Friday, November 7, 2008

Sexist Guy Digs the Book




Shannon Cain is the co-editor of Powder






Jack Lewis at
crosscut.com is eager to inform us early in his book review that combat is "the world's real oldest profession" and that "cover girl" Sharon Allen (pictured on the book with her buddy Kim Archer behind the wheel of a D7 dozer) is a “big, loud sexy Sergeant.” Gee, Sharon, congratulations.
Lewis advises readers to skip the “doctrinaire shrillness” and go straight to the guts of the book: "Powder is blemished by the cant of its creators, their nakedly political agenda bleeding through every syllable of the preface."
Yet Lewis waxes wildly enthusiastic ("lucid narratives and whisky-strong poetic imagery") about the essays and poems in the book, which only goes to show you that even a couple of peacenik feminists can manage, after all, to hang onto their editorial integrity.

10 comments:

K.G. Schneider said...

Everyone knows the real point of editors is to get writers to stop pissing around and actually finish their work. ;-) I rarely judge a book by its introduction. I often don't even *read* introductions. Powder, of course, is an exception...

indin said...

Editors, like everyone else, are entitled to bitch, moan, sing praises of or to, rant, and generally do what they will in their own publications. Snarky reviewers are not necessarily superior beings, nor do they necessarily know their ass from a hot rock. Indin

Sharon D. Allen said...

The editors of Powder made their views known in the preface. They didn't claim to be objective. I am thankful that, while they may not have abandoned these views, they allowed all of the contributors to speak for themselves. I have always maintained that my gender was a nonissue in the military, and I was at first hesitant to be included in an anthology limited to women. I want to be known as a veteran. Not a "woman veteran." At least the editors still chose to include me in a book dedicated to the opposite of my stance. Jack Lewis, as a reviewer, is also entitled to his opinion. And his opinion is that people should listen to the actual veterans, not what civilians would like the veterans to believe. I agree wholeheartedly with what he said. If that makes me a "sexist," so be it. I also took his appraisal of me as the intended compliment, so, please, do not be offended for me.

Jack said...

Exactly what the hell's wrong with a big, loud, sexy sergeant? I used to be one myself. 'Taint nothing wrong with being a peacenik feminist, either. My wife is one such, and she manages to hold onto her integrity with nonchalant ease.

I took the time to read Powder before commenting on it. For anyone who'd like to check the source before deciding for themselves whether I know my posterior anatomy from volcanic geography, here's a link to the review:

http://crosscut.com/2008/10/20/military/18573/

It's rather short and uses simple words (I'm only a guy, after all), but I'll stand by every word of it.

Editors bemoaning "bad press" that consists of lavish praise for their writers and a strong recommendation to buy their (fairly obscure) product would appear to be enshrining their fragile female egos above their livelihoods.

-Sexist Guy (aka "Jack")

Kore Press said...

We love big loud sexy sergeants as much as the next gal (and maybe more, if you get my drift), but Sexist Guy's need to identify Sharon Allen as an object of sexual desire speaks to a problem, it seems to this editor, with a fragile male ego that needs to see a woman in uniform as woman first, soldier second. Would Sexist Guy have referenced prostitution and fashion magazines in a review of a book written by men? Sexist Guy is no fool -- he knows exactly what he's doing when he calls a woman's writing "shrill."

What little livelihood one can claim from operating a nonprofit indie press is hardly threatened by calling out a snarky (and fairly obscure) reviewer. What Sexist Guy takes as a fragile female ego is in fact female integrity: a commitment to holding reviewers like him accountable, even when they dig our books. Lavish praise will never mask the stench of misogyny.

Shannon Cain, Co-Editor

K.G. Schneider said...

There you go, then: most of my experience was in this tension -- working with, feeling different than, yet often appreciative of, and often appreciated by, the men in the ranks.

Sometimes the sexism was very real and very damaging. But other times what appeared (and was presented as) sexism was merely the awkward mask of men who were learning (as we were learning) to reorganize their world around working with the "other," with all the challenges that presents.

I worked in aircraft maintenance, tactical fighter maintenance to be precise -- some of it in the testosterone-fueled world of flightline maintenance -- so I am acutely familiar with breaking into the ranks of all-male work. I know who helped and who hindered, who let me fall and who helped me back up.

I'm grateful for the chance to be published in Powder, and I'm also grateful for "sexist" men such as Jack who took the time to carefully read and review the book. A true sexist wouldn't have bothered.

Kore Press said...

Jack and I have one glaring thing in common: we have each lived exactly half of the experience of the writers in Powder. Mine as woman and his as soldier, but neither of us woman soldier.

Point is--and given his complimentary review I'm pretty sure Jack would agree--that in Powder, those who know what they're talking about get to do the talking.

indin said...

Just idle musing, but I wonder how many reviewers of right wing works demand "objectivity"? Indin

shawlett said...

Wow that was well put, Shannon. At first, I didn't see anything wrong with the "big loud sexy sergeant" (there's far worse things one could be called) but you're right, it DOES highlight "sexual" rather than "soldier." One thing that I've realized is that in trying to be one of the guys for years and years, I have almost lost my sense of what's sexist and what's not. You have to pick your battles so carefully when you're in the military that you let a lot of stuff go - everything except the very worst. Speaking up against sexist (sometimes very demeaning) language or acts can be really really difficult: you're singling yourself out as not only a girl, but a girl who won't let the guys be guys; a girl who's gonna cause problems.
To me, it's really nice and refreshing to hear women air views like Shannon's, without fear of being seen as "PC", "feminist" (which, of course, is a bad word to many in the military)or "whiner."
On the other hand, since the book DOES highlight the fact that the authors are women, it's hard to argue that a reviewer shouldn't comment on the gender issue somehow. The "how" is the question.

Christy said...

I’m so glad that Sharon D. Allen wasn’t offended by Jack Lewis’ comments. But I am. Lewis introduces his “review” with the assumption that “Nobody wants a war book until the war is over,” which suggests not only that the public doesn’t warrant a personalized explanation of what has happened in the recent past but also that, until time undefined, our voices are irrelevant. Before Lewis bothers to credit any writer, he insinuates that Kore Press uses female soldiers as a novelty for financial gain. Lewis reiterates his agenda with his not-so-subtle whore allusion, referring to the the military as “the world’s real oldest profession.” Moreover, Mr. Lewis reveals what he really thinks about women in the military by commenting on a woman he actually served with, calling Allen “a big, loud, sexy sergeant...” Worse is Lewis’ attempt not at an apology but an excuse by later blogging that his wife is “one such” like us. Mr. Lewis, I thank you. You’ve given me more reasons for writing than I already had.
Christy L. Clothier