The Publishing world is, ideally, open-minded and all-inclusive, not only distributing diverse stories but encouraging the submissions of thousands of others. A theme we’ve touched upon in class the last few weeks has stuck with me, and perhaps will continue to stick with me as I journey through the world of publication and editing. The theme? Ethics. To what extent does ethics influence the industry? Honestly, one could argue the very purpose of the industry is to promote nothing but a healthy, positive worldly ethic. As we know, literature is most certainly a vessel of thought and catalyst for understanding. Again, ideally, people would read books that would make not only themselves feel good, but make their neighbor smile too. Ideally, there is a place for everything and that place includes everyone.
Unfortunately, we all know it’s very much impossible for society to equally represent everyone. There are dozens of questionable reasons for why women and other underrepresented groups are more absent from publications. There are most likely hundreds of theories about what the root of the problem is and it truly is undeniable that it lies not within the industries of America themselves, but with the culture. In the “VIDA: An Interview with Erin Belieu” article, there was a startling difference between women being published and men being published. Wanting to know more of the data behind these statistics, I discovered that women are 50% less likely to submit their work for publication to publishers. The VIDA article that garnered so much national attention failed to mention that women aren’t submitting as much as men, which is, to me, more of a problem than the publishing rates. If less women submit, does it mean less women write? Does it mean women feel they shouldn’t even try? I recall Stadler discussing that, at some point, hope gets lost to defeat, and perhaps that is what is happening. Perhaps women are sentencing themselves to the metaphorical literary grave before they even give themselves a chance. No doubt this type of mentality is perpetuated by outside sources, but what can publishers do to change this? Or does the change lie in the hands of the women themselves?
One must also consider the ethical connection to publications lacking cultural diversity in content. The same double-edged sword applies to the issue of a lack of people of color being published: how can publishing confront the issues they are merely reacting to from society? I would never suggest the industry to be faultless, but they are perhaps an ignorant mirror for problems of inequality America is plagued with. It is impossible to not think of the VIDA article when one considers the “Diversity is Not Enough: Race, Power, Publishing” text, and even further with the study of the history of “Callaloo: A Journal of Necessity.” Absolutely, all writers should have a place to publish their personal and/or fictional experiences. Absolutely, every writer should feel free to open a vein onto the page and have the rest of the world try and relate to their trauma. However, there shouldn’t have to be a specific platform for each “group” of people, because forming “groups” perpetuates the inequality of writings, and therefore people themselves. Ezra Pound discussed the absolute fact that humanity will always feel the need to place rankings and validity on everything: people, places, and even literature. If certain underrepresented groups are publishing somewhere else, as opposed to the “Big 5” or larger houses that may receive more notoriety, does that mean their work may be considered lesser than those published in large houses, as Pound so confidently suggested they would? Huffington Post journalist Jimmy Leach suggests the power to remedy a lack of diversity in literature lies in the larger market, with the CEO’s and other corporate headquarters. He suggests a “short-circuit” fix to a problem that hasn’t been “solved organically,” and I do have to agree with him. Level the playing field, publishers. Have authors submit their work anonymously with faceless agents. Suggest an environment welcoming for all writers, and expect them to write beautiful things. Balancing the publishing industry may help solve the ethical crisis America is facing by exposing the public to all multitudes and experiences of living. Then and only then, when the ground is level and there are diverse (experienced and determined) people working in higher-up positions in the publishing industry, publishing may directly eradicate much of the inequality of the country.
As Leach remarks, “After all that, if you aren’t being published, then blame your writing, not your gender.”