What does “feminist” mean anyway, and Disaster! on a sliding scale

The ninth issue of Taking the Lane’s quarterly has gone off to the printer. “Disaster!” is the issue’s official title, but “Taking the Lane for Men” became its nickname in my household early on, as submissions started to roll in. I realized that maintaining the feminist mission of the publication could no longer be a passive matter of generally soliciting content, waiting for it to arrive in my inbox, and then deciding what order to print it in.

I’m proud of how the issue turned out. The only real notable difference is that for the first time, the majority of the contributors are men. This is not a cause for alarm — it does seem clear, after all, that the topic of emergency preparedness is a particularly gendered one in our culture — but it does, to my mind, illustrate the need for the kind of proactive editorial affirmative action I’ve talked about elsewhere.

The next issue, dedicated to science fiction, seems to be in danger of running into greater trouble, though. In response to a few requests, I’d like to clarify for potential authors the mission of Taking the Lane: that is, publishing feminist work about bicycling.

First, the bicycling part. Taking the Lane is literally about bikes, but it’s also about what bicycling stands for. So, it’s fine if authors and artists — and yes, readers! — don’t ride bikes, or if bikes are only a marginal part of the story — but all submissions must at least thematically feature some aspect of the freedom and constraints of human-powered vehicles.

Second, the feminist part. It’s fine if submissions are explicitly about gender or feminism, but they don’t have to be. When I select essays for publication, what I am looking for is less what is present than what is not. Questions I ask include: Who are the protagonists? Who is active, who is passive? Are there any non-hetero/male/cis people at all, and if so, are they defined primarily by their actions and choices rather than their appearance and relationships? In short, does it pass the bike test? To this community’s credit, the vast majority of submissions I receive pass with flying colors.

With those two points in mind, the door for publication in Taking the Lane’s quarterly is wide open. I receive more and more good submissions with each issue, making for increasingly difficult decisions, but your odds of being included are still extremely good. I welcome submissions and queries from new and experienced writers alike, and look forward to reading them all with nervous anticipation.

On a final note, I’ve decided to honor the need for more awareness of gender (and other) barriers by introducing a sliding scale pricing system for this issue only. The price is set in relation to the wage gap as shown in the 2010 line of this chart. [Edit, 3/11/13: Reader Robin made this graphical representation of the chart; you can see how relative demographic fortunes have shifted over the years. Wow.]

When you buy a copy of “Disaster!”, I invite you upon checkout to select a price that reflects the demographic niche with which you best identify, or any other criteria you choose. The pricing structure is drawn from averages, and of course does not include many underpaid demographic groups, or take either history or exceptions into account. Your own experience almost certainly does not conform with the assumptions of one chart of averages.

Your participation in this social experiment is entirely on the honor system and you should feel free to apply your own criteria if you feel your case is an exception; there is no need to apply to me for permission or exemptions. I am doing this not to put anyone in a box, but to raise awareness and to protest the untenable reality that these rough averages make clear.

Order a copy of Disaster here.

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10 Responses to “What does “feminist” mean anyway, and Disaster! on a sliding scale”

  1. Glenn Woodbury February 4, 2013 at 5:21 pm #

    There is a modest difference in income between a white male named “Bill Gates”, and say an unemployed carpenter. That being said, the gender difference in wages did not surprise me, nor did the racial difference; now the _magnitude_ of the racial difference, that did impress me.

  2. Jessie Kwak February 4, 2013 at 5:49 pm #

    I was just having a conversation with a friend about the gender disparity she’s seen in submissions to her own projects. (She publishes fantasy and horror.) Since her company is a very woman-centric in its voice, marketing and anthology topics, she was becoming concerned that she was getting such a small percentage of submissions from women writers.

    She’s just starting out, so I think she was worried that she’d missed the mark with her branding and was turning women writers off—which I don’t think is the case with her, and certainly isn’t the case with you.

    The Northwest SF/F writing community seems to have more women than men, although, admittedly the intersection of people who write sci-fi and also about bikes might weigh in the other direction. I don’t have any answers here, but I think it’s a very interesting question.

    Oh, and I am planning on submitting to Bikes In Space, I’m just taking my sweet time. :)

    • Elly February 4, 2013 at 5:56 pm #

      This is fascinating. Given the gender balance lately on submissions, comments, and general engagement, I wondered if my audience had tipped. But nope, at least the recent survey I did showed that about 60% of respondents identify as female.

      Also, I can’t wait to read your story.

  3. Ashley February 15, 2013 at 5:06 pm #

    I am extremely thrilled to have come across this. A FEMINIST focused publication…about BIKES? I just melted a little bit. =)

  4. Dee Bagg March 4, 2013 at 11:52 am #

    Just what DOES bicycling stand for?

  5. Robin March 10, 2013 at 10:06 pm #

    I looked at the USA sex & race wage gap chart that you linked to above but I personally find it hard to internalize rows & columns of numbers, so I graphed it in Open Office.

    I’m going to try to embed the graph I produced here, but I’ll also email it to you so you can post it if you want to. One of the trends that leapt out at me is that while white women made the greatest gains relative to white men (and thus to all other groups), black men saw their fortunes rise and fall, but Hispanic men were the only group to see their wages relative to white men fall.

  6. Susannah April 12, 2013 at 12:33 pm #

    When I read your submission guidelines, the first thing that came to mind was Robert Heinlein’s short story “The Menace From Earth”. Not a perfect fit, but impressive considering when it was written.


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  2. Call for submissions: Bicycling and religion | Taking the Lane - June 19, 2013

    [...] Also, if you need clarity about what “feminist” or “about bicycling” mean, here’s a post that explains it. Feel free to email with any questions or to bounce ideas off [...]

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