A Women’s Publishing Movement? Why Not??

A Women’s Publishing Movement? Why Not??

“Change requires intent and effort. It really is that simple.” Roxane Gay

(If you find yourself unable to read to the end of this post due to time, please do bookmark and read Ms. Gay’s essay, Beyond The Measure of Men. Do NOT miss her essay.)

The web is buzzing again with the righteous indignation of women about the infuriating discrepancies in publishing of men vs women. We had the American Society of Magazine Editors report and, as Alexander Nazaryan reports, “No, seriously. Many are up in arms about the complete lack of female writers nominated for the major categories of Reporting, Feature Writing, Profile Writing, Essays/Criticism and Columns/Commentary.” No females nominated in any of the major categories, despite some fine writing in those categories. Quite fine. Excellent, in fact. Read Nazaryan’s report and be angry.

Last February, I wrote about the VIDA count and the gender disparity in publishing. This February, another VIDA count, another round of frustrating, but not surprising news. Lyon Review’s managing editor, Sandi Sonnenfeld recently updated us on the new VIDA count. Another year of same song, same story, but most often coming from people with penises. Take a look at this graphic from the count.

My post about the count last year was titled, “What if Book Clubs only Selected Books by Women Authors? Now there’s an idea…” I was particularly troubled then by the disparity in publishing in literary journals, as I was striving to publish in the higher level journals:

“So, what’s a female writer to do? Give up. Hardly. And, if the woman writer happened to go to Mt. Holyoke College (where women rule) and Wesleyan University (diversity and tolerance above all else), and be a breast cancer survivor, surrender is never an option.

I will continue to write. I will continue to read. I will, however, push harder for my bookclubs to select books by female authors. Only female authors. And that feels wrong (remember, diversity and tolerance above?), but it’s something, right? That will be my tiny rebellion for the cause. And yours?”

Guess what? I didn’t fulfill my tiny rebellion. I didn’t even have the balls (ahem) to address it with my bookclubs. This time around, I will. And, I will read and support women authors with more intentionality. I don’t intend to never read male authors — why should they all pay for the ignorance of many?

But, this past week also brought us the thoughtful, inspiring writing of Roxane Gay in Beyond the Measure of Men in The Rumpus. She plainly addresses the “here we go again” feeling I had when the buzz re-ignited this spring.

“The time for outrage over things we already know is over. The call and response of this debate has grown tightly choreographed and tedious. A woman dares to acknowledge the gender problem. Some people say, “Yes, you’re right,” but do nothing to change the status quo. Some people say, “I’m not part of the problem,” and offer up some tired example as to why this is all no big deal, why this is all being blown out of proportion. Some people offer up submission queue ratios and other excuses as if that absolves responsibility. Some people say, “Give me more proof,” or, “I want more numbers,” or, “Things are so much better,” or, “You are wrong.” Some people say, “Stop complaining.” Some people say, “Enough talking about the problem. Let’s talk about solutions.” Another woman dares to acknowledge this gender problem. Rinse. Repeat.”

She offers solutions to editors and publishers that are simple, stark and reasonable. Please, read her essay. Ponder it. Don’t miss her section on the label of “women’s fiction.” Then, let’s recruit Roxane Gay to be the Gloria Steinem of the Women’s Publishing Movement. Surely, we have women in the Mt. Holyoke writing community who can work with Roxane Gay. She is brilliant. She is right. Follow her work. Or, as Sandi Sonnenfeld wrote in her post,

“For those of us who publish or aspire to publish, it’s time to rev up our engines; support the work of women writers, buy their books, offer to review works by women in your local newspaper, blog or magazines, and most of all share the news when you read a great novel by a woman writer.”

“Change requires intent and effort. It really is that simple.” Roxane Gay

How do you intend to support women writers? One simple way is sharing the news as Sandi wrote — that can include commenting on blog posts, sharing them on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn — whatever social media forums you use. Suggest only women authors to your book clubs. Though writers have a love/hate (heavy on the hate) relationship with Amazon, write positive reviews for books by women writers, but only books you truly admire. Spread the words of women writers. Please.

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