23 August 2016
I don’t know if you’ve met me, but I’m a woman.
I’ve worked in both finance and tech, which is shorthand for “I’ve seen the kind of sexism that makes headlines.” Now that I’m in publishing, alas, it’s not much different.
Despite the fact that women tend to read more than men, men still control much of the literary industry. I’m not just talking about the publishing houses. I’m not even talking about periodical and literary journal publishing. I’m talking about the entire ecosystem.
Let’s start at the beginning:
A little girl who spent her preschool years exercising her imagination goes to elementary school. From the very beginning, although she is likely to do better than the boys in her class at academics, socially, she will begin experiencing the subtle conditioning that tells her that she is not as good as her male peers. During her childhood, she will see images, as many as 2000 a day, of women in advertising. Those images will tell her that the only thing about her that society values is her body, and that while men are powerful, adventurous and in control, women are property whose purpose is to take care of others, both sexually and otherwise. By the time she graduates high school, more than a decade of reinforcement will have dragged her grades below that of her male peers.
Despite this, she goes to college (incidentally, in greater numbers than her male peers) to pursue her literary passion, where she is overwhelmingly likely to have male professors who teach works by male authors. She manages to graduate and wants to start her career as a writer. Despite the fact that many of her female peers may have gotten entry-level jobs in publishing, what she has learned from a lifetime of socialization is that male-dominated media is normal.
Given all this subtle socialization, one would think that overt oppression was unnecessary, but there are men out there who want to make sure that no woman misses the point (that “point” being that woman are not men’s equals, despite the fact that they totally are). Those men have to make sure that any women who aspire to achieve anything are slapped down.
So, what’s a woman to do? When you try to achieve something great, there are obstacles placed in your way that you may not even see. You’ll hear from both men and women that they’re not even there. That you’re not supposed to want the things you want. That you’re not good enough, you’re not smart enough, you’re not experienced enough.
Here’s what you can do.
- Think. Don’t automatically accept anything you hear on faith. Think about what the things you’re hearing mean to you. Not to “women” as a group. To YOU. Is it okay? Do you believe it? If you don’t believe it, if it’s not okay, WHY is it not okay?
- Be a pain in people’s ass. When someone makes an offensive joke, let them know that it’s offensive. Telling someone they’ve done something offensive is different than telling them that they’re offensive, and it’s easier if you let them know that you trust that they’re good people and you’re trying to help them be better.
- Seek out other women. Read books by women. Buy products from women-owned companies. Attend lectures by women. Recommend them to your friends. Help validate other women’s achievements.
The only thing I want to say in conclusion is that in writing this letter, I looked up feminist memes. Without exception, when I put the words “feminist meme,” “women’s equality meme,” etc. into Google, the images were nearly all memes against women’s equality, decrying it as a myth.
We have so much work to do.
Are you still with me? If so, we’d love to hear from you! We’re everywhere you are on social media! Come interact with us!
You can support a wonderful author by checking out Amanda Papanfus’s wonderful “In the Centre of the Black,” still up for another week. Check it out!
Publisher, Zoetic Press