I've been brooding on something for a while, hesitant to write about it. But it's a quiet Sunday afternoon, so here goes.
Recently our magazine (more specifically, one of its most popular bloggers) was criticized for an anti-female bias. What sparked the criticism was the blogger's post listing the year's most "shocking" quotations about the future. What shocked some readers was the fact that all the individuals quoted were male. The inference from this omission was that the blogger--and hence the World Future Society--was telling women to shut up.
My response, from an editor's point of view, is that it's more appropriate to judge the content of a post than the gender of its author. I extend that courtesy to the author of the blog post, who was excited by the ideas of the people he quoted, all of whom happened to be male.
Yet, the truth is, most of our articles are written by men. (They're also mostly written by Americans. And by people over the age of 50.) Why? Women have the exact same opportunity to contribute to our publications and our conferences as men do. We demand three things:
1. The article must have something interesting, useful, and important to say about the future.
2. The article must be based on facts, even if it is largely an opinion piece. I have no interest in wasting readers' time with material submitted by the Dean of the Department of Making Stuff Up.
3. It must be written in English. Sadly, I have retained little of the Spanish and French I learned in college, and machine translation is yet unsatisfactory.
I'm going to speculate a little here. I think the differences in the way men and women think and communicate parallel our reproductive roles.
Men: Have a lot of ideas, send all of them out into the world, hope as many as possible take seed and grow to maturity, if not immortality.
Women: The gestation of the idea to its birth requires investment of time and emotion. Nurturing a brainchild to maturity needs a supportive environment.
This analogy is certainly oversimplified, but it might explain why fewer women actually submit articles to us. Maybe there is a greater need for reassurance that the outcome of a tenderly gestated idea will ultimately be accepted. Maybe the expectation is that we will provide more collaboration in the development process--an expectation that we don't always have time to meet.
I believe that our magazine's content is, if not "gender neutral," then at least equally of interest and importance to men and women. I find it interesting, anyway. (Pardon my anecdotal evidence.)
Take Lester Brown's article in the current issue, for example: "Food, Fuel, and the Global Land Grab," describing the trend of wealthier nations investing in agricultural production in poorer nations as a way to ensure future food supplies for their own populations.
The article, which is an excerpt from Brown's latest book, Full Planet, Empty Plates: The New Geopolitics of Food Scarcity (W. W. Norton & Company, 2012), certainly met our criteria of being future-oriented, interesting, and important. The gender of the author was immaterial to me as the editor who selected it to present to our readers.
And yet, I certainly recognize that the story Brown told could have been told differently, were it told by a female. And differently, again, if told by a non-American. My question then becomes, would these be stories that our readers would read?
Or maybe a better question is, what stories would our future readers read?
As we continue brooding on these questions, our doors remain as open as they can possibly be:
- Check out the Writers Guidelines for THE FUTURIST here.
- Editorial guidelines for World Future Review are here.
- WorldFuture 2013 Poster Session guidelines (final submission deadline March 1) here.
- WorldFuture 2013 video contest guidelines (deadline March 18) here.
Please let us hear your voice.
Cynthia G. Wagner is editor of THE FUTURIST.
Essays and comments posted in World Future Society and THE FUTURIST magazine blog portion of this site are the intellectual property of the authors, who retain full responsibility for and rights to their content. For permission to publish, distribute copies, use excerpts, etc., please contact the author. The opinions expressed are those of the author. The World Future Society takes no stand on what the future will or should be like.
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This is my last posting for the next few days. I will be taking my office apart so that we can move to our new apartment downtown next Tuesday. I will be unplugged and disconnected except by tablet. Expect me to be back in the saddle before the end of next week probably in time to provide you with some more headlines. In the interim these are the stories I share with you this week:
Today, literally thousands of alternative transportation vehicles are coming out of the woodwork and they nearly all have the same problem – no place to drive them. Most are banned from biking and hiking trails, and they are neither licensed, nor licensable, for use on the streets. I’d like to discuss some new possible solutions and why Colorado is poised to take the lead in the alternative transportation marketplace.
In a recent conference promoting not only their latest gizmos but their company's animating vision as well, Google executives declared they were working toward a future in which technology "disappears," "fades into the background," becomes more "intuitive and anticipatory." Commenting on this apparently "bizarre mission for a tech company," Bianca Bosker warns that their genial and enthusiastic promotional language masks Google's aspiration to omnipresence via invisibility, an effort to render us dependent and uncritical of their prevalence through its marketing as easy, intuitive, companionable.
Occasionally during meetings one of my staff – an avid birder – will elbow me and I’ll look up and glimpse a bald eagle. Each time, I am in awe. I live in Washington State, which is home to a plethora of eagles, where pods of Orca ply the waters near the San Juan Islands, and where roads are sometimes blocked by herds of elk.
In this month's Report on Business Magazine, a supplement that comes with The Globe and Mail, one of Canada's national newspapers, Stanford University's Mark Jacobson provides a best case scenario
According to The Hollywood Reporter, celebrity tech CEO Peter Thiel is upset that movies like The Matrix and Avatar make technological innovation seem "destructive and dysfunctional."
A team of researchers are asking the public to help them locate and count all the sources of CO2 coming from power plants on the planet.
Initial results from a selective breeding program at the National Institute of Agricultural Botany based in Cambridge in the UK, indicate the successful creation of a new super wheat.