Technically this article is about women in self-publishing “breaking the glass ceiling” by doing well outside the male-centric structures of commercial literature.1 Which all sounds nice and fluffy and positive, but, not gonna lie, I hate this narrative. Hate hate hate hate hate it. It’s the publishing industry’s equivalent of leaning in. It tells women that all they need for success is just to try harder, do more work, than their male colleagues. It tells them they have to work twice as hard to be seen as half as good. Moreover, it tells the men who are already well-served by the sexism in tradpub that they don’t actually have to do anything to fight the structural inequality in their field.
Well fuck. That.
The other thing that’s elided over by the Guardian is that its “article” is actually a puffed-up press release from a selfpub startup called FicShelf. If this is sending off alarm bells in your head; congratulations, you’ve played this game before. For those who haven’t, remember just how many tech startups are built on the unpaid social labour of women (ref. Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, Tinder). FicShelf’s founding team roster is actually not as white and male as it could be–its CEO is a woman of colour–but the fact is still that this is a company whose business model is built around convincing women that self-publishing is some kind of inherently radical act.
Which, yanno. If that’s your bag, baby, then I guess that’s your bag. So long as everyone’s super clear on who’s profiting off your so-called activism.
- True story: I originally typo’d that as “literation”. Which sounds like what happens when authors sue each other. [↩]