Episode 3: Publishing’s Gender Norms

Time-Stamped Show Notes

[0:00] ADVERTISEMENT: Visual Quill.

[0:41]SEGMENT ONE: Kathleen Antonioli describes the author Colette and the plot of her book, The Vagabond.

  • [4:14] – Colette’s works were seen as feminist, but she did not describe herself that way at all.

[5:02] – INTRO: In this episode, we’re going to talk about gender. This is Part 1. We tell stories about writers who have broken outside of gender norms.

[5:48] Explicit language disclaimer.

[5:53] From the Margins theme intro.

[6:34] – SEGMENT TWO: Simone de Beauvoir and JeanPaul Sartre.

  • [7:16] – Jeff Gauthier describes Sartre’s looks and personality.
  • [7:37] – Kathleen Antonioli describes Sartre and reflects on why the two were drawn to each other.
  • [8:13] – De Beauvoir was Sartre’s intellectual equal. They agreed to an open relationship.
  • [8:49] – De Beauvoir seduced female students and then passed them along to Sartre.
  • [9:28] – Antonioli reflects on de Beauvoir’s relationships and intellectual gift.
  • [10:29] – Gauthier reflects on de Beauvoir being in Sartre’s shadow even though she was a great philosopher herself.
  • [12:07] – Bonnie Mann discusses de Beauvoir’s intellectual relationship with Sartre. She criticized and responded to his work but did not consider herself a philosopher. She was constantly reduced to his sidekick.
  • [13:40] – De Beauvoir started with the question “What is a woman?” and that became The Second Sex. It is based on the idea that one is not born a woman but rather becomes a woman.
  • [14:38] – The Second Sex became one of the bestselling philosophy books of all time.
  • [14:46] – De Beauvoir cites many other women in her book. She lets women speak for themselves.
  • [15:50] – The Second Sex came to be touchstone for the women’s liberation movement.
  • [17:09] – Bonnie Mann describes how Sherry Ortner’s essay “Is Female to Male as Nature Is to Culture?” got her interested in feminist texts, including The Second Sex.
  • [17:55] – “But even though The Second Sex was revolutionary for its time, the focus was placed not on de Beauvoir’s achievements but on her personal life.”
  • [19:12] – “But is there a reason de Beauvoir’s actions should affect how we perceive her writings?”
  • [21:51] – Gauthier doesn’t see de Beauvoir’s life and writings as contradictory. She was living a pretty independent and radical life.
  • [22:53] – Almost everyone has contradictions between their actions and thinking.
  • [23:34] – “You can be very committed intellectually to something but nevertheless be living a life that’s very different from your intellectual commitment.”
  • [23:45] – How important is it that de Beauvoir’s life and writings be in line with each other? Are her writings any less feminist if her personal life was not?
  • [24:01] – “Writing is one thing and living is another thing, and the two intersect with one another in complicated ways.”

[24:47] – SEGMENT THREE: In this segment, we hear from two men who are writing in a genre dominated by women.

  • [24:55] – Matt Buchman (writes as M. L. Buchman), author of over forty romance novels, describes his pen name and his experience as a male romance author.
  • [26:34] – Men often don’t know how to respond when Buchman mentions his profession. They don’t understand why he’d want to write in this genre.
  • [27:45] – Buchman has seen a lot of positive change in the genre in the past twenty years.
  • [28:12] – When Buchman talked to his female friends about his experience being ignored at a romance writers conference, they responded, “Yeah, welcome to our life.” It opened his eyes.
  • [28:49] – Buchman discovered that women were not always allowed to be US Army Night Stalkers. It inspired him to write the Night Stalkers series, which features female pilots.
  • [30:03] – Buchman gets input from his wife and other women about what things are like from the female perspective.
  • [31:06] – Only about 10 percent of romance writers are male.
  • [31:12] – Nico Rosso describes how he started writing romance stories after he met his wife, who wrote romance.
  • [32:23] – Romance writing is important.
  • [33:06] – The emotionalism of romance writing is often seen as not a worthy prospect, especially by men.

[21:03] – ADVERTISEMENT: Visual Quill.

  • [34:24] – Steve Ahlbom of Visual Quill describes the value of social media.
  • [34:51] – Ad supplies a special offer code for a free consultation.

[35:07] – SEGMENT FOUR: Because Girl Friday has only three male employees, theres a lot of female-driven content in our company emails. A Guy Friday reflects.

  • [35:45] – Paul Barrett describes what it’s like to work at a female-run company.
  • [36:37] – Paul usually refrains from adding anything to the conversation when it’s female-oriented.
  • [40:19] – Paul was excited about becoming Girl Friday’s first male hire.
  • [41:57] – Paul is a little uncomfortable about telling people the gendered name of his workplace.
  • [43:08] – Paul feels there is a difference in the energy of a female-run company and describes the benefits that come with that.
  • [44:55] – Paul reflects on the inverted situation of women being in the position of power at a female-run workplace.

[45:38] – SEGMENT FIVE: We have a conversation with a man who is trying to break free from the stereotype of masculinity.

  • [46:06] – Leif Whittaker, writer and mountaineer, describes growing up with a male-centric viewpoint on climbing.
  • [46:45] – Leif started climbing, in part, because he felt a need to prove himself.
  • [52:25] – There’s a competitive edge in the climbing community. Ego is a huge part of climbing.
  • [52:53] – In his forthcoming book, My Old Man and the Mountain, Leif explores his relationship with his father and the very masculine family legacy he’s grown up with.
  • [53:29] – The outdoor industry is centered around what’s bigger, stronger, faster, which has limited the outdoors to a small segment of people.

[54:26] SEGMENT SIX: We hear from three women who have defied gender norms in their writing. Parts of this segment were recorded at the 2015 Words and Ideas stage at Seattle’s Bumbershoot festival. Girl Friday organized the following Scary Feminists panel.

  • [55:11] – The panelists include Chelsea Cain, author of the Gretchen Lowell serial killer series; Mandy Stadtmiller, host of the News Whore podcast and Unwifeable columnist for New York Magazine; and musician Peaches.
  • [55:29] – Chelsea Cain writes about a female serial killer.
  • [57:10] – Cain is frequently asked, “How can you write this as a woman? How can you write this as a mother?”
  • [59:24] – Peaches is known for sexually explicit music and performances, and for bending gender norms. She admits she still sometimes gets nervous about expressing herself.
  • [1:02:10] – Peaches questions mainstream ideas.

[1:03:51] – CLOSING: In this episode, we focused on what we perceive as what’s masculine and what’s feminine and how to break through those stereotypes. Tune in for Part 2!

[1:04:42] – Closing credits.

Key Points

  • Colette’s works were seen as feminist, but she didn’t see herself that way.
  • Perhaps Simone de Beauvoir’s actions in life could be perceived as in conflict with the feminist ideals in The Second Sex. But should that affect how we interpret her work?
  • Male romance authors like M. L. Buchman and Nico Rosso are carving out their place in the genre.
  • Women-run organizations in the publishing industry should be sensitive to the needs of male employees.
  • Leif Whittaker is trying to change the way we write about outdoor adventure.
  • Gretchen Lowell, the protagonist of Chelsea Cain’s serial killer series, is admired for being unapologetically badass.
  • Rock star Peaches bends gender norms to give us all permission to be ourselves.

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