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Friday, March 16, 2012

Sexist Behavior?

Sexist Behavior? I think so. What do you think?

Here is the chronology of events. In the newsletter Women of Mystery Gay Tolti Kinman reviewed the anthology Somewhere in Crime by Central Coast Mystery Writers, Edited by Sue McGinty and Margaret Searles. Well, she actually reviewed 4/5th of the anthology, describing it as “Fifteen historical mysteries by three men and a dozen women.” She did not mention any of the men by name and reviewed only stories by women.

The Review:

Somewhere in Crime. by Central Coast Mystery Writers, Edited by Sue McGinty and Margaret Searles

Fifteen historical mysteries by three men and a dozen women.

Victoria Heckman's two stories are "The Problem With Burlesque" and "Steamboat's Suit." In the former, Violet Strange, a new female P.I. in 1921 goes undercover in a theater in New York to find out who is causing 'incidents' that are affecting the business. (The character is named and based on one created by Anna Katherine Green in the 1900s.) Her employee comments that moving pictures are just a passing fad and won't affect burlesque.

The second story is set in 1952 Chicago from the POV of a fifteen-year-old girl who witnesses the disappearance of a bagman. She saw him dipping into the money he was collecting. Cement shoes!

Lori Hines' "The Yellow Rose" is set in 1932 where Camill and Barry find true love in their pagan beliefs. A supernatural experience.

Sue McGinty's story, "Uncertain Sanctuary," takes place in a lighthouse in California in 1939 near Hearst castle. The story is told through the eyes of sixteen-year-old Jewish refugee girl who suspects the keepers are Nazi spies. She is rescued in the nick of time by none other than Marion Davies.

Nan Mahon's "Perseverance" is in late 1860s in Georgia. A former Yankee officer is found dead, his past has caught up with him and a certain young lady has been revenged.

Gay Toltl Kinman's "Hidden Past" is set in 1882 Los Olivos, California, where two long-time residents are wary of a young man seeking to avenge his father's death which he witnessed as a young boy.

Molly Rae Doust's "Raiatea" is about a mermaid and a pirate. She promises him a better life if he signs a contract. Only one gets the better of the bargain. A nice twist ending.

Margaret Searles "Dago Red". The title refers primarily to the wine, but also to the nickname of a Second World War comrade. The buddies take different paths and some end up in a dead end.

K(Karen) M. Kavanagh's "Carpe Diem" is about two assassins who ply their trade during Queen Isabella's reign in Spain. Their 'cover' is a traveling acting troupe.

Susan Tuttle's "The Some When Murder" is set in the present and the past in Gorman, California, on the Grapevine route now snowed in. This time travel tale takes the P.I. back to 1886 where she finds a kidnapped victim.

Anne Schroeder's "Captain of the Rags" is from the POV of a homeless, troubled Viet Nam vet who sometimes thinks he is still there and still fighting. Superbly done. Scary stuff.

Eileen Dunbaugh's "Bal Masque" is in the 1850s when a rich, but wayward landowner, attempts to elope with the daughter of another landowner at a bal masque in Hudson Valley, New York.

All are beautifully written, with clever twists, and delightful to read.

Revenge Publishing 2011

My letter to Ms. Kinman:

May 11, 2012

Dear Gay Toltl Kinman,

When I read your review of Somewhere in Crime in Mysterious Women I was taken aback that your review covered only twelve of the fifteen writers. I don’t believe you lacked the space to review all the stories since you reviewed 4/5ths of the stories in your twenty-page newsletter. It appears to me that you excised my work and name as well as the names and work of other men because of our gender. I believe a reasonable description of that behavior is “sexist” and “dismissive.”

You were a contributor to the anthology. What if the situation was reversed? Would a review of only the three stories by men, which mentioned in passing there were an additional twelve stories written by women, have been a fair, complete review? Was your review fair and complete? The editors selected the fifteen stories from all the submissions they felt were the best. You chose to ignore their decision and to review only part of the book. Your excluding all the male writers, in my opinion, added nothing to the promotion of the women writers but was detriment to the male writers.

I believe there is an essential difference between promoting the work of women writers, which I personally support, and discounting the work of men writers.

I intend to blog about this and mention it in on-line discussion groups. Before I do, I would like to offer you the opportunity to explain or comment. I would like to include your comments in what I write. If you would please get back to me within one week that will help me present a more complete picture of your point of view.


Warren Bull

Her response:

hi warren

sorry if you were offended. mysterious women is a newsletter that only reviews women mystery writers.


gay toltl kinman

So, What do you think?


E. B. Davis said...

I think you're right. In the name of sexism, she's sexist. Two wrongs have never made a right. I'm glad SinC and the Guppies don't practice sexism. She could have promoted the anthology capitalizing on your Derringer nomination, which she ignored to the anthology and the other writers' detriment. Her lack of professionalism shows clearly in her letter.

Jim Jackson said...

Before I dip my toe in the quagmire of sexism, as a number's guy I do want to object to the characterization of the anthology as by three men and a dozen women.

Since two of the stories were written by one of the women it should more accurately characterized (if sex had to enter into the description at all) as "fifteen historical mysteries: three written by men and a dozen written by women."

As writers we should strive for accuracy--even when it comes to lowly numbers.

I am a white male over six feet tall and therefore have mostly had other people's prejudice work in my favor throughout my 60+ years.

What few instances of true discrimination I have been subjected to over the years pale in comparison to those inflicted by society on persons of color or on women throughout their lives.

Recognize, therefore, that my remarks are prejudiced by my own history.

One reaction of those oppressed by society has been to try affirm their worth by segregating themselves through independent activities and identities. I am not a sociologist, but this may well be a necessary healing step -- but in the end it doesn't do much for equality of any kind.

Separate, but equal may excel at the separate, but rarely qualifies as equal. What all writers need is to be judged by their words, not who they are.

Neither the oppressed nor the oppressor can be free until labels are removed--all labels.

That said, I have no objection to a publication that only reviews certain kinds of writers whether they be a particular sex, race, nationality or region of the US if that is the mission of that publication.

However, if one is going to carve out such a niche, then one should either be pure or flexible, not dogmatic, otherwise the result (as I believe is the case in this instant) is to add to discrimination, not heal it.

Mysterious Women could have taken two positive paths, both of which would have met their avowed goal of reviewing women mystery writers.

The purist approach would be to refuse to review Somewhere in Crime as it was not entirely written and edited by women.

An alternative approach would have been to celebrate the 11 women authors and their 12 stores and include on equal footing, as necessary baggage if you like, the three stories written by guys.

Furthermore, the review wasn't really a review; it was a listing of the story names, authors and the story's historical background. No critical analysis of the stories was included.

The women authors have been diminished by the blatant dismissal of the males. Each author earned their place(s) in the anthology without apology. With her background as a former board member of Sisters In Crime/Los Angeles, a lawyer and published author, I would have hoped for more understanding of the issues from Dr. Gay Toltl Kinman than she showed by her review in Mysterious Women and her response to Warren's letter.

~ Jim

Warren Bull said...

Thanks, EB,

I would not call her sexist. I don't know her or her general attitude and behavior. I would say this one decision she made was sexist .

Warren Bull said...

JIm, Thank you for your thoughtful comments. My reasoning is very similar to yours. I have no problem with her decision to review only work by women authors. My issue is her review in essence "re-wrote" an already published book for the purpose of excluding
a particular group — men. Not something you expect from member or Sisters in Crime.

Edith Maxwell said...

James makes a number of good points. I also think Kinman should have just not "reviewed' the anthology. Or, she could have selected the three stories she liked best and given them a real review. And if they were all written by women, so be it.

Sexist behavior doesn't help any of us.

Warren Bull said...

Thank you, Edith.

Polly Iyer said...

I agree with all of you. If you're going to review a book, review all of it. I have no problem with the newsletter if their objective is to give women a more prominent voice. Surely that has been lacking in many of the more prestigious book reviews in both magazines and newspapers. However, if she chose to review a book that included three stories by men, she should have given them equal space. What she did was demeaning to her as a woman and as a reviewer. It also diminished the importance of her newsletter.

Warren Bull said...

Thank you, Polly,

I hesitated to blog about this, fearing I would sound whiney. Many women writers have faced much more serious discrimination than I have. I thought my choices were to "shut up" and take or blog about it. Right now it looks like I made the right decision.

poppa10 said...

Warren, Those attitudes predate all "labeled" behavior. I was taught in grammar school by all women (nuns). They certainly treated boys differently and more harshly than they did the girls. Some attitudes inherent in both sexes are unconscious behavior. We men are trying to outgrow old Victorian behavior patterns and women can't stop being our mothers. How's that for a faux-Freudian analysis?

E. B. Davis said...

If Gay were a child, Warren, I'd agree with you. Children go through stages so we separate them from their behavior and say they are acting out this phase of their development. Gay is not a child and I don't think you should treat her as one. Nice of you to give the benefit of the doubt. But as adults, we must stand by our actions, and yes, be judged by them.

Warren Bull said...

Dear Poppa10,

Interesting. I think a step toward changing behavior is becoming aware of it.

Warren Bull said...

EB, It's my for psychologist self popping up. I know she is not a child and I hope I'm not treating her like one. Of course she is responsible for her behavior, and will be judged by it. But I don't know her so I am commenting only on the one instance of behavior I know about. I am trying to give her the benefit of the doubt.

Dan Persinger said...

I noticed via some quick research that there's a discussion panel about this book scheduled for the 23rd of March at the Morro Bay, CA library at 10AM. Two of the book's of the scheduled panelists are contributing authors Paul Fahey and Dr. Kinman. It would be interesting to learn whether Mr. Fahey asks Dr. Kinman why she chose to slight him and his two kinsmen in her write-up, instead treating them like bastards at a family reunion.

carl brookins said...

I think it was a small lapse in judgement. In her place I would have included the policy to only review women writers and then included the names of the three male writers. Anything (almost) to help promote women writers.

Warren Bull said...


I would like to be a fly on the wall at that discussion.

Polly Iyer said...

Warren, since Dan Persinger mentioned the library discussion, I'd send the link to this blog to both participants. The reactions to your post might be an interesting topic for them to discuss, if not at the library, then in some other forums in which they participate.

Warren Bull said...


I agree with the need to promote women writers. I do on this blog and other places. I don't think just naming the men and not reviewing them would be enough. It would be more than the editor did. How does it hurt women to also review men's work in the same anthology?

Thank you for your opinion.

Warren Bull said...

Polly, Please feel free to send the links. What a good idea.

Warren Bull said...

From editor Margaret Searles

Hi Warren,

Sorry you are unhappy about Gay Kinman's review. There were, of course, a
number of other stories she didn't mention. I think the idea was to promote
the book -- and leave it to readers to decide which stories they really
enjoyed. Yours was definitely included on its merits -- I thought the
writing was excellent. And you may quote me...


Sue McGinty said...

As the editor of "Somewhere in Crime," I've read with great interest all the comments on Kinman's review. I guess I have my feet planted firmly on both sides of this issue. It would have been swell if Gay had given a shout-out to our male contributors. On the other hand, knowning Gay as a sensitive and caring person, I think it was just an unfortunate slip.

Just for the record two out of three stories in the anthology are written by the men. Warren knows how much I love his story.

Sue McGinty said...

Anyone in the San Luis Obispo California area, please come to our presentation at the Morro Bay Library next Friday. It's going to be a spirited discussion as the book has been chosen for the SLO County Library's Book Club Selection. And there will be food.
Warren, I wish you could be there.

Gloria Alden said...

I agree it seems like sexism.
Whether or not she feels that way, it was totally wrong of her to ignore the men when she reviewed the book. I know it was for and about women writers, but the men in this case should have been mentioned, too, since they were in the book. I don't blame you for being miffed just as women writers have been over the years. I'm glad you are making the point of it here. All discrimination should be addressed whether it's sextual, racism,socioeconomic,religious or some other discrimination.

Warren Bull said...


I wish I could be there too. It's beautiful country. Actually three stories were written by men. One man uses his initials. I know you and Margaret chose stories by merit. Stories by men were placed first, second and last in the anthology which are usually prime locations within an anthology.

When you see Gay please invite her to read the various reactions to her decision. Did not mentioning men really help the women review? Is that what SIC stands for?


Warren Bull said...


Thanks for your support.

Morgan Mandel said...

I've never read or done a review of an anthology with so many stories, but here's my take. I wouldn't read it or take it into account, since it's too long and my attention span is short.

Since she mentions she reviews for a women's newsletter about women writers, I see nothing wrong about that, since we all should be able to read or review what we prefer. I'm not sure if that's stated somewhere upfront, but it should be.

The way she does her review is at the very least ineffective. She would have been better off picking a few of the stories only, or on different days, for better effect.

Anyway, any publicity is good publicity, even if it's indirect. If readers buy the book, they'll most likely want to read it all, so you'll still be ahead of the game in that respect.

Morgan Mandel

Steve Liskow said...

C'mon! When you review an anthology, you'll only hit the high spots. Nobody's going to discuss all 15, 20, or 25 stories, partly because of space and partly because it would be too repetitive. You're going to take a representative sample.

My problem with this review is that it mentions TOO MANY separate stories. I couldn't care less about the gender of the writers.

I have published in six anthologies, all containing 20 or more stories, and I'm not sure a review has ever mentioned me specifically. To call that sexist is silly. The checks all cleared, so that's what's important. It's a business, not a club.

Get over it and move on to something important, like continuing to grow as a writer.

If it really bothers you, maybe you will understand why Sisters in Crime was founded.

Linda Rodriguez said...

Warren, I can see both sides to this controversy. The newsletter is devoted to reviewing women's books to try to even out the playing field for women writers, who still are not reviewed in the same proportions as men are. I understand the need for such a journal.

That said, it seems the reviewer had two choices. Do not review this book because it also has male authors, or review the entire book.

This really isn't a review, however. It's basically a piece to promote the book with brief plot summaries. Just some sort of notice of publication. In that case, it was truly unfortunate that she ignored your story and your Derringer nomination, which would have helped to promote the whole book.

It was a sexist action to take, and such actions will not help the cause of women writers.

Warren Bull said...


It is strange review isn't it? I have no problem with promoting women. I do that in this blog. My suggestion for anyone ignoring the editors' choices and excluding only men and their work would be to give a complete description, i.e., promoting women writers at the expense of men writers.

Thanks for your comments. I appreciate and respect your opinion. We can agree to disagree,

Warren Bull said...


Have you ever been in a anthology where all the stories of writers of one gender were reviewed and the names and stories of the other gender were not?

I was the first person to become a lifetime professional member of Sisters in Crime, As far as I know they don't promote women crime writers a the expense of men.

Thanks for commenting.

Warren Bull said...

Thank you, Linda,

You expressed it better than I did.

Anita Page said...

Discrimination based on gender is sexist. And, yes, it happens to women all the time (Take a look at any year's edition of the Best Mystery Stories as an example), but that doesn't make it any prettier when the roles are reversed.

Just to clarify:, at which I blog, has no connection to the Women of Mystery newsletter that you mention

Warren Bull said...

Thank you, Anita for your comments and the clarification.

Pat Brown said...

I'd ask if the situation was reversed and the only ones reviewed were men, what would happen? There'd be no doubt there would be loud cries of sexism. Why is it okay to dismiss male writers?

Books or stories should be based on merit, not the sex of the author. This sort of thing does nothing to advance women.

Anonymous said...

No, it is not sexism. It's the nature of the transaction here.

Suppose this were a publication for people who love animal stories. Suppose further that the reviewer was presented with an anthology not explicitly devoted to animal stories, but which happened to contain a significant number of them. I would expect the reviewer to pick out and discuss only those stories that aligned with the editorial interest of the publication and its audience, and to be silent on the rest.

There's no reflection on the inherent quality of the other stories in such a case, merely an indication that they don't fit the publication's parameters.

The purpose of the review is not to promote the anthology, and the audience being served here is not the authors of the anthology's stories. The purpose is to serve the readers who have come to this particular publication because they are interested in its editorial profile.

Warren Bull said...

Hi, Warren--

I tried to leave a comment, but was unable to
(I am, after all, a bot), so I'll post my comments
to you personally here:

I agree that the review is not particularly well written. The capsule
comments read as though they were composed to fit in a space for 25 words or less
and don't provide much information about the time period or characters or
flavor that makes each story unique. To better serve the audience for the
anthology, the reviewer should have chosen the three or four strongest stories,
regardless of the gender of the author, and
described them more fully to pique interest.

I don't know if I'd call the reviewer's tactics sexist, but the excuse for
her action seemed feeble. At the same time, I'd caution that an author
should not take reviews--positive, negative or otherwise--too seriously. The fact
that a story was chosen for
inclusion in an anthology should be reward enough.

Feel free to re-post my comments under my
name, if you wish, or ignore them entirely,
as is your prerogative.

And congratulations for your Derringer


Jack Ewing

Warren Bull said...

I tried to leave a comment on the blog, but the robot filter would not let me in. (Sometimes I feel like a robot.) But I see other responses on DL, so here's mine.
I understand that a newsletter that reviews only women's writing would not review men's. But if a book chosen for review contained both male and female writers, the professional thing to do would be to include one or two gracious disclaimer sentences (Three stories written by men are also included in this book. The stories, by X, Y and Z, entitled _____,____, and_____ { be sure to include full names} were not read for review because this newsletter is restricted to female writers.

But I'd prefer that a mixed book not be selected in the first place if the rules about reviews are that stringent.

Margaret Koch
The Dr. Stark Mystery Series

Warren Bull said...

Thank you, PA Brown that very question was one the reviewer did not answer after I wrote to her.

Warren Bull said...

Dear Anonymous.

Thank you for your opinion. I don't think I've ever seen a review like your example. I'd be more convinced of a policy of selection as opposed to exclusion if the review did not include 4/5 ths of the total stories. But you offer a different idea and I appreciate your sharing it with us.

Warren Bull said...

Jack, Thank you for your comments. I was pleased to be selected by the editors. Thank you for reminding me. I want to thank them for including my story in a really first rate anthology.

I am honored to be a Derringer Award nominee.

Warren Bull said...

Margaret, That would be a respectful way to handle it.
I had not thought of that. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

I do think you are right and think it was good you alerted them to this.

Interestingly, even women's colleges have to allow (and the one I am familiar with does have) some male students and this, it sounds like, was like that. Men were in a mostly women's anthology and should not have been left out.

Separate but "equal" has been making a comeback in some unfortunate places IMHO. There is a famous writer (author of "Jubilee" I believe) who falsely and foolishly pretended all blacks wanted was "separate and equal." Uh, no. That was what the segregationists pretended they were giving.

Anonymous woman

Warren Bull said...

Thank you Anonymous Woman,

I was nervous about how this blog would be received.
I did not want to sound whiny or to downplay the very real difficulties woman face in getting reviews and respect in general in the publishing world. My choices, as I saw them were to sit silently and imply consent with the review or to object and face the consequences.

John Yeoman said...

Does a reviewer have to be clinically rigorous? Is sexism still such a hot button topic that it drives simple-minded folk into Pavlovian salivations?

In both cases, I hope not.

Hate reviews, howsoever unfair, often sell more books than accolades. (Witness the fuss over The Da Vinci Code, Satanic Verses, etc) People buy the books to see what the fuss is all about!

Sue McGinty said...

My goodness, Warren, you certainly stirred the pot--always a good thing. If anyone would like to read Warren's story, which is a little gem, the anthology in question "Somewhere in Crime," is available on Kindle for just $2.99.

Sue McGinty said...

Warren, I was not aware consciously of the placement of the stories in the anthology, but those two were my favorites, and I tried to balance a long story with a short one. I've learned so much by editing this anthology.

Christinekling said...

I Agee with Steve and Anonymous that this blog does seem to make sexism the issue when really it was just a poorly written "review." I don't think authors ever win when complaining about reviews. I don't think authors are "entitled" to be mentioned in a review, particularly of one published in a magazine that has a particular niche audience. Why would you insist on being included when the magazine's editorial policy says it is only going to cover a certain type of story, hence their readers may not be interested in your story? Should a fantasy magazine be required to include mystery stories in a review of an anthology?
I suggest you read this blog about male privilege.
You might come to a better understanding of your sense of entitlement.
Christine Kling