Tag Archives: women

Women, Reviews, and Self-Publishing

I thought of writing a long post on the conversation about the visibility of women writers in SFF, but decided it all boils down to this: I am sick unto death of seeing articles and opinion pieces about the need to acknowledge women writers, from publications and groups that refuse to review and include and support women who self-publish.

The most common reason given for rejecting self-published works from reviews, sight unseen, is that there are just too many of them to review. By the same token, there are far too many traditionally published novels to review as well, so there is that. I get it. Making decisions takes time, and it can be difficult to choose which reviews will best please the readership.  Thus it’s easier to set aside a single publication method as not-reviewable.

That reasoning suffers from two downsides. First, the policy cuts out the work of many women whose writing didn’t gain approval from a relatively small audience of editors, but instead found a great audience among readers. It cuts out women who decided they didn’t want to seek such traditional approval, and chose instead to control and direct their own work. It turns away from women who have found success outside the system that the diversity-in-the-genre articles are ostensibly trying to impact.

Self-publishing is empowerment; cutting its existence from the landscape of writers’ options, while pushing for greater visibility of women writers, is rather counterproductive if inclusion is the actual goal.

Second, the policy ensures the publication will be missing out on the broadening conversation readers are having with a number of self-published writers. It won’t affect those readers much, since they’re obviously getting their information from a variety of sources. But there are readers who are entrenched in traditional publications and reviews, and will not venture far from the familiar. Those readers will be missing out on the greater conversation as well.

Again, making decisions takes time and can be difficult.

I knew when I self-published the sort of attitudes I’d be facing from traditionally-oriented reviewers, publications, bloggers, and even other writers.  To act surprised that I’ve found the environment to be pretty close to what I expected would be disingenuous.  I’m simply pointing out a contradiction that troubles me.

The review policies on self-published works will eventually change, likely when it becomes apparent that readers are having conversations the publications aren’t. And when it does change, we’ll be starting the conversation on the visibility of women all over again.

Until then, though, I’ll just keep watching the policies that state a support for women writers, as long as they’re not self-published women, because those self-published women should stay in their own playground.

Well. I guess that became a blog post after all.

UPDATE: This entry was crossposted to my LiveJournal, where writer and reviewer Marissa Lingen added comments about her review policy.  She is currently willing to consider self-published works.  PLEASE read those comments and follow the guidelines if you’d like to submit your work for review.  It would also be helpful to read a collection of posts at her blog so you’ll be clear on what sort of work she does and doesn’t review.

The Conversation Continues

WordPress lets me see the places where others have clicked links to reach my site. I didn’t recognize one of the referring pages that landed on a past post (It’s the Same Advice), so I clicked it to find out where it came from. That led me to a LiveJournal were a person had linked to the above post, and Where the Boundaries Are Drawn (over at my LiveJournal).  That’s cool.

Then, the comment right under it made me laugh:

The moment a woman describes a guy who came onto her as “creepy”, she loses all my sympathy. “Creepy” means, precisely, “a man who is interested in me, but not good enough for me.” All the woman is saying is, “This guy thought he was good enough for me! Isn’t that awful?”

I couldn’t help but leave a response:

That might be your precise definition, but it certainly is not mine. A creeper is someone who does not believe the object of his/her desire has the right to decline said desire. A creeper is someone who is certain the primary reason the desired object declines is either extreme arrogance or complete stupidity. A creeper is someone who believes the arrogance and stupidity can be corrected by the right amount of mockery, insults, ignoring of requests to be left alone, and/or force.

Are there men who aren’t “good enough” for me? Why yes, there are. Men who think the best way to open a relationship is to place hands on private parts of my body, or back me into a corner, or refuse to take a polite “no thank you” as a valid response are, indeed, not good enough for me.

Every person has the right to choose the traits and behaviors they’d like in a partner, and it’s rather odd to see that right couched as a dismissive comment.

I’ve taught women in martial arts for more than a decade now, and I’ve had the chance to watch women decide what sort of shit they no longer need to put up with. As a result, more than one of the boyfriends/spouses faced with changing abusive behavior or losing their significant other have decided I’m a “man-hater.”

Nope. I’m an asshole-hater. There is a difference. Quite a big difference.

Just Us Women

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After a stumble-start last fall, my experiment with a women-only karate class is off to a fantastic new start.  The first class was on Tuesday, with seven women in attendance.

Most uncomfortable moment: Making it clear to my own (male) teacher that he needed to leave the dojo before we started class.  I’d made it clear to the women there would be no men, no husbands, no children in the dojo at all.

Most awesome moment: When everyone walked out the door saying, “See you next class!”

Once upon a time, I was uncomfortable with offering a women-only class.  I’m a staunch believer in men and women training together, and see huge benefits come from that.  Then I chose to listen to the women who expressed a passing interest in karate, but never actually took a class.

Body image.  Fear of judgment.  Fear of failing.  Fear of being the worst one in class.  Discomfort with a physical sport.  Discomfort with being seen enjoying an aggressive sport.  All those reasons and more, I heard over and over from women who murmured their interest in karate to me when no one else would hear them.

I pride myself in creating a safe and supportive environment for new students who are, more often than not, nervous stepping on the mat.  I’ve had kids cry crocodile tears at the start of class, and beg to come back for more by the end of class.  I’ve had adults hesitant at the beginning because of physical limitations realized at the end that I’ll work with them to reach their goals.  But whatever atmosphere my methods and personality create, it wasn’t safe and supportive for a subset of women who wanted karate training enough to mention it, but feared it enough to never try.

So I set out to create that environment.  No men.  No witnesses.  That was a big deal for all of the women who committed to showing up.  Then we talked about the physical stuff, and I shared my Ultimate Karate Dork stories as well as the problems my hip dysplasia caused.  We talked about things women don’t often discuss with men: boobs that get in the way, post-pregnancy body problems, hitting other people.

On the mat, we not only worked hard on technique, but we laughed.  Laughed and shared and enjoyed everyone’s company.  We started on the basics of dojo etiquette, chatted about the boundaries of Sensei-In-Dojo and Blair-In-Supermarket, and acknowledged that it feels very strange to say “Yes, Ma’am/Yes, Sir” at first.  We worked up enough of a sweat that everyone was at least a little sore the next day.  And we spent time listening to one woman sharing an issue she’d been struggling with all day, and we offered support.

Unlike six or seven years ago, when most women I spoke with wanted “self-defense” without all that “karate stuff,” these women want the whole thing.  They want to earn the black belt.  They are working hard, asking questions, making mistakes and corrections.

Three to six months from now, I suspect they’ll all be ready to transition into the standard classes at least once a week.  By then, all those preliminary fears will have been encountered. Best of all, this group of women is helping me refine these ideas by giving me honest feedback.

…and I have to back up, because my hopes are running away with me. 🙂  The true test will be how many of those seven women commit to a longer-term program.  The decision point will be this coming Thursday.

In the meantime, I am thrilled with the two classes we’ve had so far.  I come home happy, energized, and grinning.  It feels like the beginning of a community.

And in the writing news, I suddenly wondered if I should end Sand of Bone 20K words deeper into the larger story.  This is not all that helpful to my stress level, alas.