
1) An all women's issue is not the answer
2) Demand a more vigorous and diverse literary weave
3) Make a path for female intellectuals
4) Don't let the bastards make you bitter
5) The art of pitching isn't hard to master
6) Biggen your ideas and aims straight at the cannon
I love these suggestions for their practicality, for their refusal to compromise, and for the their unwavering focus on women writing, or, as the case may be, not writing. For, in an interesting alignment of RSS feeds, the same week I read about The Count I also saw two posts on feminism. At the Ms. blog Paula Kamen posts what she calls her '(very incomplete) feminist poetry syllabus for 2011,' and in Canadian Notes and Queries Nicole Dixon writes about "The Other F-Word: The Disappearance of Feminism From Our Fiction." Kamen's post is about creating a feminist poetry reading list for herself because she "realized last weekend that I owe it to myself to finally update my poetry knowledge past the Reagan years–and make a new, admittedly very incomplete, syllabus for myself for 2011." Dixon's is both a critique of the waning feminist movement in Canada, and a critique of the dearth of feminist writing published by mainstream presses. Here's an excerpt from the opening of Dixon's article:
"Two months before Canada was to host the G8 and G20 leaders in Toronto, Conservative senator Nancy Ruth told women’s equality rights groups to “shut the fuck up” about abortion. Of greater concern than the fact that Ruth, a self-proclaimed, pro-choice feminist, would make such threatening comments, was the little reaction they garnered and their seeming lack of consequence. Obedient Canadians that we are, we did shut the fuck up about abortion. An anti-Ruth Facebook campaign fizzled out, and only a handful of bloggers complained. That’s because, in 2010, “feminism” is a more incendiary f-bomb than “fuck.” Except on the few university campuses that have yet to rebrand or discontinue Women’s Studies courses, feminism has almost disappeared from not only our conversations, but also from our literature, particularly long-form fiction."
While I take some issue with parts of Dixon's article I read her central point as both a Canadian corollary to The Count, and an incisive call that might well be picked up by following some of Queyras's suggestions. Moreover, I noticed that both Dixon and Kamen drop the f-bomb--feminist--while Vida and Queyras don't. Let me pause and say that I don't think this is a problem per se: Vida is calling attention to inequalities happening to women who may or may not call themselves feminists, and Queyras is calling for women to write, to rattle the bars, and to make way for themselves and other women. The point here is that while dropping the f-bomb isn't a new issue, it is still a pressing and a present one.
I am a feminist. I teach feminist theory, poetry and poetics, and I practice consciousness-raising as a pedagogical method. I am learning, also, to pluck up my courage and create or join networks. But I *do* have trouble when it comes to writing. I'm only just learning how to pitch ideas instead of waiting for that mystical day when someone approaches me and asks for my opinion. And yes, I do really often feel like there are smarter folk in the room than me. I'm loving working on making way for other female intellectuals though (ask me about a conference I'm planing!)
When is the last time you dropped the F-bomb? Where is the feminist movement in Canada--or your context-- in your experience? Big questions, yes, but ones that require big conversations as well.
List of responses to The Count compiled by Vida: