|Credit to Rutgers art history major Nicole of Bendomolina.|
John Singer Sargent, "Apollo and the Muses," Boston MFA
Now I am back in "American novelists." Today there are twenty-one of us nestled under "Y." Nineteen are men; two are women. Ninety percent of Wikipedia contributors are men. Like VIDA statistics, these numbers are suggestive and need no comment.
The focus of all the articles I have seen on the general outcry (starting with an op-ed article by Amanda Filipaachi at The New York Times online site) is sexism, and there's no doubt that putting women in a sort of ghetto category is a slam against them. But I wonder if there is even more to it than unthinking sexism. Could this be a cracked, unintended consequence and legacy of university-based gender / multi-cultural politics--the sorting of literature and the humanities in general into gender, national, and ethnic categories that now govern many college programs? I wonder this in part because the man who started it all is currently a student in history at Wayne State.
Wikipedia mandates sorting and categories, but new categories ought to be judged by whether they are helpful or unhelpful. Of course it is not helpful for women to be shoved out of the category of "American novelists"; it simply suggests to readers that only men can be "real novelists," and that women writers do not matter. I expect Wikipedia will have to be content with the alphabet as a way to establish divisions among novelists and other kinds of writers. Any further sub-categories should depend on and refer back to what is called the parent category. (That's a bit of Wiki-geek-speak for you.)
Outside of Wikipedia, categories can be helpful when they attempt to redress invisibility--a lack of knowledge and lack of attention. I pause and feel thankful for the good work of poet, editor, and conference director Kim Bridgford and The Mezzo Cammin Women Poets Timeline Project, an exhaustive database of women poets. Perhaps somebody needs to do the same thing for the novel. Couldn't one find a few equally well-known "Y" women to accompany the "Y" men on my Wikipedia page? And what about the remainder of the alphabet?
(Here's a little side tunnel off the main burrow. I just took a peek, and I am not in "American poets," where six men and one woman find themselves under the sign of "Y." Curious. I started publishing as a poet and have four books out with more to come, and am sorted as a novelist only. How do they decide? Is it a Potter sorting-hat moment, with madcap dithering between Ravenclaw and Gryffindor? Can't one be in two houses at once?)
What's the upshot of all this? If you are a woman with some spare time and an interest in the issues, you might think about joining the site. They feel the lack of women members, it appears. The current contributing members need to realize that in the case of Wikipedia, mere inclusion or exclusion amounts to a judgment. When Wikipedia is the first and often the last resort for many, especially college students accustomed to leaning on the site for information, it is essential that women be part of major (parent) categories such as "American novelists."
- Thaliad's wild epic adventure in verse, profusely decorated by artist Clive Hicks-Jenkins of Wales (Montreal: Phoenicia Publishing, 2012) here and here
- The Foliate Head's collection of poems with art by Clive Hicks-Jenkins, Stanza Press (UK) here
- A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage (novel) from Mercer University Press (ForeWord 2013 finalist in the general fiction category; The Ferrol Sams Award, 2012) here
- The Throne of Psyche, collection of formal poetry from Mercer, 2011, here
- Samples from my 2011-12 books at Scribd.
- See tabs above for information on individual books, including review clips.