Saturday, April 13, 2013

Writing with Two X Chromosomes

Photojournalist and author Deborah Copaken Kogan wrote a candid piece on Jezebel entitled, "My So-Called 'Post-Feminist' Life in Arts and Letters," wherein she shared her personal experience with gender discrimination. Kogan endured being ignored by reviewers, being slandered, and being labeled primarily as a stay-at-home mom despite her previous career as an award-winning network producer and a photojournalist. "Would you call a male author a stay-at-home dad?" she asks.

No, I call 'em alcoholics, hur hur hur.

Joking aside, publishing baffles me. Reading is subjective. There are good works, there are classics, and there are Fifty Shades of Gray and its ilk. According to Kogan, she barely had any say in how her books were titled and sold, which, hey -- she's the author, they're the publisher -- she writes, they print it, package it, and sell it. Simple, no?

I'm puzzled about why there wasn't more collaboration, but in her case, I do have a counter example for her anecdote about having to fight over the covers of her books. Darrell K. Sweet, R.I.P., created all the cover art for the Wheel of Time series (except A Memory of Light). Readers made fun of those covers because they were so cheesy, and more to the point, they didn't appear to reflect any of the book's content. If nothing else, the "Sweet" cover arts generated a lot of humor posts in the early days of the Internet. The point is, there's a lot going on in the various departments of a publishing house, and not all of it is optimal.

Kogan's most salient point in the article involves the three words that kept her silent for so long: "They'll smear you." The fear of speaking out, of expressing her reality, held her in its grip. She says it best:

The lack of respectful coverage, the slut-shaming and name-calling, all the girly book covers and not-my-titles despite high literary aspirations, has worn me down, made me question everything: my abilities, my future, my life. This is what sexism does best: it makes you feel crazy for desiring parity and hopeless about ever achieving it.

Then she heard Bob Dylan sing, "When you ain't got nothing, you got nothing to lose." By this time, all Kogan had to lose was her fear. And she tossed it aside and held out herself to us, and told us what she'd been through, and what she'd expected of the feminist revolution, and what life hurled back at her. It's slow going, she says, and we're not there yet, but we keep fighting. First, we stand up for ourselves. Then we let our voices ring! Equality! Equality! Equality!

In case you're wondering, I'm still working on the first part: standing up. No, seriously, this couch is so comfortable.

Fortunately, I can draw inspiration from actual women doing actual things, like Kogan. And after inspiration comes perspiration, amirite?

Next post: A trip to Sephora! A credit card weeps! Stay tuned!

Summer Book Recommendations