A Note from the Editor

Happy Summer, readers of Quaint!

A few months ago, the Quaint team converged on the broken down porch in my (and Soleil’s) backyard to talk about Issue 3. There was much to discuss, from a tighter and more streamlined editorial schedule to a clearer set of formatting guidelines for editors and our wonderful design guru, Alicia.

But the topic that chewed up most of the meeting (and approximately three bottles of cheap gas station wine) was that of defining Quaint’s mission statement more clearly. The topic that kept us up late into the night was that of gender, and the politics of exclusion.

From the get-go, I had conceived of Quaint as being intersectional (and I suppose, more particularly, intersectional-feminist). Although the magazine was always meant to explore and subvert the idea of femininity and what it meant to be female, I hadn’t considered how the wording of our mission statement and submission guidelines might alienate and discourage certain people from submitting to us.

This probably sounds a little counter-intuitive, given that Quaint has a pretty hard-lined policy about who we want to publish. But here’s the thing: in some ways, it was never about who we wanted to publish; it was about who we didn’t want to publish.

To put it bluntly: Quaint is not and has never been interested in publishing cis-men. We love cis-men. We think that many of them are great and brilliant writers, and wonderful, amazing people. Many of the editorial staff are married to, dating, or doing the casual no-pants-dance with cis-men. Cis-men are our friends, our colleagues, our brothers, fathers, mentors…

But they have a platform in the publishing industry. Their platform is every major journal that consistently publishes more men than women. It is editors, publishing houses, and agents who (consciously or otherwise) give greater attention to submissions and manuscripts written by men, particularly white men.

By phrasing our guidelines in a vague, nebulous way—by not being brave enough to come out and say “actually, sorry, no cis-men”–we inadvertently narrowed our mission statement in the wrong direction. Although we made an effort from the very beginning to stress that ‘woman’ did not have to mean ‘cis-woman’, we forgot that there’s an entire gender spectrum that exists between ‘cis’ and ‘trans’. We forgot that there are incredibly talented individuals who align with our politics, our commitment to fascinating, subversive, confronting work, who reject the concept of gender altogether and embrace a less restrictive model of identity.

I started to become aware of this oversight when, in quick succession, I heard from a number of people who wanted to submit work to us but weren’t sure if their identities fit the mold we had outlined. “But I don’t really identify as a woman,” these people fretted. “Is it okay if I submit?” (and, although they didn’t phrase it this way, I suspect there was an underlying note of ‘and do I really want to submit to a market that seems to be quite deliberately excluding me?’).

Running Quaint has been eye-opening for many reasons, not the least of which is watching how what we are all creating together shifts and redefines itself based on our interactions with submitters, readers, the folks who follow us on social media, and the many talented writers, editors, publishers and activists we dialogue with. It’s easy to put the blinkers on, sometimes—to overlook something that should have been obvious, because you’re not challenged to do better, to think harder.

I am so grateful to the people who have spoken to us, who have opened dialogue with us, who have questioned and in turn helped clarify what it is we’re doing, and what it is we want to be. The fact is, yes, Quaint is exclusionary. But it was never meant to exclude the community it ought to have been serving.

Exclusionary politics are weird and fascinating. We’ve dealt with skepticism from the very beginning—the same kind of folks who don’t understand why “feminism” can’t just be called “equalism”, the kind of folks who feel like kicking cis-men out of the clubhouse is a reactionary move that makes us “just as bad”.

It’s true that in other contexts, exclusion is damaging and oppressive. After all, it’s social exclusion that gave rise to the need for feminism in the first place, and in turn gave rise to a need for black feminism, for trans activism, for #NotYourAsianSidekick and so on, and so forth. People are excluded. Movements arise to address and combat that exclusion.

But what sets Quaint apart here, I think—what sets apart magazines like Room, Calyx, Roar, and so on—is that we’re subverting the traditional model of exclusion. For traditionally marginalized groups to wrest back the power to exclude from the hands of the oppressor is both crucial and necessary. It’s not just knee-jerk, and it’s not about “an eye for an eye”. To earmark a territory and say “No. This is a safe space. This is sacred ground. In this one small place, you are not welcome” is an act of intellectual violence that does damage to unequal power dynamics—politically, socially, and emotionally. This is why people get angry. It is why people fear it. Because those who call the shots aren’t accustomed to being shut out and rejected. They aren’t accustomed to being told ‘no’.

It makes them feel marginalized. It makes them feel attacked.

In short, it makes them feel like us.

This is why it’s sometimes necessary to exclude. Because there’s no lesson more worthy of learning than how to empathize with those you hold power over. You might, childishly, call it “giving them a taste of their own medicine”. But that’s a simplification. Really, it’s much larger than that.

So we’ve taken the plunge. Our new, improved mission statement makes it crystal clear who it is that we’re excluding. I like to think we’re polite about it. I like to think we won’t make mistakes in the future, that we won’t fuck up. But of course, we will. We’re still learning, still figuring out who it is we want to be, as writers, and editors, and as a magazine. I, for one, am still figuring out who I want to be as a person.

Issue 3 features work from a diverse group of people who are all over the gender map. What they have in common is their fearlessness, their commitment to tackling the weird and unusual and challenging in their work. What they have in common is their history of social exclusion—none of these writers are from the group that tends to dominate in the world of writing and publishing. What they have in common is the fact that they’re outsiders—they’re boundary-pushers, subversives, individuals who transgress societal norms.

We hope you enjoy our third issue. It’s been an absolute blast to put together, and as always an honor to work with so many amazingly talented people.

And hey, please—if you think we’re fucking up, if you want to chat with us about gender, exclusion, activism, feminism, or anything else that pops into that freaky- beautiful, glorious little head of yours, hit us up. We’re all over the social medias. And we want your thoughts. We want to learn from you. We want to grow with you.

All my love, and an infinite amount of respect and admiration,

Kia Groom
@whodreamedit — tweet me your thoughts

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