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

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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.