So I recently read a book written by a grassroots activist advocating government reform. It wasn’t excellent, but it did have a few good insights, and, frankly, I’m happy to see any books by activists and any books advocating government reform. That said, the book really grabbed my attention when I read the lengthy acknowledgements section at the end. The guy, as is fashionable these days, acknowledged his white male privilege, but as I read through the acknowledgements, I thought ‘You have no idea.’
My first clue was that he’d written, early on, as if it were a matter of simple fact, “So if I’m invited to a fund-raiser, I go. And when I make eye contact with the candidate, I too am saying, ‘I might be calling you for something. I hope you’ll answer the call. I’m on your team'” (p141). I realized right then: this has been written by a man; this is how a man experiences the world. Because if I, a woman, had gone to a fund-raiser and had caught the (male) candidate’s eye, he probably would’ve understood me to mean ‘Yes, I’ll come up to your room afterwards and give you a blow job.’ (Or perhaps he would’ve just ignored me. Years ago, when I went to a talk by Alan Borovoy, then President of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, I approached him after the talk, on fire with a passion for justice, ready to join his activism, his (male) assistant told me he didn’t have time for questions. And Borovoy agreed by not even acknowledging my presence just a few feet away from him.)
My second clue was that the guy didn’t do the research for ‘his’ book. To me, that’s part of writing a book and I think the person who did the research should have gotten co-author credit. (At least he got title page credit.) And, well, that’s a male thing, isn’t it: taking credit for someone else’s work.
But back, onwards, to the Acknowledgements. (And I’ll write this as if I’m talking to him. Because I am. In fact, I sent a version of this to him. But I’m also talking to every man out there. And every woman. You should know how much easier it is for them … )
“[This book] was a fantasy and I truly had no clue where to start.” If you were a woman, and you truly had no clue, you wouldn’t even think of writing a book. Men do what they want; women do what they think they’re qualified to do. Read the study of journalists asking men and women to be interviewed: men almost always say yes, whether they’re experts on the matter or not; women almost always say no, believing they’re not expert enough. That is to say, men overestimate their competence; women underestimate theirs.
“It was my friend Peter … who suggested I’d need an editor and introduced me to … ” Women tend not to have friends who know editors. You figure out why.
“… who then told me I needed an agent and introduced me to Rick … ” What the fuck. Would you like to know how many queries I’ve sent to agents asking them to consider representing me? Well over a hundred. Probably close to two or three. Hundred. Women have to knock (and knock and knock) on the front door. Men are (‘Psst! Over here!’) let in the back door. Read Sieghart’s The Authority Gap. And the many books like it.
“…who informed me that I needed a book proposal.” You didn’t know that? Every publisher’s website makes that quite clear. (But you didn’t bother reading publishers’ websites; you’re going through life from back door to back door via friends who introduce you to people who roll out the red carpet for you because why? Oh yeah.)
“[The agent] took an enormous leap of faith by joining the project and has been acting as my cheerleader, advocate, and advisor for half a decade.” Ask him if he’s done that for any women. It’s a ‘bro’ thing. (By the way, twice I queried that particular literary agency; both times, I received no reply whatsoever, not even a form letter. If the query had been from Patrick Tittle … well, who knows? Actually, the researchers who have studied that sort of thing know. And so we do too: the query from the man will receive more attention. Read Sieghart’s The Authority Gap.)
And you received interest from FOUR publishers? Based on a proposal you re-wrote only once? Un-fucking-believable. If the proposal had been from a woman …
Eventually, you delivered “a bloated manuscript with 100 long-winded chapters.” And they didn’t retract their contract? If the manuscript had been from a woman …
“…and he showed me how to turn it into a book.” Wow. This reminds me of the I was asked by a publisher to review a manuscript that had been submitted (this was after I’d published Critical Thinking: an appeal to reason with Routledge and What If? Collected Thought Experiments in Philosophy with Longman). It had been written by a HUGE name in Philosophy, but the manuscript was a mess. I mean C- grad student mess. I tried to be kind while being honest; maybe it was time for the guy to quit, we all get old, our minds don’t last forever … Weeks after I’d submitted my review (recommending that the manuscript not be published), it occurred to me that all of his work all of his life may have been like that and someone else fixed it up for him. (And upon receiving the publisher’s rejection, he probably just gave the manuscript to someone else, perhaps one of his A+ grad students, and said ‘Be a sport/dear, and fix this up a bit, will you?’) (And he/she would have said ‘Sure!’, honoured to have been asked.) (Instead of ‘Hell, no! Do your own damn work, Professor Y.’) See, men get help. They get detailed feedback. (Again, read Sieghart’s The Authority Gap.) So they get shown how to turn something into a book. Women are expected to submit publication-ready manuscripts and if they don’t, well, sorry, we can’t offer you a contract, it’s/you’re just not good enough.
And wow, that research tour. Nothing like that would ever happen to me. I’m sure of it. You got taken seriously. You have no idea — Women don’t. Get taken seriously. Read Jass Richards’ The ReGender App. And Chris Wind’s This is what happens. And see https://www.hellyeahimafeminist.com/male-privilege/ and https://www.hellyeahimafeminist.com/25-ways-i-was-granted-white-male-privilege-after-i-transitioned/ and https://www.hellyeahimafeminist.com/like-night-and-day-indeed/ and https://www.hellyeahimafeminist.com/proof-of-sexism/.
“During my travels, many couches and guestrooms were generously shared …” Again, if you’d been a woman, in most cases it would have been considered inappropriate. While I was recording a CD in Toronto at Musicworks, I had to drive three hours each way, there and back, (I couldn’t afford a hotel room). Not once did anyone involved offer their couch (let alone “their entire home for writing retreats”). And I didn’t expect them to. Women don’t expect things to be given to them. Men do. It’s called male entitlement.
” … helped me battle procrastination and doubt …” Men get cheerleaders. Women don’t. Think back to your high school sports teams. Any of the women’s teams have a bunch of people applauding their every move, encouraging their every step … ? They probably didn’t even have the bleachers filled. Not even half-filled.
“The final draft was polished by … who proposed hundreds of clever edits and then by … who proposed thousands.” Yeah. See above regarding that philosopher. Look, if the manuscript needed thousands of edits, it was not a final draft. It was— My god, but you guys play by different rules. The bar is set WAY HIGHER for women.
“I’m very grateful to the people who kept me employed, fed, and housed during the six years it took to produce this work”—you mean you didn’t have to pay rent/mortgage or buy food? You didn’t support yourself? Even though you received a $30,000 advance? (Quick comparison: for my business ethics text, I received a $5,000 advance, out of which I had to pay permissions.) Unfuckingbelievable.