A roundtable discussion on intersectionality in publishing with past and present editors
BY MAGGIE ROTH STAFF WRITER
On Saturday, Oct. 17, current and former writers of So to Speak, Mason’s graduate feminist literary journal, met in a digital roundtable as one of this year’s Fall for the Book events. The event was held to talk about the history and the progress of So to Speak, and to discuss the field of intersectional feminist publishing as a whole.
“When we started, we were just fighting for a space for women,” said Colleen Rich, who founded the journal in 1993. “There was so much competition in publishing, it was still very much dominated by white men. At first, it was just fighting for that space.”
Now, as both feminism and the political landscape of publishing are evolving, so is the field of feminist publishing. The goal now is not just to create a space for women, but to expand that space to ensure that it is inclusive.
“Are there communities of writers who we haven’t met?” was a question that former So to Speak editor Shebrayle Setliff raised. The current staff of the journal keep this in mind when considering submissions and planning issues.
So to Speak is dedicated to keeping submissions accessible for people who have traditionally been excluded from the literary field, and to make sure that there are no voices that remain unheard.
“We see it as advocating for rights and for advocacy, but others may see it as very political,” said Kyra Kondis, a Mason MFA candidate in fiction and the current editor of So to Speak. “It’s a question of what is politics. Why is believing in human rights put in that category of being controversial?”
Those in attendance also made sure to acknowledge the history behind their mission.
“The idea of being an ‘intersectional feminist journal’ is coming from a tradition of Black feminist theorists,” Setliff said. “We’re taking that knowledge, so I want to acknowledge them.”
In addition to issues of inclusivity and diversity, the speakers discussed more challenges within the literary and publishing field.
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced publishers to refocus the ways that they operate. Instead of print publication, there has been a shift to a greater presence and enhanced content online. Yet this can also present new challenges regarding accessibility.
So to Speak is just one of many publications that are facing the challenge of keeping their journals accessible and inclusive in the face of unexpected technical issues such as lack of widespread reliable internet.
For the current editors and writers, the event was a chance to look back on the history of their publication and learn from the women who started it. For the past editors, it was a chance to see how their legacy is being carried on and evolving.