Interesting note in the newest Poets & Writers (believe it or not) about BlazeVOX [books] – my publisher. Indie presses publishing women should be a given, right? Apparently it’s not. Geoffrey Gatza says he published only 3 women over his first 30 books (two were nominated for Lambda awards). But that has changed dramatically. Anne Waldman (who he has subsequently published) gave him a piece of advice: announce that you’re open to publishing women. Geoffrey says this changed his submissions drastically.
While I think Geoffrey’s success in attracting women writers to BlazeVOX is terrific, it does disturb me to realize that even among independent presses, literary publishing is assumed to be male-centric. There is obviously an implicit hostility to female writers. Geoffrey wished to publish more women, but before he announced it explicitly, it was assumed he did not. Nate Pritts began a conversation about this a few months ago in regards to his own journal, h_ngm_n.
This past week, attending the &NOW Conference, “a conference for innovative literature,” I was pretty overwhelmed by the male driven nature of the gathering. You’d think that conference that avoids the center and, supposedly, definition would naturally attract a less male group. I became especially aware of it as I (a male) stood in for Danielle Pafunda, reading her paper on the Gurlesque, for a panel organized by Lara Glenum (along with fellow male Johannes Göransson). Lara and I had a few conversations about this during the conference, and about her own feelings as a woman at this conference (which I won’t presume to express), after which the sex ratio of attendees became palpably important to me.
Do publishers have a responsibility to explicitly express their openness to women? Or is this problematic in itself? And should this responsibility be extended to addressing other demographic groups?
Perhaps more important, what can be done to eliminate this implicit exclusion?