As an addendum to Susan’s post in response to some criticism we’ve received as of late, I felt the need to speak out to help clarify what we’re trying to do here.
I respect people who think differently about what I’m trying to say in this entry. My opinions are my own, take them or leave them.
We ask for writing that artfully focuses on the female experience. What is the “female experience” anyway? There's not one label we can wrap around it or one set of ways to describe what it means because every woman experiences being a woman differently. It could mean periods and the moon and bar fights and shopping to one woman, and comic books, hair gel, and minivans to another. My point is that our call for writing that stems from the "feminine experience" is something that should elicit a wide range of writing. The pieces that we receive should all have different definitions of the feminine/female experience.
I also think that it might be worth it to define what we mean by writing that examines the “feminine” experience. We are not necessarily asking for poems that talk about skirts and heels and lace and purses. "Feminine" also means "of or relating to women", which many things that aren't skirts or Jimmy Choos, do. The other definition of “feminine” is “having qualities or appearance traditionally associated with women”. Well, okay, traditionally we are told that to be “feminine” is to be delicate, to be gentle, etc. But when was that dictionary definition decided upon? How long ago? Wouldn’t it be more interesting to think about the things that we consider as relating to women of today? Does the traditional definition even make sense anymore without opening the word up to incorporate other aspects of what it means to be a woman? To be feminine, I think, does not mean the same thing it would’ve meant in the Victorian Era or the 1920’s in New York City or even ten years ago. The definition of what it means to be a woman is something new altogether, and that’s our whole point here. Shouldn’t we, as women or as men who value women, acknowledge that the definition of “feminine” has evolved over the years? Is it possible, as society progresses – and we have progressed, at least in the U.S., to a certain degree – that what we consider and define as “of or relating to women” should progress too?
I think it’s also worth talking about why Susan and I decided to open submissions up to both men and women when some would’ve preferred for blossombones to be a women-only outlet for creative expression about the feminine/female experience. Whether you agree with us or not, women, people of various gender configurations, and yes, even men, can still have very valid and important things to say about and in support of women. I hands-down believe that. Not all men are scum; some are, but some are just as open-minded and progressive as us women. In fact, some men are even more so. I absolutely agree that men have it better in this world and they have for ages. That’s an understatement, really. But I don’t see the point in telling a feminist male – that’s right, they do exist – that the work he produces in support of women, women-centered writing, and writing that explores the feminine/female experience is not worth considering simply because he doesn’t have a vagina. We ultimately decided to include men in our artistic discussion not because we were trying to appease men, because we need men in order to legitimize the work we choose. To suggest that is absolutely ludicrous. Rather, we as editors are affording men the opportunity to explore their idea of feminine/female-centered writing BECAUSE MEN CAN BE FEMINISTS TOO. Shouldn’t we encourage that? Or is my definition of "feminism" too broad? I don’t think there’s such a thing as the quintessential feminist; the only real requirement is that one advocates for women’s rights. Should feminism be some exclusive club you can only join if you’re a woman? And a particular “type” of woman at that? And should I as a feminist and as someone who promotes feminism deny the voices of men who want to speak out in support of feminism? To exclude men from the conversation completely is equivalent to saying that I shouldn't be allowed to speak out about rights for gays and lesbians because I'm not a lesbian myself. That's just absurd.
Ultimately, the decision for what does and does not make it into our journal is Susan’s and mine. That’s what is so cool about starting up your own journal – you can feature the work that you like to read! I highly suggest it. We have a great respect for writing, for writers, and we will only publish the best of what we receive. Susan and I both have preferences, things that we look for when we’re reading a piece. If you don’t like the same things than we do, it’s okay – that’s the beauty of it! And if you feel that a particular stone is being left unturned by the literary community, then turn that stone over by starting up a journal or a press of your own! It says a lot to take action in that way, just as it says a lot when anyone writes in the first place. Writing, as Susan talks about in her entry, is a very political act, and so is selecting what writing to publish and not to publish.
Here is my advice: we like the concrete. Show us; do not tell us. We like the sincere, the specific. We like the subtle, the strange, the vivid. We like things that break the mold with language. If you love sensory language, then we love you. If you write something that makes us smell the burnt toast, taste the cough syrup, or hear the creaking of your father’s old suede slippers as he paces in the back hallway of the taxidermist’s office, then rock on. We like the grotesque and the beautiful equally, writing that sparkles whether it’s covered in sequins or crusted in puss. We’d rather publish something that isn’t afraid to take risks than something we’ve seen before. We don’t care if you’re well-published or completely new to the scene – good writing is good writing, and we can’t wait to read yours!