Monday, 29 December 2014

That vexed gender issue—again

The gender issue persists with a recent slew of articles in various journals—mostly American—about the resolutely man’s world of Hollywood, about how the careers of female MBAs panned out, and this article in the wonderful Los Angeles Review of Books: Gender, blah, blah, blah by Katherine Angel. It may be about books, publishing and reviewing practices, but there are a lot of theatrical resonances. Here are a few snippets to whet your appetite:

'This invocation of a supposed gender-blindness—and a defense, it seems, of proceeding as it has always done—relies on an idea that there are only two possibilities: either a resigned passivity, or thoroughgoing positive discrimination. By invoking a quota system, an alarm bell is triggered for those firmly attached to the idea of meritocracy. And yet the cries of “but meritocracy!” that go up when critics urge a concerted effort to overcome inequality reflect a naive belief in some pure meritocracy as having always (or ever) prevailed. A complex mix of factors (talent, graft, luck, confidence, opportunity, connections) enables anyone to get anywhere—and I suspect magazine editors know this better than anyone.'

'In any case, there are not simply two options: either carrying on, bloke-heavy, as before, or having quotas that will supposedly force editors to publish inferior writing. Conjuring these two polarized options involves refusing to countenance other ways in which editors might exert agency in undoing a gross self-perpetuating imbalance.'

' … It’s not easy to have one’s blind spots pointed out; it’s not comfortable to think about how the accidents of our identities (our gender, class, race, education) have smoothed our paths … The issue is not about asking magazines to graciously bestow their favor on those they have thus far neglected. It’s about asking them to scrutinize their practices, to think about their shortcomings … being resigned to a lack of change is patronizing to us all.'

Aphra Behn, playwright, poet, translator (and possible spy), 1640-1689
I’m personally not in favour of quotas, but should we ever consider them, why not flip the issue: Aim for a maximum of 50% male writers?

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