A miscellany of thoughts
Sinfield separates gender identity and sexual orientation by describing them, respectively, as “desire to be” and “desire for” (Sinfield, A., in “The Challenge of Transgender, the Moment of Stonewall, and Neil Bartlett”, GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies, 10:2, 2004, 267-272).
I actually think “desire to be” doesn’t really cover gender identity so well as “desire to inhabit” might (which doesn’t even really cover it; in some cases “desire to perform”, or “desire to enact” might fit better).
I suppose what i’m saying is that i *really* don’t like Sinfield’s assessment of gender identity because i think it’s prescriptive and erasing, but my alternatives aren’t much better. I’m becoming increasingly tired of having to places things in boxes, even ones with ones painted with rainbows and LBGTTQQIIAA+ slogans on the side.
Queeory is, i fear, facing in the wrong direction. And i know that Sinfield was 6 years ago, but.
Gender and publishing: why do women write fiction and men write literature?
Of course, they don’t. That’s balls. But it is true that men still far outnumber women in terms of publishing deals and book sales.
This article from The Atlantic discusses the issue, making particular reference to Jodi Picoult (and other ‘chick lit’ writers) and their llambasting of NYTimes book review bias.
Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Weiner, two writers whose work is often referred to as “chick lit,” have been tweeting and commenting in the press about Michiko Kukatani’s rave review of Jonathan Franzen’s new novel, Freedom; Piccoult mused that she’d love to see “the NYT rave about writers who aren’t white male literary darlings” and busted on Kakutani for using the word “lapidiary” in her review. Weiner tweeted ”Carl Hiaasan doesn’t have to choose between getting aTimes review and being a bestseller. Why should I? Oh right #girlparts.”
See also this article by Alison Flood at The Guardian.
Contacted by blog the NYT Picker, Picoult reaffirmed her view that “the Times favours white male authors. That isn’t to say someone else might get a good review – only that if you are white and male and living in Brooklyn you have better odds, or so it seems”.
"The NYT has long made it clear that they value literary fiction and disdain commercial fiction – and they disparage it regardless of race or gender of the author," said the author. "I’m not commenting on one specific critic or even on my own reviews (which are few and far between because I write commercial fiction). How else can the Times explain the fact that white male authors are ROUTINELY assigned reviews in both the Sunday review section AND the daily book review section (often both raves) while so many other writers go unnoticed by their critics?"
Very interesting reading. And it’s very much in my field, being both Gender-y and Literary-y. Cor, i’m eloquent today. Anyway, here’s what i think:
Whilst i lament as much as anyone (and, in fact, probably more) the sorry lack of venerated female authors in comparison to male authors, i can’t say that Jodi Picoult’s books are worth rave reviews (and certainly not in the order of Franzen’s). White or not, male or not, whoever Johnathan Franzen is (and yes i know he is white and male, but you can’t tell that from his writing ffs), his writing is stellar. It’s fucking fantastic. The Corrections is one of my all-time favourite novels and How to be Alone is fabulous critico-cultural commentary. He’s a great writer. Picoult just doesn’t compare…but nor does Dan Brown: it’s not because Picoult’s a woman that she doesn’t compare, it’s because her writing just isn’t very good. It may be entertaining, yes, and it may sell lots of copies, of course, but neither of those are markers of good writing so much as they are markers of popularity.
A metaphor: the publishing world is a college or high school. “The Academy” is the faculty; authors and the public are the students. Jodi Picoult may get voted Class President or even Student Body President—because those are popularity contests—but she would be overlooked for the Dean’s List and for Academic prizes because her work is not outstanding. Nothing to do with her gender. Whilst Franzen would be more of a teacher’s pet, so would Margaret Atwood or Jeanette Winterson or Virginia Woolf.
I guess what’s i’m trying to say is that whilst it’s a terrible thing that men outnumber women in the world of books/publishing/literature, Jodi Picoult just isn’t any good.
An analogy: Sports. In the sport world, men’s teams have far, far more publicity than women’s teams. Coverage of women’s events at the Olympics is far shorter than the coverage of men’s events. Salaries are less, usually [though, interestingly, at Wimbledon the men’s and women’s prizes are the same in terms of cash amount but the women players play fewer matches than the men].
But just because all that is true, and Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps, let’s say, are being honoured in the press for their achievements, that doesn’t mean that *my* not being similarly honoured—I am a lowly amateur runner who nonetheless raises hundreds of pounds for charity every year—reflects gender favouritism of the part of sports media. I’m not covered because i’m not very good. And whilst, yes, Paula Radcliffe may not get the same amount of column inches, and whilst there is an inherent sexism within the industry, it also does not mean that Bolt or Phelps should be attacked for favouritism as by any standard they are extremely talented athletes.
The gender inequality in publishing isn’t good. Of course it isn’t. But neither is Jodi Picoult—and it seems to me that for her this is less about the gender inequality than it is about her feeling sore for not getting on the Dean’s List. Popularity and talent are not the same thing.
A somewhat lighthearted post: projecting gender stereotypes into the animal kingdom
Okay, so i’ve been spending the majority of the last few days trying to get my head around the process of applying to US PhD programmes. (This GRE business is so fucked; how does my capability to remember trigonometry have any bearing on my capability to get a PhD and be a kick-ass teacher of GS & Literature?!)
But, i digress. I’m not really in the frame of mind right now to tackle something really “big”, especially after dealing with all the drama and getting all sorts of slut-shame/blame…. So, here’s something to add a little levity to the blog/my day:
Projecting gender stereotypes into the animal kingdom.
Happens all the fucking time.
I have a puppy, a labrador-spaniel cross, all black. Hecuba. She looks much more spanielly now, but when i first got her she looked more or less like any pure lab. And *everybody* assumed she was a boy. Not just other pet owners in the waiting room, who were going on snap-judgements—my family did, too. A lot. What is (was) it about my dog that made people assume she was male? Apparently labs, at least black ones, are really masculine dogs. So much so that for weeks my little brother called her “he”, despite being corrected (and he’s thirteen!). People on the street, too: “oh, he’s a boisterous thing!” “he’s looks like a lot of fun” “what a handsome boy”, etc. Even the receptionist at the vet did it.
So, i did some research (that is, i asked my little brother). Chihuahuas? Female. Spaniels? Female. Staffies? Male. Jack Russels? Male. What the fuck?! I checked these answers. Others agreed. WHERE DID THIS COME FROM?!
Of course, now that Hecuba has grown up some (she’s not even 5 months yet), she’s become a lot more spanielly. Fluffy ears, long(er than a labrador’s) coat, etc. And SUDDENLY she’s female. Strangers we meet on the street tell me how “pretty” she is. In fact, one woman, after asking her name and getting the answer, said “oh, i’ll just call her Pretty”. (No wonder Hecuba barks at this woman now whenever we see her; i would too if they’d objectified me!)
Works with cats, too. My mum has two cats. Toms. They don’t like Hecuba. And guess what? Everyone assumes they’re female. Little bro says that the cats should be girls and Hecuba should be a boy.
This saddens me greatly. How and why did these gender stereotypes transfer over? Why do we project them? Sigh.
An open letter to numbersandlife
(Because everyone should fucking know about this douchecanoe.)
I didn’t take issue with the misogynistic, rape-apologist, piss-ignorant bullshit you’ve been spouting because i’m bored. I took issue (still do; you haven’t changed in the last 8 hours or so) with it because i think it’s abhorrent. How you can in one post suggest that feminism is a great thing (and, hey, that’s fine—it fucking is) and that feminist shouldn’t be a dirty word but in another post, within hours, strip women—and you are a woman, which makes this oh-so-much-more incomprehensible—of the dignity they deserve and which feminism attempts to restore?
You said in another post that if you had been the girl in STFUsexists’s post (who got attacked whilst unconscious after being intentionally plied with (pass-out-inducing amounts of) alcohol for that premeditated end by someone she considered a friend) you wouldn’t have been attacked because you wouldn’t have been alone with a male friend.
Tell me, do you think this is a practical method of preventing assault? Do you genuinely believe that men and women should not be alone together in case the man rapes the woman? What about couples? What about married couples?
Your views are not only backwards, impractical and illogical, all of which demonstrate your small-mindedness, they perpetuate a fucking fuckton of stereotypes, assumptions and patriarchal, phallocratic, socio-sexual rules:
1) That all men cannot be trusted
2) That all men are would-be rapists and that rape is an entirely understandable natural urge that all men have (and are under no obligation to control)
3) That women are JUST TOO TEMPTING and must be kept under lock and key or away from men.
4) That any woman who breaks Stupid Rule 3 is a slut
5) That any woman who breaks Stupid Rule 3, whatever the scenario, deserves anything terrible that might happen to her (i.e. she asked for it)
6) That when it comes to sexual assaults there are two types of victim: “innocent” (a woman who plays by all your rules and has been ambushed) and “guilty” (anybody else (the sluts): these women have it coming)
7) That women are culpable for the crimes committed against them
8) That the onus is on women to make themselves undesirable or invisible to stop men, for whom rape is only natural, according to you, attacking them.
9) That rape is a crime of desire and sexual attraction, not one of violence, misogyny and oppression.
I could go on.
Your posts anger me. They also upset me. I truly don’t understand how a woman like you, any woman, can hold these views and have the audacity to boast feminist credentials. Moreover, i don’t understand how you can hold these views full stop. Haven’t you ever had the experience of being intruded upon by men in some way, just for trying to live your ife the way that you choose? Haven’t you ever felt objectified, degraded, insulted, mistreated, bullied or attacked by a man because you’re a woman? Haven’t you ever been called a slut or a skank or a bitch? Haven’t you ever felt the sting of unfaltering systemic misogyny?
If so, you’re unique. You’re the only one, and a lucky woman.
But, i don’t think so.