Thursday, September 9, 2010

Gender Balance

A few months ago, a debate erupted on Amy King's blog about the issue of gender balance in litmags and canons. Without going into details (visit her blog if you want those), the debate offered two points on view:

On one hand, there were those who claimed that gender was never a consideration when they made the decision to accept a piece. All of their decisions, they said, were based on whether a piece was well-written.

On the other, people argued that there is a reason why women and other groups who have been marginalized continue to be a minority presence in the publishing world. They encouraged editors to include a wide range of voices and perspectives.
Both of these positions pose problems.

I would ask every editor who operates under the former principle to make a list of favorite authors. Chances are, the majority, if not all, are going to be men. I would then ask them to do the math regarding the background of their contributors. Chances are, the majority will be men. I'm not sure if this represents some sort of unconscious bias, but it certainly shows how patriarchal the world of literature has been and continues to be.

I would ask the editors who prescribe to the latter principle how they take issues like gender or cultural background into consideration. My most pressing question would be, how do you decide when a work represents a particular group? I find it problematic to say that because the author is a woman, then her work is inherently feminine.

Obviously, there is no easy solution to this problem. We can't simply start publishing at a 50/50 rate between men and women and say, "There! Problem solved! (though it would be a start)" To think so reduces this issue to a matter of statistics, which it is not. It is a matter of representation and diversity of voices.

Also, Amy King gave an interview about this subject recently. Read it here (go to August 19).

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