Wednesday, March 9, 2011

women in print: brief panel notes

Last night I went to the Women in Print event at Readings in Carlton, being held for International Women's Day. The event was a 45 minute panel discussion with three panelists and a moderator. I rocked in, my belly full of burger but with room for one of the cupcakes I'd been carrying around all afternoon. Bamboo Gnome and I found a spot right up the front (we had been advised by Fi on the best places to stake out) and we settled in. I even took notes.

The panel started off weirdly, which is why I started taking notes. Louise Swinn (Sleepers editorial director) commented that actually maybe there are more women being published in Australian than overseas stats (and some Australian stats) would suggest. This point wasn't really engaged with, which I thought was weird given the whole point was to talk about Women in Print and what the status is.

Sophie Cunningham commented that when she was the editor of Meanjin, more essays were submitted by men; women were more likely, even when approached, to say 'I'm not an expert.'

There was some consensus that it's important for women to learn to be jerks* in order to get somewhere in print - they definately have to promote themselves, and push themselves forwards (and how this is exacerbated by the need in today's publishing world for authors to self-promote, and how unwilling many women are to do this). At points this almost veered in to 'if only women would push themselves they'd get published,' which is a little close to victim blaming if you're not examining the underlying themes of this. These themes were touched on a little, including a brief discussion of the second shift, but only in very Eurocentric ways. Statements such as 'only in the last fifty years have women had that exposure,' coming from an all white (seeming) panel, never fail to make me bristle.

Other things that make me bristle: "I don't want to get too Bolshie;" and the way these sorts of discussions always seem to revolve around or have an emphasis on terms and concepts like "penis writing" and "vagina writing." Way to be super cis-centric.

Overall it was an interesting talk (shame about the diversity), and it has reminded me that I should always say yes (if possible) when asked to give a talk.

*just to be clear: I think that a woman (or anyone) can be confident and promote oneself without being a jerk; however during this panel sometimes 'being confident' and 'being a jerk' were conflated so they seemed to be the same.

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