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I’d like to congratulate las mujeres on this blog for taking a stance on the subject of the representation of women in poetry journals. And I’d like to invite the other men on this blog to speak up. Thus far, it’s been interesting to see how our postings intersect or run along parallel lines, but this particular subject should be important to all of us.
I’d also like to stay on topic and add my two centavos worth about las mujeres. With all due respect to those who participated in the comment boxes, it’s too easy to say “Well, what about this group or that group?” It’s clear this conversation is about women. Not Latinos. I don’t particularly care for tailgating, nor in participating in an echo chamber, so I’d like to say that this gender disparity exists across the board, even in Chicano/Latino letters. Just because we are a group in solidarity through concerns about race does not mean we can’t learn to better ourselves through exploring issues of gender.
I do know the following: that when I speak up politically, my arguments, complex as they may be, are reduced to “he’s accusing us of racism.” I already see the same thing happening here: a woman speaks up and “she’s accusing us of sexism.” How facile a tactic to not listen, not to examine the issues as closely as they’re being examined by those who point out the issues in the first place.
(And that annoying word, “essentialism”—a term conveniently and erroneously used against the group that uses it to articulate the power of the oppression. Don’t get me started on “political correctness.”)
In Chicano/Latino letters, we already know what sad representation we have in publishing venues, small or large. That’s as a group, both male and female. But those publishing poetry are mostly men. That’s a fact. There are more men publishing poetry than women in Chicano/Latino literature. The pool is rather manageable, so you can confirm it for yourselves by looking at all the poetry books written by Chicanos/Latinos in the last few decades.
The tide shifts if you look at books of prose, but only slightly, and this other imbalance (more women than men are publishing prose in Chicano/Latino letters) is only more apparent because of the high visibility of a select few Chicana/Latina prose writers.
But this is just publishing. And since not everybody who writes gets published, we can assume that there are indeed just as many Chicana/Latina poets and just as many Chicano/Latino prose writers. Frankly, some are not very good writers. Some don’t have the level of mentorship or opportunities made available to them. And then there’s the case of journals, which publish more men than women. So the doors are lessened even more for Chicana/Latina writers.
The good news is that people already know we exist as a group and as a group of writers, but let’s be careful how we use that strength as a flag-waving opportunity to express a communal struggle. Las mujeres have longer battles to fight.
In the end, are these discussions pleas for representation? No. They shouldn’t be. They should be awareness-building conversations, which lead to change, not easy solutions.
Quick remedies are nothing but bandages. Institutional changes need to last and these lasting changes do not happen with gestures, with “all-women” or “all-Latino” special journal issues. Those baby steps are condescending and offensive.