What I’ve come to realize, thanks to VIDA and the Count, is that my feminist convictions do not make up for the low number of books by women I’ve reviewed. Not yet. Good intentions are not enough. It’s people like me, people aware of the persistent sexism of our society, who need to do a better job of promoting books by women. To ignore the gender disparity in publishing is to perpetuate it. I can’t do that any longer. Instead, I will continue to champion all of the books I love in every way I can—only now I will do so with a clearer understanding of just how far we still have to go in building the literary community that we all deserve.
You’ve gotta pity these poor bastards. I mean, imagine being so insecure, so incapable of contemplative self-confidence, so desperate for some sort of tangible proof of your non-sexist or non-racist intentions that you attach this overweening significance to whichever metric you can get your hands on. Yes! That’s it! 43% of the music I listen to is created and performed by non-white non-North Americans! 51% of the books I read are by female authors! Woohoo, I’m winning at cosmopolitanism! Winning like Charlie Sheen! The numbers don’t lie!
(Would it fuck with their heads too badly if someone were to suggest that obsessing over stats and pie charts is so typically white male?)
One thing I didn’t mention the last time this topic came up: I find it interesting that it’s just matter-of-factly assumed that male reviewers and readers would naturally gravitate toward the writings of other males. Why? Because of pheromones? No, seriously, every time I read one of these whinges, that’s presented as the default, the unconscious state of things requiring education to overcome: men naturally consider other men’s writing to be superior to women’s even when it’s “clearly” not. Conversely, though, white knights like this guy do seem to believe that women possess some sorts of unique ways of knowing, experiencing and communicating, which suggests that there’s very little daylight between their views and those they scorn, like, say, V.S. Naipaul. The narcissism of small differences, indeed.
But leaving aside the extremely tendentious attempt to interpret everything from ideas to language as “gendered” by society, doesn’t this quite literally — not figuratively, but literally — beg the question? Doesn’t it, in other words, presuppose the existence of a more-or-less zero-sum struggle between men and women for power, status and resources, one which all the participants are instinctively aware of and one where their natural inclination is to stand in solidarity with their fellows? In other other words, aren’t you simply finding the “proof” you set directly out in search of to begin with, that men see themselves as directly competing against women in the war of language and ideas because misogyny that’s why? In a world of unlimited writerly wants and scarce publishing resources, we dudes are all brothers of different mothers, amirite?
Oh, well. This is just one of those things that gets magnified far out of proportion to its actual importance, most likely due to the massive overrepresentation of frustrated lit majors tweeting away on the social web, bitter over their lack of an actual literary career. The real fun will begin when the other dozen genders plus the otherkin start hollering about how they’re being systematically overlooked by the cisbinary publishing industry, and the postmodern Ouroboros will finally finish what it started.