From Feministe: The Master’s Publishing House

[UPDATE: I have decided not to submit to Seal Press. I'm leaving this up, but feel free to not answer the question since it's already been answered.]

In working on the anthology I’m editing/contributing to, Occupied Bodies: Women of Color Speak on Self-Image, an issue has come up over whether or not I should include a particular independent publisher who has had serious problems with issues involving POC on my list of publishers to solicit for publication. I had heard about certain issues with this publisher before, but I decided to go ahead and submit to them, because I was interested in how they’d respond since they’d expressed negativity towards the marketability of WOC anthologies before.

Recently, I expressed my intention to include this particular publisher on the list to a potential writer, who was wary of the idea. I wondered why, although I did already know about the negativity expressed, I figured there must be something else because she was very put off. So I did some research and found that there had been a particularly offensive incident involving a popular white feminist blogger’s book that was published by them and racist imagery that had been used in the book (without the author’s instruction). In addition, this blog [Feministe] was involved. I wasn’t really surprised, because I’m never surprised anymore when white feminists and white feminist groups who claim to be allies “go rogue” and do something that harms women of color. In any case, I decided that I wouldn’t submit to them if it was going to scare off writers.

Since I made that statement, I’ve been mulling it around in my head, and talking to other WOC bloggers, and now I’m really not sure what to do. I don’t want to reopen old wounds, but am I limiting the ability of this work — which I consider important, because women of color’s voices need to be heard on this topic — to get to publication by limiting who I send it to? Does it matter in the end who publishes it as long as our voices get out there? Should I take the moral high ground and risk losing our chance to disseminate the work into the mainstream? When do you forgive and forget?

I feel like, in these spaces that are dominated by white feminists, we as women of color are expected to overlook a LOT. We’re given apologies that are half-assed and we’re supposed to accept them. We get slighted on a regular basis and we’re supposed to give that a pass because it wasn’t intentional. A large feminist blog with say, 12 white contributors adds one of color and we’re supposed to hail “representation”. When do we stop overlooking things? And when do we continue overlooking because it’s necessary for OUR success?

It’s important to me to get this anthology to print, but I don’t want to support racism that happens again and again. Should I take that high ground when it hurts me more than it hurts them? In taking that high ground, am I really doing them a disservice at all or am I making it easier on them? I’m full of questions and short on answers.

What do you think?

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  • lemur

    Given the publisher's phenomenally immature reaction when the furor broke out over the art for AM's book, I'd skip them. I have no confidence your collection would be treated with respect at their house.

    • http://www.redvinylshoes.com Tasha Fierce

      I agree, and all that fuckery makes me certain they aren't getting a whiff of my baby.

  • http://www.Sezin.org Sezin

    Hi Tasha,

    I think integrity is the most important quality an activist/writer can have and you have bouquets of it. Stay true to yourself and the clarity of your vision. You do not need this problematic publishing house. At all. An anthology about women of color is very necessary, and if the waters will be whitened by a publisher who thinks that our issues are not valid without white women included, then you (and by extension we) don't need them.

    This is the same reason why I decided to self-publish my first novel. I knew that a publisher would force be to change the story and how it's presented to make it more marketable to the mainstream and I knew that would compromise the integrity of the story, which needed to be told as it is. It was a much harder route to go by, but I feel good about the decision to be true to my original vision.

    And you will too once you close the chapter on this publishing house. Your creative energy is better spent on your writing than worrying about someone else's prejudices.

    Strength to you,

    Sezin

    • http://www.redvinylshoes.com Tasha Fierce

      Thank you Sezin! I'm sorry it's taken me so long to say it, Feministe has me distracted from my own work.

  • http://ensmartened.blogspot.com/ Godless Heathen

    What gets me is, why is the onus on you to "forgive and forget" instead of on the publishing house to start consistently doing things right? Why is the onus always on POC to forgive? Oh wait, I know, institutionalized racism. If white people actually had to hear "You know what, no. Quit *&^%ing up so much and then we'll talk," it might hurt our feewings.

    I'm really looking forward to this anthology, sorry I couldn't donate but things are just loose enough here financially where I'll be able to buy a copy.

    • http://www.redvinylshoes.com Tasha Fierce

      Don't worry about not being able to donate, buying a copy is good enough!

  • http://manolobig.com Twistie

    As a white feminist, I think more of us should shut the fuck up and listen to our sisters, be they POC, transgendered, gay, or whateverthehell. The whole point of the movement is to get everyone a seat at the table regardless of gender, and that means INCLUSION, people.

    I know you'd already decided not to go with the publisher in question, but I want to go on record as saying that if a publisher has that problematic a past with POC, then it seems like a really crap fit for your book. Would they even have considered it seriously? If they had decided to go with it, would they have required changes that would gut the message of the book? Would they have paired nuanced works with gross images that reinforce the most racist stereotypes?

    In short, there's got to be a publisher who is a far better fit for this work.

    • http://www.redvinylshoes.com Tasha Fierce

      In short, there’s got to be a publisher who is a far better fit for this work.
      I hope so. I hope a lot of people start sending in material so I can get a book proposal together and hopefully get an advance or something. Hope.

  • sRa

    thank you for naming the publishing company cuz I wanted to read up on this. a whole lot of nasty!