A Review of My Actions Against My Patriarchal Profession

nyt-book-review-VIDA

I am not a feminist, which infuriates my best friend, who is (or at least reads five or more feminist blogs daily, which counts for something). Sure, I believe that abortion should be legal with no strings attached, that women should be paid the same amount as men for the same work and also be free from slut-shaming, rape, and the patriarchy. I just prefer to hold those beliefs as a reasonable human being and not as part of a judgmental, overly touchy and ultimately exclusionary quagmire.

OK, now that I have angered every feminist within a 500-mile radius, let me say I uncharacteristically found myself very very angry on behalf of women everywhere, and this anger has not gone away. I am speaking, of course, of VIDA’s count of women writers both published in literary magazines and reviewed in major publications. I wrote about it a month ago for a different publication, and instead of the issue just flitting out of my head, it seems to have stuck there. I’m not quite sure if this is because of my recent donning of the book-reviewer hat or because I’ve only recently started to think of myself as belonging to a long tradition of female writers. But I’m cataloging every reaction to “The Count” that I see, and this one by Deborah Kogan struck a chord.

I don’t want to grow up writerwise in a world that questions the legitimacy of a writing prize for women, who changes the title and cover color of my books, who thinks every cover is improved with a suggestive pose in the vicinity of a vagina. I want these situations to be shameful, to be a thing of the past that should have never occurred at all, let alone be occurring as I work. And damn, do I admire Deborah Kogan for not remaining silent. Just hearing this galvanizes this reluctant activist, and I hope others.

I heard something else this week—that a woman will be the editor for the New York Times Book Review. And I don’t expect her to start reviewing tons and tons of women in apology for her publication’s lousy numbers, because that would be equally unfair, and perhaps not what’s called for. But I don’t want her to be my newfound profession’s Margaret Thatcher, paying no attention to her gender. I do want her to be a positive symbol of what a woman can do in a male dominated world, and be an agent of changing the thought behind the practice as well as the practice itself.

And I never thought I’d post the article about Pamela Paul’s hiring Facebook with the comment “my future career path?” Partly because I never thought I’d get into book reviewing (more than a few people discouraged me from reviewing and journalism) but partly because I never thought I’d be so passionate about the work I do. This wasn’t intentional, but as it stands my “count” is pretty good, with about half the work I do focusing on female writers. I seem to have found a niche with the rebellious, creative ladies—reviewing Heroines, books about women artists struggling with demons from bipolar disorder to depression and insecurity, even a collection of our only lady serial killer’s correspondence. (Which is my personal favorite thing to pimp when soliciting review copies.) And I keep finding myself asking for the review copies of punky female authors (next victim: Anne Elizabeth Moore), not out of some desire for gender equity, but because they are genuinely interesting. 'Lo, I knock out two birds with the same inadvertent stone.

And though you all are still not going to claim me as a feminist—sorry, blog-reading best friend, I’m glad to be picking up my brick and smashing it at the patriarchy’s bookstore window. This personal didn’t mean to get political, but hey, getting to not only read amazing work, but to give it the attention it deserves is a cause I’ll happily fight for.

Filed under: Opinion

Leave a comment