February 11, 2011

The Origin of a Name: Weave, Diversity and Visions for the Future

When Margaret and I started Weave almost three years ago, we wanted to choose a name that reflected the voices by which we were surrounded. We knew so many amazing writers and artists, both local and national, whose work we admired and respected. We envisioned our journal as a space to see a cross-section of diverse voices. We started close to home, literally and figuratively, with labels by which we personally identified (women, bisexual, feminist, poets, Pittsburghers, sub/urban) and then branched outward to increase our diversity. We wanted to publish everyone: women and men; LGBT writers and their allies; people of color; rural writers and city-dwellers; emerging and established artists; young and young-at-heart; people of varied abilities; high school students, undergraduates, Phd candidates and those without higher education; local, regional, national and international writers.

As we pondered our vision for what would become Weave, the word "weave" kept popping up. Eventually, I suggested it as our name and, just like that, Weave was born. You can check out the notes from this creative-name-brainstorming session at the bottom of this post. These are the original notes I took when Margaret and I first met in her apartment to start Weave.

A study recently published by VIDA, an organization for Women in the Literary Arts (so awesome by the way), shows the major gender disparities in publishing today. While not surprising, a similar study that was done years ago was what really inspired Margaret and I to push for diversity. Weave has always sought to publish at least 50% women in every issue. VIDA's study inspired me to actually get a real count, and to be honest, I can't believe I haven't already done this. It was fascinating to see how the numbers panned out. Each line links back to the contributor lists for that issue. I have included the percentage of female-identified contributors, since that's what is being addressed with VIDA's study:

Gender of Contributors by Issue:

Issue 01: 22 W / 13 M - 61% female
Issue 02: 28 W / 18 M - 61% female
Issue 03: 16 W / 13 M - 55% female
Issue 04: 18 W/ 4 M - 82% female
Issue 05: 30 W / 14 M - 68% female

Gender of Authors of Reviewed Books: 

10 W / 5 M - 66% female
(14 reviews online, 1 printed review)

What might be affecting these numbers? We accepted less work overall in issue 04, so our numbers skewed higher for women. We do specifically call ourselves feminist and are consciously encouraging women to (re)submit. All of our covers have been by female artists, except our most recent. Do cautious female writers feel more welcome to submit to Weave? Do they read an issue and imagine their work among the pages more so than male writers? I don't know honestly. It would be great to see how many submissions we get from women vs. men, but would be difficult to track since we didn't have a good system until recently.

I consider myself a feminist and, as I understand it, third-wave feminism has sought to incorporate the needs of all oppressed groups under their umbrella to strive for social change for all. The forces, whether conscious or unconscious, that are keeping women's voices from being heard, are the same forces that are quieting the voices of other minorities. As I saw it, for Weave to be called feminist, we needed to push for diversity overall. This whole debate also got me thinking about gender identity. What about trans-writers? What about gender-queer writers? Where do they fit among these statistics? I don't have answers. It would be difficult to track as well, since people would have to volunteer personal information. I know we have a solid number of lesbian, gay and bisexual contributors.

I am happy that diversity is a priority for Weave. At the end of the day though, we want high-quality work. Weave publishes the best of what we receive and solicit. But by allowing diversity to inform our editing process, we create a creative space where doors are always opening, not closing. Our name and logo includes a period for a reason. Weave is not just our name, it is a statement, a sentence, an action. This is the tradition we will continue with each issue. Each issue will continue to weave a beautiful tapestry of diverse, creative expression.

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