Feminism: Identity Normalization

[Note: The links to author biographies in this post were added by me. I have made an effort to verify that each link is going to the correct person and that I have not misidentified authors with other-authors-sharing-the-same-name, but there is always the possibility that I have made a mistake. Corrections are welcome and will be accepted with my apologies and the post updated as soon as possible.]

This appeared in my inbox today, courtesy of a Kindle Daily Deal watch that I subscribe to:

The Best American Series 2012
15 Short Stories & Essays

I couldn't help but notice the description attached to the book:
The Best American series is the premier annual showcase for the country’s finest short fiction and nonfiction.

This special edition contains selections from the following 2012 editions:

The Best American Short Stories edited by Tom Perrotta
The Best American Essays edited by David Brooks
The Best American Mystery Stories edited by Robert Crais
The Best American Science and Nature Writing edited by Dan Ariely
The Best American Travel Writing edited by William T. Vollmann
The Best American Sports Writing edited by Michael Wilbon

Each volume’s series editor selects notable works from hundreds of magazines, journals, and websites. The special guest editor then chooses the best twenty or so pieces to publish. This unique system has made the Best American series the most respected – and most popular – of its kind.

The links to the editor biographies (and the text bolding) were added by me. If I have matched the correct wikipedia pages to each editors, it would appear that all of these editors are male. None of them appear to publicly identify as trans* or intersex or genderqueer as far as I can find. All of them are mentioned as being married in either their biographies or on their professional web sites, and in most cases to someone who is denoted with the word "wife" and who is not publicly noted to identify as trans* or intersex or genderqueer as far as I can find.

So it would seem to me that many of these editors appear to be cis men with the appearance of straight-privilege that comes from being married to someone who appears to be a cis woman. (But I could be wrong. And, naturally, any of them could identify privately as trans* or intersex or genderqueer without choosing to identify publicly as such.)

Moving past the editors, who are the writers whose selections make up this 2012 edition?

GEOFFREY BENT Edward Hopper and the Geometry of Despair
Geoff Bent lives in Glen Ellyn, Illinois (a suburb of Chicago) with his wife, Jeanette Alexander, his daughter, Emily Alexander, and his pug, Sweetroll Alexander, the token male in a sea of femininity.
DAVID J. LAWLESS My Father / My Husband
David J. Lawless’ brutal recollection of his wife’s descent into Alzheimer’s, [from the Kirkus Review]
Julie Otsuka was born and raised in California. After studying art as an undergraduate at Yale University she pursued a career as a painter for several years before turning to fiction writing at age 30.
George Saunders (born December 2, 1958) is a New York Times bestselling American writer of short stories, essays, novellas and children's books. His writing has appeared in The New Yorker, Harper's, McSweeney's and GQ, among other publications.
PETER S. BEAGLE The Bridge Partner
Born in Manhattan on April 20, 1939, Peter Soyer Beagle, son of Simon and Rebecca Soyer Beagle, was raised in the Bronx, New York. [...] He then spent a year overseas, returning home when he found himself enrolled by his very capable agent in a writing workshop at Stanford University, where, besides honing his writing skills, he met Enid, who would later become his first wife.
Kristine Kathryn Rusch (born 4 June 1960[1]) is an American writer. She writes under various pseudonyms in multiple genres, including science fiction, fantasy, mystery, romance, and mainstream. [from her Wikipedia page]

I cannot bend the Kindle to annoy my husband. My husband, the great collector, cringes when I bend the spine of my paperbacks. I do so to assert ownership. He cannot wrap my paperbacks in a pristine bag and place them on a shelf. My paperbacks look used because they are used. [from one of her articles]
ELIZABETH KOLBERT Sleeping with the Enemy
Elizabeth Kolbert (born 1961) is an American journalist and author. She is best known for her 2006 book Field Notes from a Catastrophe, and as an observer and commentator on environmentalism for The New Yorker magazine. [...] Kolbert resides in Williamstown, Massachusetts with her husband, John Kleiner, and three sons.
JASON DALEY What You Don’t Know Can Kill You
Jason Daley is a writer and editor specializing in natural history, the environment, science, and travel. He writes regularly for national magazines including Discover, Outside, Popular Science, Wired, Men's Journal, Reader's Digest, Best Life, Skiing, and In-Fisherman.
DAVID EAGLEMAN The Brain on Trial
David Eagleman was born April 1971 in New Mexico to a physician father and biology teacher mother. [...] although it is unrelated to his scientific contributions, he was recently voted one of Houston's Most Stylish men.
ROBERT HUBER Allen Iverson: Fallen Star
Robert Huber is a German biochemist and Nobel laureate. [...] He is married with four children.
JEANNE MARIE LASKAS The People v. Football
Jeanne Marie Laskas is the author of six books, [...] and she lives on a horse farm in Pennsylvania with her husband and two children.
S. L. PRICE The Heart of Football Beats in Aliquippa
Born in Stamford, Ct., Price resides in Washington D.C., with his wife Fran, a journalist, sons Charlie and Jack and daughter Addie. Of his wife, Price says she is "smarter, funnier, more gifted and kinder than I am."
PETER GWIN The Telltale Scribes of Timbuktu
Peter Gwin has been a staff writer at National Geographic since 2003. He has reported on modern pirates in Southeast Asia, a Stone Age graveyard in the Sahara, early tyrannosaurs in Western China, and kung fu masters of China’s Song Mountains among other subjects.
J. MALCOLM GARCIA Now Ye Know Who the Bosses Are Here Now
J. Malcolm Garcia’s writing has appeared in the Virginia Quarterly Review, McSweeney’s, Mother Jones, West Branch, the Alaska Quarterly Review, and various other publications. He’s written about the drug war in Mexico, race relations in Jena, Louisiana, and the poor of Buenos Aires, among other topics.
MICHAEL GORRA Letter from Paris
Gorra was born in New London, Connecticut, and grew up along the Connecticut shore, graduating from Waterford High School in 1975. While in school he became active in science fiction fandom, and published several issues of his own fanzines, [...] He currently resides in Northampton, Massachusetts with his wife, the art historian Brigitte Buettner, and daughter.

Fifteen writers. None of them identify as trans* or intersex or genderqueer as far as I can find. Nine of them are married in apparently mixed-sex marriages. Several of them publicly identify as parents. Many of them write under names which connotate white privilege or class privilege. 

There is nothing wrong with being white or cis-gendered or straight-appearing or mixed-sex married or being a parent or writing under a name which many readers may assume to belong to a person of a certain racial identity or class status. I'm confident that all of these writers are good at their craft and belong in a "best of" anthology for whatever year you care to mention. I don't question their abilities or their art in any sense. I'm happy for their achievements and accomplishments.

But I want to point out that if you, as a reader, are not these things, if your identity is wrapped up in a name that denotes a very different racial identity or class status, or if you are trans-gendered or interesex or genderqueer, or if you do not identify with straight-privileged sexuality, or if you are not interested in monogamous marriage, or if monogamous marriage is legally denied to you, or if you are childless either by choice or not by choice...

...you are probably already going to be very familiar with the reality that your identity is frequently not represented in literary anthologies containing the "best of" that year. This revelation is probably not going to be news to you.

If your identity is represented above or appears to be represented above, then that's a possible example of privilege. Another possible other example of privilege is how easy it can be to not notice these things, to not notice that an anthology of the best writings of 2012 may not contain a single [marginalized identity] author.

That's part of what we mean when we talk about the "normalization" of things like white, cis-gendered, heterosexual identity.


Anonymous said...

I feel this is one of the so much important information for me.
And i'm satisfied reading your article. But wanna statement on some normal issues, The web site style is perfect, the articles is in point of fact nice : D. Excellent task, cheers

Feel free to visit my web site - golden retriever lab mix dogs

Anonymous said...

Great blog here! Also your web site loads up fast!
What host are you using? Can I get your affiliate link
to your host? I wish my web site loaded up as fast as yours lol

My website; impressive golden retrievers training Material

Post a Comment