Machismo Construction, Wobbles, and the VIDA Count

Bear with me, if you will, for a moment. I have something to say about women and publishing and society, but I don’t know what it is yet. As you may or may not be aware, VIDA’s 2012 count once again showed us that women are underrepresented in most book reviews and literary magazines. There are, of course, a lot of reasons and excuses about why this is so, one of which is that women don’t submit as often as men. I really like this unpacking of that particular excuse, which strikes fairly close to home. I also love this explanation of how two magazines made their numbers more equal.

A prime example.

As a writer, I have developed a thick skin. It’s important. I’ve made hundreds of submissions to magazines, which means I’ve received hundreds of rejections. And that’s what happens when you’re a writer. I know that now, and I knew it then because I was lucky enough to have a mentor who believed in me.

Women are socialized as girls to doubt themselves. To apologize. To please. I like to think of myself as a strong woman, but I still back away from things. I tell myself that I don’t really know what I’m doing, or I have nothing to say.

In college, I needed to build a bunk bed. I’d done stage crew for years and built all kinds of things. But when it came time to buy supplies I deferred to a man’s opinion. This pile of machismo who shall remain unnamed (not the husband; this was before I met the husband) was seduced by some giant bolts we saw at Home Depot, and we ended up using them. They were ridiculous, and required a ridiculous drill bit and ridiculous wrenches to use. Not only that, but this man’s design included no cross-bracing. Half an hour into the building of the wobbliest bed ever built I knew I had made a mistake, that I could have done much better on my own. But it was too late. Male certainty had prevailed over female doubt.

Yes, I know I’m oversimplifying this. But that memory serves for me as a clear reminder to be strong.

At almost the same time as the VIDA count, I became aware of this story about The New Yorker rejecting its own story. In brief, David Cameron:

“grabbed a New Yorker story off the web (no, it wasn’t by Alice Munro or William Trevor), copied it into a Word document, changed only the title, created a fictitious author identity, and submitted it to a slew of literary journals, all of whom regularly grace the TOC of Best American Short Stories, Pushcart Prize, O’Henry, etcetera and etcetera. My cover letter simply stated that I am an unpublished writer deeply appreciative of their consideration.”

And the story was repeatedly rejected, even by the magazine that published it. So, that’s hilarious. But in light of all this other stuff I can’t help but wonder whether the fictional identity was male or female.

There’s more to this, and I still can’t find it. It has to do with the backlash Amanda Palmer is getting, and wondering whether it would be happening if she was a man. It has to do with reading that blind auditions increase the percentage of women hired into orchestras. It even has to do with the Steubenville rape trial, although I wish it didn’t.

Can anyone help me put these pieces together?

Or, wait. Maybe I can do it myself.

One thought on “Machismo Construction, Wobbles, and the VIDA Count

  1. Oh god, that bed. Oh god, boys and building bunk/loft beds in college. We were way better at doing it our little girly selves than big macho boys were! And the power tools were all ours anyway. Building and unbuilding loft beds with you in college are some of my fondest memories. No boys required. Or allowed. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *