stone+bark

My Problem with VIDA: a Report from the Field
by Mary Miller

I don’t know why I’m so uncomfortable with VIDA, but I am. I’m not an academic. I’m not a statistician. I am a woman and a fiction writer who doesn’t want my gender as a determining factor in whether or not my story is chosen for publication. If the editors prefer a man’s story to mine, but they need a woman to balance out “the numbers,” I would prefer that my story not be chosen.

I’ve been publishing in magazines for a decade, long before there was such a thing as a “count,” and have had stories appear in many magazines and anthologies. There are times when I’m still the only female fiction contributor in a literary journal. Literary journals tend to publish a lot of poetry and nonfiction by females but fiction is still largely a man’s game. Does this make me biased? Am I proud to be the sole female published in a magazine’s issue? Perhaps. I’m sure it does. I’d just like to call out my bias in the beginning.

Despite my personal feelings, I do want female voices to be adequately represented. I prefer to read work by women. The majority of the books on my shelf are written by women and I love finding new voices, as they more frequently reflect my own experiences. And if this numbers game helps me find them, I can live with that. I wouldn’t be writing this at all if it weren’t for VIDA’s new “Reports from the Field,” which has nothing to do with the count, but is a forum for women to call out male writers and editors on their bad behavior. All of these reports, when taken together, make is seem like it is typical for women in this field to contend with sexism, bullying, and much worse on a frequent basis.

In the first post, Lynn Melnick states, “In just the past year I’ve sat at a reading upset and angry as I listened to a male poet read a very problematic piece about rape; I’ve been in a car with a group of poets, discussing feminism, when one of the men in the car ordered me to ‘shut the fuck up, you talk too much;’ I’ve been told by a stranger that I have ‘the best tits in poetry.’ This isn’t anonymous troll stuff, although there’s plenty of that. This is trouble right out in the open. Still.”

I’m not discounting Melnick’s experiences, but this has not been my experience at all. Not at all. I’ve attended five AWP conferences and met dozens of male writers and editors at readings and other events, and not once has one of them behaved in a manner that was at all untoward. I have met so many good men and it makes me uncomfortable for people to think that this is the normal experience of a female writer. It’s not the norm, at least not in my case. And I have plenty of female writer friends who have not experienced anything like this, either. The men I’ve encountered in this business have been gentlemen, and many have been downright lovely. Why has my experience been so different from Melnick’s? I don’t know. All I know is that I hate the idea, or the preconception, that this happens frequently. That this is what the female writer can expect and must contend with on a day-to-day basis in order to pursue this line of work.

I realize I’m writing about my own experience, that of one person, but so is Melnick, only she has a forum that hundreds (thousands?) of people are reading. I won’t even go into the comments, in which women discuss “catharsis and community building” and all of the talk about being a “survivor,” because a woman was told she had “the best tits in poetry.”

In “MYSOGYNY ALERT,” Krystal Languell tells about an off-site reading at AWP Seattle:

“Male Poet took the stage and read an entire heroic sonnet crown: fifteen poems. This took at least twice as long as any other reader, though it may have felt especially long for reasons I’ll explain.
Male Poet took as one of his repeating lines something to the effect of ‘she sees her father’s cock.’ I took a class as an undergraduate (ten years ago) on the Old Testament, so I’m aware of a literary precedent of children seeing their parents nude. But Male Poet went on to use a variation of this line as his looping sonnet refrain more than once, so that the air in the gallery was thick with ‘father’s cock.’

About two-thirds into the performance, one sonnet emerged as particularly preoccupied with shocking the audience. Male Poet proclaimed: ‘I sucked her brown pussy’ ‘after three Molly,’ and followed this up with what can only be described as a thundersnow of jizz imagery.

What is the purpose of creating an off-site event, indeed a small press publishing community for poetry, if it only reproduces the same work available in mainstream venues? The work Male Poet performed was in many ways typical. It seemed to set out to employ a traditional form in a new way with contemporary diction (see ‘pussy,’ ‘Molly’), but what is innovative, I wonder, about formal poetry objectifying women? I conclude: not much. Indeed, nothing.”

As a female who often writes about males in a negative capacity—mean-spirited, racists, rapists, etc.—I don’t have a problem with this. (I should add that the women in my stories don’t fare well, either, and that I am writing fiction. I should also add that my staunchest supporters are men.) So what if the woman in Male Poet’s poem saw her father’s cock? Can a man not write in a negative fashion about a woman anymore? Or maybe he just shouldn’t read about it in an audience that includes women? Isn’t it enough that something like 98% of the audience thought this guy was a total douchebag, men and women alike? This is simply one person who misjudged himself and his audience. (And I’ve been to many readings in which a woman read well beyond her ten or twenty allotted minutes; this is not a gender-related issue. I also seriously doubt that the people who put on this off-site event had the intention of “reproduc[ing] the same work available in mainstream venues.” They had no idea what a particular writer would choose to read.)

And then there’s Valerie Wetlaufer’s report. She had a consultation with the editor of a major poetry journal who said, “‘I’m going to tell you something no one else will. Technically, these are very good poems, but they’d be much better if they were about men.’ I assumed he was joking at first, but he went on about how exactly I should transform these poems about lesbians and one woman’s desire for another into heterosexual poems from a male POV. I don’t care about these women. No one wants to read about them. I want to know how the men feel.’”

Again, this is ONE PERSON—someone who should have handed down the reigns of his magazine to someone more in touch with the world a long time ago. I don’t care if he’s the editor of a ‘major poetry journal.’ This isn’t the way the vast majority of the (writing/literary) population feels or thinks and I find it ridiculous that his ignorance is attributed solely to his gender.

In each of these instances, no names are given. I’m sure there are numerous reasons for this, but not naming these individuals, not calling them out, makes it seem like these men are everywhere. You might be Facebook friends with Male Poet; you might have just sent the editor of a major poetry journal a batch of poems about motherhood; you may be hesitant to get in a car with a group of male writers you don’t know very well for fear that one of them will tell you to ‘shut the fuck up’ or comment on your body. By not naming these men, they could be anyone; and in essence they become every man, which I find extremely problematic. People—both male and female—often act in ways we wish they wouldn’t. They can be ignorant, competitive, disrespectful. These reports from the field could just as easily be about the bad behavior of women.

I realize that my experience may not be the norm, but neither is Melnick’s or Languell’s or Wetlaufer’s. They are simply one-sided reports that make me eager to hear from women who have alternative viewpoints than those that are represented by VIDA.

 

Mary Miller is the author of a story collection, Big World, and a novel, The Last Days of California.

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  • Lisa Marie Basile

    I only have the energy to tackle anything beyond the 1st paragraph, because, wow.

    So, VIDA isn’t suggesting people publish shitty women’s writing to level the numbers. VIDA is saying-and this is based on real, actual cultural problems-that publishers (largely a male-dominated industry in certain areas) have subconscious and conscious biases that keep women (and yes-their GOOD WRITING) from being published.

    As for the rest…I’m too tired. It’s 4pm. Sigh.

    • AliasKnightly

      Maybe the real cultural problem is that we women can’t help sniping at each other, while the men just smack each other’s asses and say, “Good game.”

      • Lisa Marie Basile

        No one is sniping at anyone. VIDA is literally saying, “don’t be a jerk. let’s publish women equally.” It’s so simple. Cultural problems are obviously worth discussing, but here the matter is clear: there is a serious disparity in the publishing industry.

        I know lots of men who do not slap asses and say “good game” and lots of women who don’t antagonize one another.

        Gender assumptions are the actual problem.

        • AliasKnightly

          I made them equally. That’s what equality looks like.

          • Lisa Marie Basile

            touche?

          • Actual paul

            Lol! I get it! Equality looks like defending sexism! Badly done knightly!

  • Man Dressed as a Woman

    the fact that women (vida) feel threatened by men in the literary world is hilarious. literary men , as miller points out, are some of the most liberal, whatever you say is right and good, women worshipping people in the world.

    • Tobias Carroll

      MDaaW: I think there are plenty of sexist guys in the literary world, even if they’re not in the majority.

      • Sarah

        Thank you, Toby. There certainly are.

      • Dudes Looks Like a Lady

        Right, and there are plenty of women who use their looks/sex appeal to get ahead. Look, you can’t manage the literary world to fit an ideal. We’re human beings and we always act like human beings first and foremost, that goes for the good and the bad in all of us.

        • Lisa Marie Basile

          You know, humans are flawed. This is true. This isn’t about policing. It’s about saying, “be open-minded. accept that there’s an issue, and fix it.”

        • Tobias Carroll

          I don’t think anyone’s saying that the lit world needs to fit into an ideal. I do think that sexism — whether on an institutional level or a personal level — is something that should be addressed. There’s a difference between improving conditions and trying to create a utopia.

          (Pretty sure there are dudes who use their looks to get ahead, too. Not entirely sure how this is relevant.)

          • Call me Paul

            As miller points out, most poets and nonfiction published are women. Do you really have 100% solid stats on the sex of each and every submitted item to every publisher, publication, content publisher? No, you don’t. You’re making huge generalizations based on a snapshot of data. Does sexism exist? Of course it does! Is it on the insufferable scale that is being promoted by Vida? I highly doubt it.

          • Tobias Carroll

            I think it’s worth pointing out that Miller’s piece isn’t about the count. If you disagree with the legitimacy of VIDA’s data, there might be more relevant places to make that argument.

          • Paul Hughes

            lol! shut down vida guys! I think if there’s a discrepancy between the data and call me paul’s intuition, we all want to go with call me paul’s intuition 😉 also can i be called paul as well?

      • Lisa Marie Basile

        Thank you, Toby. Yes.

    • Lisa Marie Basile

      The threat is in the stats. Men aren’t boogie men. It’s not a mystery. It’s numbers.

      It doesn’t matter how liberal or women-worshiping (not really sure what that means) the men are. Stats are stats.

      Also there’s not much hilarious about the pie charts. It’s kind of sad.

      • Rocket Man

        Sounds like you’re making huge inferences based on publishing stats. Obviously there’s NO margin for error when you do that. That’s kind of sad, really. Pie charts, really VIDA? Pie charts?

        • Lisa Marie Basile

          Not really sure what you’re questioning. Yes, pie charts. Is that a very strange idea to you?

          The pie charts demonstrate the figures, which, if you’ll see, aren’t very good.

          http://www.vidaweb.org/category/the-count/the-2013-count/

          I’m making INFERENCES BASED ON STATS PROVIDED BY THE PUBLISHERS themselves….so, yeah, I’m gonna go ahead and “infer.”

          • It’s Me, Paul Again

            All this tells me is that more men are published, talked about and whatnot. That’s it. I think we already knew that. what it doesn’t do is inherently suggest bias by itself. we know nothing about the quality and choices of books and writers that were ignored.

          • Lisa Marie Basile

            When there’s a problem in society, it’s good to examine it with a close eye. No? That’s all. There are deeper issues at play. Do a little research; you’ll see it’s not to be blamed on the “books we’re not seeing.”

  • AlabamaBeggs

    I’m a little confused with the intent of this piece. You seem to default to
    generalizations to dismiss what you say are generalizations. I don’t post to VIDA because you need to pay to be a site member, but I’m happy that they exist, and I can read the “Reports from the Field” posts, and I can relate to a lot of them. I’m glad you’ve had so many positive experiences, Mary. That’s the goal. I wish we could all say the same, but it’s just not true. If the
    experiences of those who post to site aren’t reflective of yours, why not just
    ignore the site, and be happy that it exists for those who do feel they need it?
    You seem to view the women posting in “Reports from the Field” as reflecting on you as a woman writer in some way, and if you are, who are you afraid will get the wrong impression? Male writers? If it is male writers, and they’ve all been as lovely as you say they’ve been, I’m sure they’ll understand that those
    harpies posting over at VIDA are in no way representative of you and your
    experience.

    • Life’s Not Fair!

      Wow, a quota system that’s inserted into a process of evaluating the merit of art. You might as well just throw away “x” number of male (or female) submissions unread to impose some arbitrary “fairness.”

      • The real paul

        Don’t worry life’s not fair, the quota system is just an absurd straw man by the author of the piece. You can rest easy!

    • Amy King

      You can post comments under any of the articles without being a member. The discussion forums are for members (25 per year).

      Thank you!

  • aathema

    You write, “If the editors prefer a man’s story
    to mine, but they need a woman to balance out ‘the numbers,’ I would
    prefer that my story not be chosen” as if the only reason an editor might choose your (or any woman’s) story is to balance the numbers. You’re missing the point, which is that after years of having a canon of almost exclusively white, male writers fed to them, editors may have a (conscious or unconscious) bias toward said writers…to the exclusion of equally worthy, albeit different, female writers. So the question is this: How do we make sure that female writers are given a fair reading? For some editors, that may require a quota system at first to guarantee equal consideration. For others, it may be enough to simply become aware of their own tendencies.

    I find the concern for these mythical “better” stories by men that may get passed over in the process laughable. If these better stories exist, there are plenty of venues out there to ready, willing, and able to snatch them up. God forbid a male writer should have to suffer rejection. The horror.

  • Tasha Matsumoto

    When one depicts feminist perspectives as somehow extremist, or when one labels an occurrence of systematic sexism as an “outlier” or otherwise atypical, what one is really trying to do is silence female voices. Dismissing the oppression that an individual female has experienced is, in itself, an oppressive act: rather than addressing systemic sexism, we assume that the female experience is somehow invalid. Women are (however subtly) being told, “Your experience is not relevant to me.” This disinterest in female perspectives happens on a publishing level, as the VIDA numbers indicate. It also happens on personal level, like when Miller dismisses the perspectives of the “Reports from the Field” contributors. Sexism is not always overt misogyny, but often occurs when men AND women–negate an individual female’s experience. We’re told that systematic sexism isn’t the problem, we’re the problem.

    • AlabamaBeggs

      Thank you Tasha.

    • So Oppressed

      Thank you, Tasha. That perfectly exemplifies the theory-laden, emotion-based generalizations that have no place in the real world of objective decision and policy making.

      • Tobias Carroll

        S.O.: With my moderator hat on: please be respectful of the other people commenting on here.

  • specious reasoning a go go… unless i didn’t get a memo, i’m pretty sure the name of the game is still white, patriarchal capitalism. mary, i’m glad that you haven’t be subjected to individual, obvious instances of misogyny. but that doesn’t make structural inequality disappear or mean that it doesn’t exist.

  • AlabamaBeggs

    We also live in a time period where to dismiss women’s
    contributions to ANYTHING holds a sort of niche value. I hear men, and women,
    for that matter—say frequently, and blanketly—“I just don’t like” women’s
    art, be it writing, music, comedy, etc. I’ve also seen men and women use their
    disdain for women’s art to craft personas for themselves as artists. Yes,
    typically flaunting your misogyny will appeal to the lowest possible dominator,
    but it still appeals to some, nonetheless. This piece just makes me sad. But I
    also know there are plenty of us out there who will continue to fight the good fight, and call it out when we see it.

    • Andrew Purcell

      I think Mary is probably fighting the good fight on her own terms. I seriously doubt that your condescension is warranted. (on a side note, lowest common dominator is an excellent pun / Freudian slip in the context of your comment)

      • AlabamaBeggs

        “You’re exaggerating”… “making huge inferences…” Dismiss, dismiss. “Freudian slip.” I can assure you we are not just making things up or exaggerating what we’ve experienced so you’ll feel bad for us, or give us your attention— no matter how badly you wish to reduce it to that. Please. We just want to be given an equal fucking shot, sight unseen. Not every publication does this, but some publications DO. Not all men/women are misogynistic, but some ARE. We don’t want to have to set up websites to document the inequity that exists in publishing. We just want it to fucking stop. Your resistance to acknowledge this, free of any vested interest…why are you so quick to side with Mary’s experience, over what we are telling you our experience as women writers has been?

        • Andrew Purcell

          AlabamaBeggs, please re-read the Freudian slip comment. I put pun first in case it was intentional. Either way, it’s clever in relation to the comment, intentional or not. As a writer, I appreciated it. I’d also encourage you to re-read what came before. You are bullying her to fall in line with your view. If, after reading this well-considered piece, you refuse to accept that she’s capable of reaching her own positions on these issues, then you are being coarsely illiberal toward her. Mary’s perspective and her able delivery of it does not invalidate your own.

          • AlabamaBeggs

            Eww. Since when is strongly disagreeing with someone, based on your own experience, bullying? And thanks for explaining to me how Mary’s perspective doesn’t invalidate my own. I was really worried there, for a sec.

          • Andrew Purcell

            You win, Alabama.

          • AlabamaBeggs

            It’s funny to me that you think it’s important to me to win. I don’t want to win. I just want to be believed.

    • Punchy

      Firstly, I think you’re greatly exaggerating the number of people who frequently say they dislike women’s art, comedy, whatever. Just because one or two goofballs in the media (Adam Corolla, a Jewish guy with a Japanese last name and Hitchens) said such things doesn’t mean it’s epidemic!
      Secondly, isn’t it within a person’s right to say, “I don’t like women comedians.” Or “I don’t like male writers.” Of course they can.
      Thirdly, keep punching away, eventually you’ll hit something worth fighting about.

  • Andrew Purcell

    Mary, really thoughtful piece here. Putting this out there took moral courage and I’m sure you’ll be catching flak like mad for it. Talk’s cheap so I’ll be buying a book of yours this week 🙂

  • JenFitz

    I wonder if the same person trolling these comments with different, awful and uninventive names was the catalyst for this Tokenism 101 Lesson. Not naming names, of course.

  • feuilledelavande

    Miller’s experience is singular to her, as my experience is singular to me. I appreciate her resistance to the idea that women writers have a universal or overarching experience in publishing, but Miller’s benign experiences are still limited and anecdotal. Reading this piece, I was reminded of the times other women have told me that I must be exaggerating incidents and frequency of street harassment because they are never harassed or because they are flattered when some man they have never met approaches them with a proposition or a sexual “compliment.”

    Though Miller takes pains to point out that she writes about unappealing men, it seems possible to me that Miller’s work does not challenge the prevailing point of view that some (sexist) men have about women. She even states, “My staunchest supporters are men.” Miller primarily depicts narcissistic and insecure female characters who define themselves largely by their appeal to men. This is the sort of narrative that compels her. But other female artists are writing about other things, or, if not, they are examining these narrative tropes in a different way. So, receptions will vary. If Miller was compelled by some other subject matter, or even if she wrote lengthier and more linguistically daring pieces, would she have published as widely? I don’t have an answer, but it’s unfortunate that this article does not examine how niche and the perspective of a woman artist might affect her reception in the literary world. Miller assumes that because her work has been well-received and that because she feels as if she gets along easily with male writers and editors, that no talented women have troubling experiences in the same realms. Or, that if some women do, they may be peculiarities, or perhaps, it is implied, puling and hypersensitive.

    I wonder why Miller does not examine why she feels men are more supportive of her work than women. It’s asserted, and she moves on. However, the implication might be that women are somehow insufficiently supportive of her work. If so, how does that fit in with her claims that the work of women writers faces a reception that is, at worst, neutral?

    • Hey Pauly, Pauly, Pauly

      Wow.

  • Rocinante

    I think the error the author makes here, and which I see throughout the comments, is misunderstanding the relationship and purpose of the field reports as compared to the count. Even though the author acknowledges they are different things, the resulting article only seems to imply rather than make the point that the field reports, taken as a group, have an overall bias that misrepresents the general experience of women writers seeking publication.

    True, no individual experience is necessarily indicative of a larger pattern. In fact, you could randomly ask 100 authors, and lets say they were limited to those identifying as women and men, and they were split equally. And lets say all 50 women had negative experiences. That still wouldn’t tell you anything. What does is when you look at the Vida counts. Those are objective numbers that illuminate and support the subjective experiences of people related in the reports from the field. If the reports from the field were uniformly negative, yet the Vida counts showed, lets say 85% of published and reviewed authors were women, then there could be a different issue, because then the isolated experiences would not necessarily be indicative of a larger social issue. But, that’s not the case. The matter at hand is that the reports from the field demonstrate on an individual and experiential level what is found in the objective data.

    Now, of course, what Miller may be putting out here is, where are the reports from the field of positive experiences? That is, are there more stories like hers, and will this help illuminate the situation. Yes, it probably would, since bringing all stories to the front illuminates.

    And I would like to add that Miller’s experience is a ‘feminist perspective’. And her implied point that if you’re not naming names, you’re perpetuating is spot on. She isn’t dismissing anyone’s experiences, what she is doing is arguing the validity of the interpretation of those experiences within the larger community.

    Finally, on the other side of things, Vida is not a quota, its a representation of publishing. If the number of human beings putting out quality writing is basically split the way the census tells us gender is, well then the publishers need to be aware of that. And its up to all of us to hold their feet to the fire by naming names, counting, and supporting those whose publications reflect our values and who we are as a people. The stories we tell help define who we are as a people, and we are not 75% men. Likewise, we are not 75% women. And pointing that out isn’t asking for a quota. Its asking publisher and readers to examine what they are doing, and asking for a good explanation isn’t harming people who are supposed to be able to explain themselves in writing.

  • Johnny Lincoln

    I surely might be misreading this essay in this summary that follows, but I’ll give it a try. Mary Miller, as I read it, seems to be saying that, as a female writer, she fears she is being defined by the collected experiences of the “Reports from the Field” and, also, that these collected experiences might come to define “female writer,” something she thinks would be wrong, since these experiences (Miller feels) are not the totality of experiences of female writers. In her essay, she also asserts that a similar dynamic works for the males referred to in these reports, so that “in essence they become every man.” The problem it seems is one of metaphor, that these singular experiences might be seen as standing in for the larger, universal whole.

    Rather than be the subject of these “Reports from the Field,” Miller decides on agency: writing an essay as part of an effort to define herself rather than to allow others to have the power over her. Thus, as I see it, this feeling of agency leads to Miller’s belief that she is taking a feminist stance. “You don’t speak for me,” she might be asserting. “Not all female writers think this way, feel this way, define themselves this way.”

    Misogyny, as I understand it, results from the unnatural subordination of women by a patriarchal society that creates violence against women by making men feel that women are “things” (commodities) that they deserve to have as a “reward” for acting in a certain way. When that “reward” is denied, men get angry and they direct that violence at the “thing” they are denied. At the heart of misogyny, as I see it, is this privileged sense of “deserving” certain behaviors/acts from women because the man “has done everything right” to get that thing. He played the game, so the reward should be coming his way. If not, there’s a sense that the world is unfair, unjust. Guys should be able to get girls, and if they can’t, there is something horribly wrong with girls these days.

    My other understanding has to do with a sense of power, that we are born into a world of language/signs/text, and it is this text that constructs our reality. If that language/text is biased or prejudiced, then reality contains that bias. To control language, then, is to control the construction of the world. If that is so, then it might be very important whose language enters the world and whose doesn’t. And it might be important to know the bias that exists in language and other systems that might be creating a biased reality.

    So how do these understandings of mine (which might be idiosyncratic understandings of these terms) relate to VIDA and Miller’s essay? I had this thought the other day, “With all the focus on non-white, non-male writers, I might have more trouble getting published. That doesn’t seem fair. We all should be judged on our merit.” [I know: how much privilege am I revealing in such a thought!) I then thought about the idea of “merit” and how that word has plenty of slippage in it, because who has created the idea of literary merit? Who continues to create the meaning of that word? What biases exist in the idea of “literary merit”? Do the expected style, structure, and content of literary work have bias built into them? Is some of “merit” biased toward more male-like styles, structures, and content? Does work from female authors that leans more toward these kind of structures, styles, and content experience less bias than the work of other female writers who are less inclined to this style, structure, content? I don’t know of course. It just got me wondering how slippery that idea of “we all should be judged on literary merit” can be. The entire idea of “literary merit” might be biased to a certain kind of writing/writer. So working to open up that idea of what constitutes “literary merit” might be something that VIDA can help all writers think about.

    “People—” Miller writes, “both male and female—often act in ways we wish they wouldn’t. They can be ignorant, competitive, disrespectful. These reports from the field could just as easily be about the bad behavior of women.” I don’t have enough literary field experience myself to know if this statement is true or not, but let’s say it is, that men and women equally act in ways documented in reports from the field. Let’s say Mary Miller or someone else started a “Reports from the Field” documenting women’s bad behavior. Would it be the same thing as the VIDA “Reports from the Field”? I think again the slipperiness of language must enter the conversation because “bad behavior” is not an agreed upon term in our language. If “bad behavior” is the use of privilege & power to silence certain voices, then the reports might focus on a different thing than if “bad behavior” is thought of as more generally “ignorant.” Does each gender’s bad behavior have the same effect on whose voices get heard and whose don’t? Who is in control of determining what is bad behavior and what isn’t? Are the consequences the same for everyone? Does the behavior of women in the field lead to this silencing of certain voices and thus promote the status quo?

    I think that is what Miller is arguing for: the status quo. She’s been doing fine—thank you very much—with men as her “staunchest supporters” and “doesn’t want [her] gender as a determining factor in whether or not [her] story is chosen for publication.” The system works for her, and the question that we might want to ask is “Why?” Miller seems to think that it works solely because her writing has “merit.” Because she is “still the only female fiction contributor in a literary journal,” her work must “merit” publication more than other female writers’ works, yes? Why else would hers be the only female work chosen (repeatedly) for publication? Is it possible, just the tiniest bit, that the bias in the system has worked in Miller’s favor because her work and the bias are compatible? And if that is true, what are female writers whose works don’t have that bias—all the ones who have been passed up in favor of Miller’s work and the male writers work—to do about it? Are they to stop whining about bias and just write better stories so they too can be the only woman published in a literary journal? I think that’s what Miller might advise.

    But I don’t think it’s that simple. I think the biased nature of “merit” and “behavior” work against women in ways that exclude certain voices from the “language,” and because language constructs reality, the status quo is maintained. I don’t think that Miller thinks that a biased idea of what constitutes “merit” is part of her success as a writer, as I don’t like thinking about that either (as a white male writer). Figuring out who and what might be silencing the full range of voices in no way diminishes my own accomplishments or my own writing. And I think the idea that ” it’s not all men” makes it seem that women and their reports & pie charts are the real problem. Not all men are the problem, okay, but I don’t think reminding the world that “not all men are the problem” is much of a solution to the real problem: the need to ensure that all voices, especially those typically marginalized, find expression.