How We Can Number Up: Sheila McMullin Continues Her Discussion on VIDA Count 2013

In 2012 The Paris Review dedicated a very small slice of its pie to writings by women. Fortunately, they took notice of their VIDA pie chart and rang the alarms. This past Count showed The Paris Review to acknowledge and celebrate more quality writing by women.

This is the work of The VIDA Count: to reveal an overall systemic problem and encourage a proactive change in how our leading publishing magazines and journals represent empathetic culture.

Former StS reader and blogger, now VIDA Count Coordinator, Sarah Marcus, says, “I believe that feminism is my responsibility, and being a part of VIDA has meant that I have another opportunity to support and advocate in a way that effectively changes public opinion and creates a positive academic support system for women and female identified people. We spend a great deal of time exposing the literary publishing reality, talking about inclusivity, and thinking about ways to bring our community into a compassionate and empathetic space where diverse and important voices are represented. I am accountable for ensuring that everyone has the same opportunities. Being part of VIDA also means that I am surrounded by a group of dedicated, inspiring, supportive, and empowered women, cisgender, and  non-gender normative people who are working towards a meaningful and common goal. I see this as win, win, win for me personally and for the greater literary public.”

If you would like to be a part of the social revolution working toward gender parity in publishing, here are lots of things you can do:

● It’s an old saying, “Knowledge is power.” Now you know, how will you respond? First and foremost we need to start a dialogue about these numbers on large scale terms. That is why VIDA has recently launched our member-supported private forums, as a troll-free environment for people to speak about diversity, respond to the numbers, and also (maybe most importantly) meet new allies. To learn more about participating in our forums visit here.

● Some concerned writers have cancelled subscriptions and written letters demanding change to editors whose numbers showed to be very problematic. Read Lorraine Berry’s open letter to Harper’s for inspiration and tips on language usage.

● If writing a letter or cancelling your subscription isn’t for you, you might consider exercising your purchasing power to buy a subscription to a journal who IS actively concerned with gender parity and diversity within their pages. Consider Ninth Letter, The Missouri Review, n+1, and The Gettysburg Review, Callaloo, and the list goes on. Purchasing a subscription from these journals will help them continue to do their good work.

● Beware of the gender diversity on your own bookshelves. Be active in broadening the range of stories in your home.

● Read what others have to say about VIDA in the press and start forming your own unique opinions on how you would like to react to gender inequality in all sectors, not just within the literary community.

● VIDA’s mission focuses on gender diversity, but is also concerned with ethnic, racial, sexual (among many other identifications) diversity and wants you to contribute to the conversation of planning how to accurately count writers of these identifications in the journals VIDA currently tallies.

● Submit your work! This cannot be reinforced enough! Write your stories! Share your stories! Submit, revise, submit again women, men, trans*, people of color, EVERYBODY!

This past AWP Seattle, the Peripheral Visionaries: Taking Action to Cultivate Literary Diversity panel with The VIDA Count Director, Jen Fitzgerald, Tin House editor Rob Spillman, Laura E. Davis (of Weave Magazine and Submission Bombers), and poet Ross Gay spoke to our cultural obligation as editors, publishers, and readers to demand gender parity in the material we purchase.

Rob Spillman took a deeper look at our obligations as writers to challenge social constructs that may feel prohibitive when considering publication. This is a loose quote, but he said to the effect that when he sends out encouraging rejection letters (with a major emphasis on encouraging meaning: please, please submit again!) 100% of the men resubmitted work, while only around 50% of the women resubmitted.

We are facing multilayered, complex sexism deeply ingrained into our culture. Spillman wasn’t saying that women just need to submit more, and that’s that. He was speaking to a dark nurturing our society promotes in the psyches of many of our women. On large scales, women are not socialized to be as confident as men. This is not to say, women are not confident. Remember that.

Hearing Spillman’s anecdote shot me into submission action, and fellow women, I hope it does the same for you. Submitting takes bravery, and you are brave.

Stop by the VIDA website for our latest articles, which are published on a rolling basis (contact with a proposal if you are interested in writing something for the site!)  Introduce yourself, tell us about your publications, ask questions and for advice, participate and mentor! You are welcome at VIDA!

If you missed Part I, be sure to read Sheila McMullin’s Why We Should Number Up


Sheila McMullin runs the feminist and artist resource website, MoonSpit Poetry, where a list of her publications can also be found. She is the Website Assistant for VIDA: Women in Literary Arts and Contributing Editor of poetry and the blog for ROAR Magazine. Her chapbook, Like Water, was a finalist for the Ahsahta Press and New Delta Review chapbook competitions, as well as a semifinalist in the Black Lawrence Press chapbook competition. She works as an after-school creative writing and college prep instructor, and volunteers at her local animal rescue. She holds her M.F.A. from George Mason University. Follow her @smcmulli.


Men’s Feminist Voices

March 18, 2013 by So to Speak · 1 Comment
Filed under: Literary Resources, Post by: Sheila M 

Curious about what is it to be a man AND a feminist? Do you sometimes wonder if it is actually possible? Well, we’re here to tell you that it IS possible to be both a self-identifying man and feminist! Not only is it possible, but it is normal and exciting and makes for a better world. And good news— there are so many wonderful examples of male feminists right now on this site! Our men are talking everything from politics, generational gaps and misgivings, the brewing industry, translation and learning about pregnancy, matrilineal inheritance, privilege, even pornography, to seeking advice on how to be the best person one (man or woman) can be.


Pushcart Nominees!

Happy Holidays, everyone! We are delighted to announce the Pushcart nominees from this year’s issues of So to Speak:

Spring 2012:

Robert Kostuck, “If I Had the Wings of a Dove” (fiction)

Lauren C. Ostberg, “On Hair” (nonfiction)

Adriana Paramo, “QuarterLife of Love” (nonfiction)

Fall 2012:

Sheila Black, “Migrant” (poetry)


Congratulations to the nominees, and our most sincere thanks for sharing your beautiful, engaging work with us.

October News Round-Up

So to Speak is beginning a new monthly feminist news round-up series! Here we will highlight the month’s past blog posts, other feminist related news, and hot topics to look forward to in the next month! We want your input as well! Add a comment on our blog of some feminist related news, tweet, or email us!

This month on So to Speak:

  • Where in the World is Wonder Woman– Undergraduate GMU student, Jen Mach, speaks on the importance of physically strong, mentally strong, independent women role models for girls and adults alike! Using Wonder Woman as her focus, she describes how the comic book superhero tradition abuses, murders, and utterly disgraces so many of their female comic heroes. Read how this has a tragic effect on the ways women are viewed and talked about.
  • Ms.Magazine releases its 40th issue with a revival Wonder Woman cover! Celebrating women’s strength and the power to vote Katherine Spillar,

executive editor of Ms. says, “Wonder Woman has been an enduring symbol of women’s power. We could imagine no better way to urge women to use their own power – the power of their vote – to stand up for themselves and their rights in the coming elections.” The press release states that this special fall issue examines what’s at stake for women in November, including access to safe abortion and birth control, economic security and workplace equity, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and protections against violence.  The issue also provides a detailed rundown on many state ballot measures that affect women’s lives and looks at the record numbers of women running for Congress. To buy your copy go to

  • On Ocotber 15th we closed our submissions period. We are currently in the process of selecting pieces for publication and passing on poetry and nonfiction to our respected judges!

Book Review of Danielle Pafunda’s Manhater and essay from Beauty is a VerbPoetry and Blog Editor, Sheila McMullin, reviewed poetry contest judge, Danielle Pafunda‘s newest poetry collection Manhater from Dusie Press. In this post, Sheila thinks about the intersections of the medical gaze and male gaze as Pafunda writes about in both her poetry and critical essay from the anthology Beauty is a Verb.



  • The StS poetry team got together and posted some Poetry Tips for potential submitters!
  • Guest Blogger, Sarah Marcus, posted a Cultural Critique and Gender Identity essay by her undergraduate student David Bache. A feminist inspired lesson plan, Sarah watched Miss Reprentation with her students and asked them to write a cultural critique. Also posted is a brief description of the lesson plan.
  • From the Presidential Debates we were all shocked to hear where Romney believed women keep themselves with the now infamous phrase, “Binders full of women.” Although a poor choice of wording, we did see people paying attention to the ramifications of language—and become aware of the awesome organizations out there helping women move into higher positions of power.
  • Hilary Mantel wins the 2012 Man Booker Prize

  • This happened in September, but we must applaud! Gazing Grain, the first self-proclaiming inclusive feminist chapbook publisher publishes its first chapbook—The Busy Life, by Laura Neuman. Judged by Brian Teare. Look forward to a StS review of The Busy Life this November by Sheila McMullin.
  • Women Who Rock museum exhibit makes it way to the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C.
  • Through @SoToSpeakJrnl we tweeted our favorite feminist poetry and nonfiction pieces and collections. Start preparing your favorite fiction works!
  • October 29, 2012: Hurricane Sandy hits Fairfax, Virginia. Federal offices, universities, and schools are closed. If you’re on the east coast and feeling the effects of Hurricane Sandy, stay safe and care for one other! For safety preparedness go to

Upcoming in November: VOTE!!!!!! Go out there on November 6th and exercise your right! Here is your chance to create the world you wish to live in!

Be well,

♥ Sheila

Where in the World is Wonder Woman?

by Jennifer Mach, George Mason University undergraduate student

Many people throughout the world know who Wonder Woman is. Her real name is Diana Prince and was created from clay on the beach of Themyscria—the Amazonian Island by her mother Hippolyta. Once coming to New York City to fulfill her duty as a hero, she teamed up with Batman and Superman, creating the Justice League. Wonder Woman is a legacy that many men and women look up to due to her strength. However, she is one of the only women on the team, is easily undermined when standing next to her co-founder, Superman and Batman. Diana is a great character that society does not see much of. There are a lot of movies and TV shows about Batman and Superman, but never about Wonder Woman. In the past, Wonder Woman has been an iconic idol for women, so where has she disappeared?

It all started during the 1940’s. World War II was at its peak and many U.S. soldiers were sent out to fight against the Axis Powers. Many women in the United States became more independent and took a more leading role around this time. This is also when the creation of the Wonder Woman comics and her iconic image became huge. However, once the men came back from WWII, women had to give up their jobs, and the Wonder Women era died down.

During the 1970’s-80’s the boys had Star Wars and Indiana Jones. All the character had some damsel to save, and easily won the women over. However, not every woman enjoys bring treated that way. When Wonder Woman (the television series) aired, women finally had something just like the men. They had the opportunity to stop the bad guys and be the one saving the man in trouble. However, once the television series was cancelled, Wonder Woman was rarely heard from again, and Star Wars and Indiana Jones became more iconic than Diana.

So, the question is: Where in the World is Wonder Woman? Where has she gone? Well here is the answer. She is dead. Not figuratively, but literally. In Diana’s story, the writers killed her off, making her a goddess of truth. This is surprisingly very common is the comic book world for female characters. A website called “Women in Refrigerators” was established in 1994 listing all the female characters who have been brutally murdered. The number of deaths is significantly higher compared to the male character population. Many of the women such as the Huntress and Black Canary have been raped, murdered, zapped, tortured, and maimed by villains. It has caused so much outrage in the public view that a few character had to be revived. Even though Wonder Woman was a character that was killed, she ended up being resurrected and continued her role as heroine, pretending as if nothing happened. Yet, ever since then, has there been any notion to her existence?

Even though it can be sad to see that Wonder Woman may be “dead” in today’s society, that are certainly other women who have picked up her role. The feminist movement has made a big change, and more women are taking charge. Lately, Michelle Obama has been stressing the idea of healthy living for children. She has been making inspiring campaigns, talks, and visits to the people about this problem. However, the media saw her eating ribs and instantly called her a hypocrite and liar. Thus, this has made her a strong female role that was also thrown into the “refrigerator” by the media. In addition, Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton has made great changes in trying to improve and focus on Foreign Policy. However, the media cannot stop their faultfinding and call Clinton out on her looks and naivety, causing her to be another woman wrongfully placed in the “refrigerator.” Angelina Jolie is a strong female actress who states who mind and doesn’t seem fazed by the media. Although she is a strong woman who many can look up to, she is also seen as an immense sex symbol, and can be a difficult role model for young girls.

Even though many women are making great and positive movements to helping the country, many of the young girls today are getting side tracked. This is a critical moment when more powerful women need to be in pop culture and not seen as only sex symbols. Just about every girl grew up with Wonder Woman, either reader his in comics, watching her in cartoons, and seeing her on merchandise. She is the most famous heroine in the United States, and she doesn’t need a man to prove her worth. Girls need a woman like Diana in their life to know that there is more to makeup, clothes, and boys. The world is in danger, and women need a reminder by Wonder Woman to show how much strength they have.


“What are the consequences for women when they are strong?” Watch this video for interviews with pop culture excerpts and feminists about female superheros.

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