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The argument ... in pieces

I probably should have waited till I had all the bits of the maths in my hands and not said anything in advance. My intention is not to sit and point at men and say how much they suck and how sexist they are. Or how sexist male editors are - that's not remotely interesting to me as an argument. A lot of my closest friends are male editors (heh) and it's not the point, you know? I don't think male editors look at names and dismiss female authors. I don't think they set out to only like stories written by men. That's a boring position in the argument to take.

I blogged my comments earlier because I was looking at the big name overseas markets, many of which struggle to hit 25% female authorship across a bunch of issues in a single year. I was depressed because that's not a lot of places for female writers to be competing with and doesn't leave many spots for new female writers to break in. For new voices to be heard.

My argument was going to be more looking at the business model. Taking into consideration the drop in circulation of the top mags, I thought I would look into various stats. Here's the thing, they struggle to publish women. It's possible that then, they also struggle to appeal to female readers. If you look at the last two publishing phenonemona that swept the world - JK Rowling and Stephenie Meyers - the one thing you can't deny --> they sell. The other thing you'll note is that women read. Two somewhat important factors, I would think, when looking at markets. If it were me, I'd want to look into why those sold and how I can get a piece of the action.

What's interesting to me is that the female audience is never ever (at least publicly) considered. It's not even allowed to be openly discussed without defensive males (editors) jumping up and down and telling you it's not a problem. But what if it IS? What if declining readership could be correlated to declining or low numbers of stories appealing to female readers? Why wouldn't you look at your product and see what market you want or could target it to?

It seems to me, that female writers tend to write female stories - not always, and not necessarily overtly or through only using female protagonists. But ... can men really argue that they write so well that they can write *for* women and thus we don't need to give voice and page space to them in order to hear what they have to say? For me, it's not about needing gender equality in ToCs to show that we're all fair and equal or that sexism is dead. It's actually about there being products out there that appeal to ME, that are made with ME in mind and that give voice to issues and concerns that affect ME. And I don't think you can effectively argue that magazine and anthology after magazine and anthology that only print stories written by white men can do that.

You might not care. You might not want to produce that kind of product. And I don't have to pay for products like that. But the thing is? When I look around at what I have actually handed cash over for lately? It's novels written by women. I used to subscribe to several mags - online and print. And I used to hunt others down in the newsagent. But the truth is, they bored me and they felt like a waste of money for me because I am clearly not the target audience. So when you talk about declining circulations and you wonder why, why not ask around and why not take notice of the answers? Because I am included in many of those stats for readers taking their money elsewhere.


Jan. 13th, 2009 06:04 am (UTC)
To explain what I was getting at (and please understand this, I am a writer, not an editor, and I would like to see more more women writing and reading sf. I put my money where my mouth is: I mentor a fair number of writers and that group is slightly biased toward female writers): Throughout history the oppressed or discriminated against have protested and fought to have that wrong righted. There have also always been those among the 'oppressors' or beneficiaries of the system, who have stood up for the oppressed and said 'this is unfair'(yes, I am related to William Wilberforce.:-)). History is also full of the previously disadvantaged becoming the dominant group, and instead of creating a 'fair' environment, simply turning the tables. Usually this is posited as redress... And the children of those once disadvantaged will inform you it is their right to have extra perks and privelge - because they suffered hundreds/thousands/millions of years oppression at the hands of those they're now disadvantaging (!?). Or - to use a largely made up example - you ethnic Chinese - 20% of the population, we Malay now exclude you from government, 90% of business, 89% teaching... etc. but you still dominate drycleaning! That's not right! That's unfair! Well, yes it is, to the kid who wants nothing more than to work in drycleaning.

My point is yes, we need to open up drycleaning. But if you open up drycleaning without also making an effort to include the Chinese in far bigger sectors - actually you're only making the overall situation WORSE. If the youngster wanting to enter the drycleaning trade says "I want proportional representation in all fields, even if that means we have allow for 20% Chinese government officials, so we can have 80% Malay drycleaners." - that is fair. You'll even get some drycleaners to support the idea. If he says "I want your field to open up, but the rest is just fine" -- then he's NOT after 'fair' at all. He's just looking out for himself. He's using unfair as an excuse for personal benefit. That is a weaker moral position and a lot harder for drycleaners to find acceptable. That was what I meant by moral position. I'm all for supporting 'fair', even if it is not in my best personal interests. If you're quite happy with other things being unfair as long is not to you -- why should I be interested in supporting you?

It's even more complicated in writing because a lot of us actually do cross genres. (smile) I know you're only interested in drycleaning/sf - but I do hard drycleaning, humorous drycleaning, Space opera, historical fantasy, high fantasy, mystery, teens YA, and yes romance - where I have to use a pen name. Five out of eight have more female than male writers. And they're the biggest selling five. The biggest one (52% of all sales) is 99% female. I'm good friends with a fair number of other authors who also cross (or want to -you get stuck) a lot of genres. It's very widespread. So: I'd like to welcome you to drycleaning. Your support for representivity in all fields would go a long way to convincing me you wanted fairness and not that you were just looking out for number one. I'm all for fair, but not got a lot of time for 'I'm looking out for number one, by complaining it's unfair.'
Jan. 13th, 2009 09:07 am (UTC)
To explain what I was getting at - historically one of the way women have been silenced from protesting and discussing their issues, is by people bringing up other issues and insisting they are just as or more important. (hey, you're upset about sexism? what about racism! go look at that. go look at women in africa, they're so much worse off than you. poverty. got to fix poverty before sexism is relevant!)

All those issues are important. It's hard thing to argue against. I'm not going to say that I'm disinterested in the discrimination issue you raise - I've already said that I think you have a really good point about male writers in romance.

But you seem to be saying that your support of *our* issue is conditional. That you expect the women (readers, writers, editors, publishers) who have an issue with their representation in science fiction to stop what they are doing, and fight your battle first, putting their energy into ensuring that there are no instances in publishing where men are discriminated against before we take the time to fight our own battle, bringing attention to our own issue and fight.

Basically it seems to me that you are saying that your problem is more important than mine, and that I should help you out before I expect you to lift a finger in my direction. To be honest, that's the kind of support that I think we can do without. It would be better if, as I have done for you, you acknowledge that I have an issue to deal with, and move on with our separate lives.

All this of course is theoretical. I may be a woman, but I have no power over the romance industry. I can't contact my pals in the International Women's Association and suggest they put the whole men in publishing issue on the table so we can all vote on it.

I have already said that I support your issue. I did so without expecting anything in return.

I really think you should stop and think about what you are saying, and why a man who interrupts a woman who is talking about her problem to demand that she solves his problem before she bothers with her own (and implies strongly as you did that she is selfish for doing anything less) is not going to be all that well received by an educated feminist.
Jan. 14th, 2009 02:40 pm (UTC)
Firstly- what do I want: just an aknowledgement that gender discrimintion is problem no matter who does it. There is a lot of denial that it even exists if women do it to men.

Secondly this is not a seperate issue. Fiction across genres shares the same publishing houses (or ownership), and often the same agents and writers.

As far a man interrupting a woman and demanding she solves his problem. (Smile) - I'm a poor backcountry boy. Ignorant about these social niceties. More access for women writers to sf (say 8% of the fiction market) has been discussed and supported by many men at least since I bought my first sf mag (second hand) more than 30 years back. It's moved a long way since then. Still has a way to go, and I'll go on supporting it. So, now we've spent 30 years and moved forward a long way on women getting more access to 8% of the market... when is polite for me to suggest that men should get _any_ access at all to 52% of the market in which there has been no movement at all? Another year? ten? When the 8% moves from 70% parity to 100%? Do you want it said that women writers are 76% of the market? Is that a good thing for women, writing or reading? Finally, it's not my problem. Really it's everyone's, and it should be more of a problem to women, and even more for educated feminists.
Jan. 15th, 2009 12:50 am (UTC)
Oh look, I think I see a monkey.
Jan. 15th, 2009 05:01 am (UTC)
(bows, falls out of tree, again) "oo oo ooo" (which means "that's me"- or anything else you might want it to mean. :-))
Dave AKA monkey
Jan. 15th, 2009 05:20 am (UTC)
No, it means I feel like this discussion is an attempt at distraction from my initial argument. It's important sure, but not what I was initially talking about.

Two things can be equally important but that doesn't mean I have to focus on both at the same time just because they are. And by not doing so, I do not invalidate the one thing I choose to focus my attention on.
Jan. 15th, 2009 11:41 am (UTC)
I did realise. It was just funny. I'll pop back in another 30 years then :-)
Jan. 15th, 2009 11:46 am (UTC)
Oh ok. As long as I didn't offend you.

You know I'm not really your person to fix the romance genre. I don't really read it, I don't know much about it and I don't know anyone who has influence in that part of the publishing industry.

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