Things to Think About

1. Ursula LeGuin arguing that Harper Lee’s betrayal at the hands of the publishing industry started a while ago. A long, long while ago.

2. Ugh, this makes me kind of sick to my stomach. Although, my grandpa did have an uncle, Barlow Phillips, and I have long thought that Barlow Phillips is the most awesome name ever.

6 thoughts on “Things to Think About

  1. I’m glad I didn’t see that Jezebel piece while I was querying agents. It’s one thing to suspect, and another to see evidence. …although I have published my short stuff under my initials, and will do the same for the novels. (I tell myself that’s to keep students from googling me and immediately finding my fiction. I may be lying to myself.)

  2. I dunno; I would think that the changes in the gender composition of most major orchestras once they went to blind auditions would have taught people that involuntary bias in artistic judgements is real; and I would have thought that literary agents would have adopted a blind reading strategy, so to speak, for that reason. I guess not.

    Le Guin’s article is (of course) right on target.

  3. nm, my suspicion is that orchestras don’t assume that their audiences likes male performers better. I think they assume their audiences want to hear the best performers.So there’s an impetus for trying to get beyond the involuntary biases of whoever is choosing musicians.

    But I think agents sometimes think that their biases are the audience’s biases, so, if it’s harder for female authors, well, it’s harder for female authors in the marketplace. They want the author they can sell and who publishers can sell. I guess I don’t believe this is involuntary bias or solely involuntary bias. I think there’s some voluntary bias going on here, too.

  4. Ms. Le Guin’s comments are the most on-point I’ve seen on that matter. The story as she tells it is reminiscent of Twain’s– not quite bringing himself to take Huck Finn where it needed to go, so he brought back sunny-cute Tom Sawyer for some young adult story shenanigans instead, then has the character get out of there–for the territories…and he did more of the same with “Puddinhead Wilson”..which should have been his masterpiece…Personally, I’ve never thought of “Mockingbird” as in the league of “Huck,” but there are some interesting points of contacts there.. PS: Jezebel story is unsurprising, alas, but still outrageous..

  5. Weren’t the orchestras actually motivated to discover whether there was a prestige bias – that hires were based on having trained at a very small number of conservatories, not that there was a sexism problem — but then part of what happened was greater gender parity, which surprised everyone? I’m not entirely sure, but for some reason I remember reading it this way.

    I mention this only because I want to point out just how damn hard it is to really get down to how deep seated the sexism really is, even for people who purport to be committed to resisting and resolving gendered injustice.

  6. Professor, I don’t remember hearing about the orchestra story that way, but that doesn’t mean much — you are likely right about that.

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