As you may already know, there are a couple of discussions going on about gender and poetry following my original post, one at Mark Wallace’s blog and one at Harriet. There are a couple of things I want to say, or observe, that are not going to be terribly organized in their presentation.*
1. The comment streams at these places seem very male-dominated. On the Harriet blog, there are a few astute comments by women that have been overlooked by the train of conversation. This makes me wonder** the following things: a. Are women sick of talking about gender and poetry? b. Do men feel they have a particular stake in the discussion (more than women feel that they do)? c.Do these male commentators even see/read the comments by women? What do they think about them? … I know comment streams are often male-dominated. I haven’t really participated in an extended blog discussion for about three years; I guess I thought the dynamic would have changed by now. Speaking of…
1.1. Anonymous comments? Really? Aren’t we past that?
1.2. … One such astute and un-replied to comment from Michelle Detorie (not sure this even needs a response– it’s as “true” as anything can be):
The men who have established the professional standards that govern the world of poetry are by and large men who have benefited from many different kinds of unearned privilege, including the uncompensated labor of many women (domestic, secretarial, and creative). Therefore, the question should not be “how can women learn the skills that men seem naturally to possess (self-promotion)?” Those skills, upon closer inspection, reveal themselves to be not much more than plain, old-fashioned bourgeois entrepreneurialism that is rooted in inequality. I think it is good that men are asking what they should do vis-à-vis feminism, but I think the best way to begin is through careful scrutiny of their own practices. If one finds oneself with a creative project that does not include women, one should not conclude that it is the fault of women. Rather, one should ask “what’s wrong with this creative project in that it excludes women?” (cite)
2. The idea that anyone ever says anything “objectively” is kind of insulting. The idea of godly or scientific objectivity is a male construct (or, to take gender out of it for a minute, it’s a power construct– it’s just that men have had the power, or the Phallus, for as long as anyone can remember). It’s an idea meant to keep people without power in line. If you’re not in power, your experiences of the world aren’t “true.” Liberal-minded thinkers are happy to agree with this claim when it’s applied to history and race– the idea that the victor writes history is one we’re all pretty comfortable with. But in no universe would any oppressed people claim to be objective, because they know from experience that everyone’s experience of the so-called objective (or truth) is different. So I’m not sure (Mark) why the attack on the claim that women are writing better poetry these days focuses on “objectivity” and “truth” when those ideas are antiquated and false and non one in their right mind would claim to know the “objective” “truth” (such knowledge is probably in the DSM IV by now as a god complex– not that men don’t often have such a complex).
3. In rereading Martin Earl’s older Harriet post, I came across this gem by Reb Livingston which sums up, or rather complements, my own experience and position (as a reader, editor, female poet) (sorry to drag you into this again, Reb):
Well I feel all kinds of superiority and not just because of my gender, but that’s a start. Heh.
I concur with much of what Martin Earl has written, of course he can get away with writing it and not being labeled as bitter or a ball snipper.
What I mean is that as an editor, I too have noticed a trend in the submission pile. On *average* I find the work of contemporary female poets to be more daring, original and interesting. My magazine receives more submissions from men (about 10-15% more), but it publishes more women. Years ago when I first noticed this, I was surprised. All along I thought I preferred male poets. I owned more books by them, was definitely more familiar with their work from major literary magazines and from my education. Turns out I was incredibly ignorant.
So when certain editors talk about the “number troubles” I don’t understand why this is even an issue. Are these editors living in a cave?
One can chalk up my observations to my taste and bias, which I most certainly have, like every other editor and poet.
4. ‘Why Don’t More Women Do Blog-Oriented Writing?’ or why they do it differently than men: it appears to me that the following may be posited as answers: a. Women’s blogging is largely overlooked unless it includes or threatens male readers b. In comment streams, comments from men abound (just as their sperm-like poetry spatters against every editor’s desk) while women’s less abrasive, more astute, carefully considered comments are overlooked c. Women (for whatever nature or nurture reason***) don’t like to get into heated arguments, would rather spend their time working on more productive and useful things (perhaps because women do have less leisure time). If you say something that someone thinks is controversial, you’re likely to get dragged into a heated argument with lots of men who don’t read your post or comments anyway, so you might as well just stay out of the whole thing, or keep to your own little knitting — I mean blog.
It’s not that women aren’t blogging. It’s that they do it differently than men, and thus men just don’t see it.
Maybe this is the case with self-promotion, too. It’s not that women aren’t self-promoting, it’s that men say things like “oh, I guess there aren’t any female visual poets” because they’re blind to the delivery systems women use.
5. Based on this evidence, it seems to me that FOURSQUARE is still a crucial project.
* Some people seem to think I am using my blog to write dissertation chapters. This is not the case.
** When I “wonder” things or have ideas, it doesn’t mean that the ideas are right or that I stick by them 100%. I’m just thinking aloud– I don’t have to be right all the time. People seem to assume that if it’s on a blog, you’re willing to go to your grave defending it. This is not the case. (However, I do still think most of the best/greatest/most talented poets writing today are women.)
*** Note, none of these are essentialist arguments. It would be perfectly easy to blame everything on sperm and eggs, but it really seems to me to have to do with cultural background as well, if not exclusively. For example, women pay attention to what men say because men are loud and aggressive, and men don’t pay attention to what women say because women aren’t, generally, loud or aggressive.