Wednesday, December 9, 2009

New Trends in Prejudice

For those of you reading this blog on the daily, clearly the experiences of my life are hardly normal enough to warrant calling them out as proof of widespread problems, but nonetheless, sometimes things just really piss me off and should be ranted on/about -- for the duration of several pages, at least.

For those of you not reading on a daily basis... well, first of all shame on you! Second of all, this post may alternatively be titled:

Evidence of Unique Situations.

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For the past three years, I have submitted creative work to my university's undergraduate literary journal, known as Transfer. The journal puts out issues bi-annually, accepting submissions at the beginning of the semester and then printing at the end of the semester. The limit number for poetry submissions is four pieces, and being the eager-beaver pleaser that I am, I always send out the maximum allowable amount. That means that I have submitted... [Pause for calculations. Us writers are not mathematicians.]

A grand total of 24 separate pieces of poetry. 24 POEMS! That's more than I included in my own self-published collection! That's like 100+ pages of heart and soul splattered across the blank page just for the chance to have my collegiate peers read even a snippet of a line of my greater literary zeitgeist.

If you can guess, my work has obviously never been accepted for publication by Transfer.

Nope, not even once! The journal exists so undergraduate students may get their wordsmith voice out there into the real world. It is run by the students for the students. Yet, here I am, a senior creative-writer, already published, already legit, and my own program ignores me.

Forlorn doesn't even begin to describe right now. There's so much more to it than the feeling of rejection. See, I have actually read past issues of Transfer, especially the ones for the three years I've submitted work for. Do you know what I've noticed?

A lack of diversity.

Not the kind you'd expect either. There isn't a plethora of WASPy male-names writing about college humor or any of that shit. Instead, I find that the table of contents is positively dominated by... women.

Yes. Women. The fairer sex. The female of our species. The two mountain-tops and a twat. The Omega, gracile, vaginal, and otherwise double-X chromosomal beings.

Now, don't start jumping on the Feministing-me-slowly bandwagon, because you've got me all wrong. (Plus, I haven't even finished, and if I'm being offensive, then I'd like to really deserve the backlash.) I'm all for promoting gender egalitarianism (see: [Masculism: An Introduction]) and the rest of Life's strange diversity (see: rest of blog).

HOWEVER! I cannot just clap my hands while my own admittedly good poetry is drowned for the sake of a completely female publication that is SUPPOSED to reflect the entire undergraduate body of San Francisco State University. And as far as I can tell, there are still men here who enjoy writing. Especially me.

What infuriates even more is the strange trend of the magazine to do repeats. That is, when they publish more than one piece by a single author. So, not only is the journal shutting out males, but it's also doubling up on favorites!

Hey Transfer, that space you just gave away to reprint some Freshman's second interpretation of the Vagina Monologues could've been used to include a male voice in your publication. I mean, we all love the ladies (even the ladies love the ladies, and that's saying something) but surely you think a populist literary journal such as yourself would want to be more inclusive. Right? Just a suggestion.

I wonder if this is how women and other minorities felt back in the 19th century. Shut out of the establishment because they didn't fit the expected criteria. Well, now the shoe's on the other foot, and suddenly I keenly notice my maleness in contrast to the Lace Curtain cutting off diversity's circulation in the undergraduate creative writing program at SFSU.

Sure, you reading this probably feel like I'm just whining. You'd likely tell me to shut up and stop complaining. Nobody's discriminating against you! Well, let me ask you, contrarian dissenter: if I was a woman, or Black, or Asian, or Latino, or even Native-American (wouldn't that be a stretch) instead of a White Male -- for all noticeable characteristic's intents and purposes -- would you sing the same apathetic tune?

Would you when I can see the names of those accepted and those never included show an obvious bias? If you looked at the rolls of our nation's presidents, you wouldn't have to guess whose been running most of the show for the last 300 years. When you scroll down the names on the table of contents and see a propensity of female cognomens, you know who's considered acceptable for publication. So don't tell me I'm being dramatic! The bloody tampon is there on the wall! Out of over 20 authors in this most recent edition, less than a tenth are men! (And of those men, all of them are some form of minority. Which is actually not so bad, because if there has to be a man, might as well give it to the guy who used to be subaltern.)

Yet, even still, I'm betting many of you don't believe that it's really discrimination, or some kind of bias. That's fine. Don't mind me as I dismiss institutional racism or structural violence then while we're at it. You don't want to believe that this kind of thing happens because it goes against what you've been taught to expect in the world. Well, things change, and here in San Francisco, things change a lot faster than elsewhere I guess.

Poor little white boy. Can't get no respect in this, what I'm calling The New Prejudice. To take the previous establishment, and tear the fucker down to the foundations. Rip out the corner-stones, and rebuild. This sounds good in theory, but isn't in practice. All you do is make like Samson and tear the columns out so the roof falls down upon our heads.

I mean, I don't want to disparage the creative work of others in my program, but reading through the past issues of Transfer I couldn't find a thing worth its printer-paper to publish. Another Anne Sexton wannabe? Sylvia Plath homage? The Bell Jar was great, but can we try for something original? Oh, a poem about how using "nigger" is liberating... Great. Like that hasn't already been done in about a hundred rap videos.

Seriously, if at the end of my college career I see another issue with some Sophomoric attempt at Beat poetry that isn't even all that subtle -- but sure as hell is Feminist -- I'm going to puke. I will take said issue, and vomit all over the goddamn thing right in front of the concession stand where they're selling them.

Basically screw this fucking establishment. I want equal representation. I want an equal voice on the campus literary scene. Doesn't even have to be me necessarily. Make it any guy. Just as long as the fellas can have some fucking textual participation and love! Or by the power of Grayskull, I'm going to raise the armies of hell and chauvinism to get it.

But wouldn't it be sad if I was the only famous writer who got rejected by his local undergraduate publication? Like when Raymond Carver never finished the Iowa Writer's Workshop, or when Vonnegut tried to pretend he wasn't writing science-fiction. It'd be a hell of a lot more depressing than when the Harlem Renaissance up and forgot about Zora Neale Hurston till 1972.

Then again, what better vindication than success despite rejection at such tender beginnings? The portrait of this artist as a young man might reveal an unappreciated genius... or a fucking fool. But at least I'd finally be recognized, rather than obscure, my pages decomposing in some warehouse especially made for Forgotten Authors and Lost Books.

Yes, I really am that intense about this, because it's hard enough writing, editing and creating works of art that you're passionate about, and then finding there's no place for you in the canon just because of some arbitrary discriminatory direction that the wind is blowing.

It hurts for a writer. It really does.

6 footnotes:

Anonymous said...

submissions to transfer are read and selected anonymously.
that means no one knows whether the writers are black, white, male, female, or alien, because there are no names attached to the submissions until after they are selected.
maybe your poetry just isn't very good (even though you graciously admitted it was).

Zek J Evets said...

@anon: after 3 years of submissions i know they're anonymous... but, unlike yourself, apparently not completely anonymous, or else you wouldn't see the same names cropping up semester after semester... i've talked to people who worked on transfer and they've admitted they knew whose writing was whose. even more, it doesn't take a genius to determine when a woman wrote something with a line like, "taking back my dot-dot-dot, redspot, period." and other similar things.

but you're right. maybe my poetry ISN'T very good. i should rather change my style to something that reflects my feminine side... or just accept that the undergraduate journal is a shitrag waste of time. i'm more likely to get published by some podunk community college in wisconsin than sfsu (true story, actually) which is kind of sad. especially since i like this city.

the point isn't that i'm mad for not getting published myself (even though i am) but that despite calling itself THE undergraduate journal, published purposely so undergrads can get their work out there... it doesn't really do that at all. and not specifically for me, but for lots of people apparently.

Anonymous said...

ah well. transfer's not that great anyway.
why don't you just try for a real journal

Zek J Evets said...

@anon: because i kinda feel obligated to at least make an effort to support the university publication and represent some artistic school spirit. plus, i figured an undergrad journal would be easier (and cheaper) to get in to.

Anonymous said...

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Zek J Evets said...

@anon: thanks! i'll try to keep you updated with awesome stuff for your cyber-surfing pleasure.