Friday, February 25, 2011

Hypothetical bullets

  • I often see people reduce the question of gender equality in the arts to a matter of anatomy, with comments like, "All I care about is whether the writing is good. I don't care if the writer has a penis or a vagina." I always wonder if they would say the same thing about other women's rights issues, like voting and equal pay for equal work. Would they have rolled their eyes at the women's suffrage movement, because who cares if a voter has a penis or a vagina? To me this argument trivializes the arts. If women deserve the right to vote, why not equal access to funding in the arts? It's like saying, "Politics have no place here, let's all get back to our silly hobby."
  • It looks like the Wikipedia page will be deleted on the grounds that a) I want it to be and b) I'm an "utterly NN individual." I assume this means "non-notable." (Other possibilities? Nitwit Nincompoop?) Even though I'm in favor of deletion, it's hard not to be irked by the comments on the deletion page. Maybe you're a nonstarter, dillweed! Plus, every poet is a minor poet. :)
  • P.S. If there was any doubt: I love you all.
  • UPDATE: It got caught in some Blogger nixie trap but Jon Awbrey sent me a link to a very interesting paper I'm reading right now: “The Dynamics of Vertical and Horizontal Diversity in Organization and Society” • Human Resource Development Review, March 2007, vol. 6 no. 1, pp. 7–32. (Abstract. HTML.)


  1. I saw your book next to mine on the shelf at Open Books last night. How dare they say you're NN?

    May I say Boo-Ya to your first point? "I just care about the work" is a cop-out.

  2. Yes, Jeannine, you may say Boo-Ya! :) Glad our books are sharing some good real estate at Open Books!

  3. "If women deserve the right to vote, why not equal access to funding in the arts?" Given this quotation, I assume you do not mean to referance the VIDA pie-charts, and mean access to funding from the NEA etc?

    I find the voting/arts link unconvincing without more development: one theoretically ensures that an individual can be a part of civic life, and one strikes me as far closer to a luxury. I love luxuries, and don't mean to diss the luxurious, but I also don't see these issues as totally comparable. MM, revision: regarding state and government funding, yes if women are clearly not recieving as much, then that's related, but if you are alluding to the pie-charts then that seems like an issue which is not lightyears away but also not neighbors.

    I find the fact that several people have stated that rallying women to inundate venues with submissions is besides the point; couldn't this view be said to embody championing female passivity and hence actually be weirdly traditional in its gender-lines despite ostensibly being the opposite?

    I hope all's well!

    part of me feels like a hypocrite for stating writing is a luxury, as I'm in the thick of that activity; maybe it makes more sense to state that the act isn't (or oughtn't to be; tho it of course is: access to paper, pens, computers, printers etc)but that being published is.

  4. The argument still holds -- why do men deserve access to a luxury but women don't? I'm not saying arts funding is as important as voting, but if it's not important at all, how can we take ourselves seriously as artists?

    Publications are tied in with funding because publication history is part of what's considered for both funding and jobs.

  5. "I'm not saying arts funding is as important as voting, but if it's not important at all, how can we take ourselves seriously as artists?"--surely one can take their art seriously but also be uninterested in public display; it seems unfair for seriousness to be equated to monetary reward, though that can be a barometer yesyesyes.

    "Publications are tied in with funding because publication history is part of what's considered for both funding and jobs": yepyep this makes the word funding far less confusing for me.

    In the worldliest sense of the world keeping constant vigilance regarding gender parity--or lack of--makes much sense/is good because it's always good to be thinking about gender----but I also simultaneously feel like it inadevertantly could end-up downp-laying the total centraility of women in--at the very least writingwise--the poetry world/the poetry blog-world. American poetry without women is, basically, a joke. Sorta weirdly, this point almost has to be excluded from the numbers discourse because influence and numbers don't necessarily overlap.

  6. What if writing is your occupation? Writing without being published is then almost meaningless. The VIDA numbers take journalism into account. There's no reason to assume all the artists in question have other jobs and are creating art merely for the sake of creating art. In any case, if you're not rich, funding of one sort or another is the only thing that enables you to create art, even if that "funding" is simply having a job that pays a decent wage (and women get the short end of the stick here too).

  7. My feeling is that the reason why gender is relevant (in the context of who gets published, who gets funding, etc.) is that these questions exist in the context of actual history and actual present social and political and economic conditions.

    If we lived in a society and culture and economy in which women and men did, on average, enjoy equal ease and comfort in work and standard of living and access to learning and teaching and creative expression; and if any variation from the average was not significant enough to leave an entire segment of the population lagging behind; if, in other words, we lived in a society in which gender equality was a reality in all aspects of life and could be taken for granted; then possibly, maybe, whether someone has a penis or vagina (or whatever other piece of anatomy) might not be particularly relevant in considering the qualities of a creative work, or at any rate not relevant in the same ways that it's relevant right now.

    But at present we don't yet live in such a society. I agree, Elisa, that to reduce the question to mere anatomy, without regard to the actual existing social/political/cultural/economic context, misses the point and trivializes the really serious questions.

    To put it another way, until the nature of the culture that we live in has undergone profound changes that, at the moment, still exist mostly as potential, not yet fully or adequately realized -- until gender equality in the societies and cultures of the world actually exists -- until that time, we do need to care, or at least to be aware of, whether a writer or artist or anyone else who is part of the equation has a penis or vagina, because the anatomy a person can have, in these times and social conditions in which we live, a profound effect on the quality of that person's life, and will quite likely have an effect on their understanding and perception of the world in which we live, and on what they want to say about their lives and our world.

    And for the record, I consider art (i.e. poetry, painting, music, and other creative work) a necessity, not a luxury, even while I recognize that access to creative expression is not always or everywhere affordable for everyone in the world right now.

    Thanks for posting this.

  8. Thank you Lyle -- very well put.

  9. The criteria for being notable is--to put it kindly--a little retro.

    Wiki states that "this notability guideline for biographies is not policy." however, if people need secondary sources, as defined by Wiki, interviews count. And I believe you've been interviewed more than once, no? And what about your credits as a Lucky blogger?

    Are you being deleted because you scoffed at your own Wiki entry?

    An encyclopedia isn't a club and an encyclopedia with no space limitation and with the goal of being by the people ought to include every damn bit of trivia people are willing to write about.

  10. Adam, I agree, in the internet world, first, secondary, tertiary, etc. sources become very blurry, and Wikipedia is partially responsible for that.

    And as for: "an encyclopedia with no space limitation and with the goal of being by the people ought to include every damn bit of trivia people are willing to write about"

    That is a *very* lovely thought.

  11. The notion of making a living--journalism aside--from writing is one, I admit, that I almost never even think of. If one doesn't use poetry as a central example, then I am basically totally with everything. But I think it's a bad idea to lump genres together; trade-house lit fiction, for example, I'm guessing is disproportionately male.

    "Writing without being published is then almost meaningless": this is at one level inarguable (unless one circulates unofficially in a big way)but also seems sad to me, to make writing almost solely a noun and minimize its verb element.

    I don't think I am really trying to dispute the large-scale politics of VIDA; the thing that strikes me is a kind of flattening of discourse where issues which are not all that singular and more like matrices become presented extremely tidily. Is it pointless to critique a discourse whose aims make much sense, or if because the aims do make sense it is best to just focus on that? This may sound rhetorical but to my heartcortex it's not.

    Journals which receive any goverment funding should be required to have good gender ratios--or is this already a policy?

  12. University presses should also be legally required to have good gender ratios. As well as any reading series which recieves state money.

    Is it dumb to think it'd be nice if women stars published inspirational guides, detailing how one can really get oneself circulating, encouraging women and really anyone I guess to be mega pro-active. You, Elisa, for example, have a good blog which you regularly update and which recieves blog-comments so it is being read and to have this good blog doesnt't just happen out of nowhere so perhaps it could be inspiring to read how you have been able to make the space that you have. I use you as an example, but could also have stated Daniel pafunda and her publishing success, or Joyelle Mcsweeney, or a bigwig like Cole Swensen or Anne Lauterbach (bigwig is not meant as a diss!).

  13. "Journals which receive any goverment funding should be required to have good gender ratios--or is this already a policy?" It's definitely not.

    Over the past few days I've been thinking, why do we keep saying women need to submit *more*, when editors of most magazines already get far more than they could ever publish and than they can easily read without getting pissy. I can't help wishing more people would suggest than men submit *less* -- that would also even out the numbers in terms of who is submitting! And save some postage, paperwork, etc.


  14. "I can't help wishing more people would suggest than men submit *less*--"could the limited number of submissions per season policy that some journals have be said to be related to this?

    I vote for a lotttttttt more pressure being put on gov funding, as this line strikes me as the best--ok, forget best, I'll go with good--defense against the "but what if mostly men best encompass 'our' aesthetic vision" line. Via the funding argument, wouldn't any journal based at a public institution need to be addressing parity! I guess journals with private donors could be exempt but yah, no, as anything connected to a state institution should be addressing this issue.

    This line of reasoning, it's true, does not address all journal situations, but it seems to me to get trickier with the more private sector. Does a venue like the New York Review Of Books get state funding--even indirectly?

  15. The government doesn't care about parity! Have you not noticed that the government consists mostly of men? Also the government is talking about cutting funding to Planned Parenthood. It's not a woman-friendly government.

  16. True--however, I'm sure it would be glad to withdraw funds from the arts, so this hypothetical policy might be useful as those who don't comply then don't get money and that's a resource I suspect most journals do want. Now would the goverment ever create this policy? I am not sure. But I am--as regards this topic--very interested in concrete suggestions which are not predicated on requiring ideological alterations on editors behalves because that's a much bigger project and this issue can theoretically be addressed via reduction/concretism and is therefore in line with pie-charts.

    Note: I am millions of percentage marks pro ideological shifts regarding gender parity, but that is a massive, anything but reductive issue so I am unsure how it would work in terms of efficacy. This issue seems to be one which policy could largely solve. (And, so-true, policy and ideology are anything but unrelated so this is a lacunae in my line of thinking)

    The counter-argument could be: the mode of argument doesn't matter because any act which might get one to think of the parity issue could thus be said to be effective. For example--it seems possible that more readers (if not editors, tho hopefully) will do gender counts. In other words: maybe specific plans aren't necessary and awareness will do sufficient work.

    Not that affirmative action has had an undisputed history, but that would be a possible model to work from regarding goverment funding policy.

    The goverment doesn't care about parity"--fair point; but argument-wise isn't it under more obligation to care than any individual editor? So by extension couldn't goverment intervention be a sneaky way to make editors care?

  17. Hypothetically, it's a nice idea, but we have no power to enact it, so it's so hypothetical for us to "suggest" it as to be nearly moot, no? If we say "the government should deal with this," knowing they won't, we haven't really addressed anything.

  18. It would take a focused effort, true, but I am not sure it's remotely impossible (if one still believes in legislation)--not any more difficult than getting editors to change their ideologies. Going from identifying the problem to practicing change is likely never going to be remotely easy, and awareness is not necessarily the only way anything will happen (there's a ton of at-least cursory awareness out "there," and these awarenesses can not be said to wholly curb problems). Furthermore, the funding line of thought focuses the critique and points to logical targets: telling the private sphere what it can and cannot do has mega-hurdles. As well, if this policy occured, it would likely lead to creating a clime enabling ideology shifts regarding gender parity, to the point where what might initially seem mettlesome/a restraint could be thought of as what it can logically be considered: logical.

    My most conclusive guess is that it'll take at-least ten twining strands of argument to even remotely adress the issue.