Feminist Journal Editing: Does this Job Include Benefits?

Version of Record: McLaughlin, Lisa (2014). Feminist Journal Editing: Does This Job Include Benefits? Ada: A Journal of Gender, New Media, and Technology, No.4. doi:10.7264/N3N58JP6

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1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 Lisa McLaughlin
Associate Professor of Media & Culture; and Program Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
Miami University

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3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 1 In the academic world, the issue of scholarly publication in journals always is a timely one for discussion. In my case, this is an especially opportune moment to reflect on journal editing and publishing. After 16 years as founding editor, and co-editor (with Cynthia Carter) of the international, peer-reviewed journal Feminist Media Studies (FMS), I stepped down from the position on December 31, 2014, less than two months ago. Although the first issue of FMS did not appear until 2001, I began my work as editor in 1998. This is not an unusual situation because creating a new journal is difficult; in our case, the proposal was sent to thirty-some reviewers, and, once we were able to call for our first submissions, it took considerable effort to position the journal so that well-qualified authors would consider submitting their work to a largely unknown journal.

4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 2 We did have access to professional marketing personnel, however, because the idea for Feminist Media Studies originated with Rebecca Barden, senior editor for Routledge at the time. The publishing behemoth Taylor & Francis Ltd bought Routledge within a couple of months of our deciding to move ahead with the journal in 1998. Good news? We benefitted in some respects from working with professionals who could market the journal by creating attractive flyers and the like; yet, a time of transition in which one publisher is being acquired by another publisher is not an ideal time to launch a new journal. The various delays set a pattern for the first years of the journal: downsizing and managing editors, production editors, and marketing staff being replaced by new managing editors, production editors, and marketing staff. Despite having come to an agreement about launching FMS in 1998, contracts weren’t signed until 1999 because of the buy-out of Routledge by Taylor & Francis. The first issue of FMS was published in 2001, with a launch party held at an International Communication Association conference, and, as I recall, except for the support of our editorial board and ‘Commentary and Criticism’ editors, we were very much on our own prior to working with T&F in order to plan this coming-out party. I wouldn’t hesitate to note that FMS’s early success was due to efforts of the editors and the editorial board as opposed to the publisher. And, it was hard work. Still, I should add that what didn’t change was that, almost without exception, the people with whom we have worked closely at Routledge/Taylor and Francis Ltd have been supportive and professional, most trying to get by in the same neoliberal, bottom line environment as were we.

5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 4 At the time that I left my position as co-editor of FMS, Taylor and Francis Ltd had been bought in 2004 by Informa plc, a multi-national conglomerate that specializes in publishing and conferences in areas that include maritime and transport, yacht shows, finance, real estate, health insurance, telecoms, and law. The journal is increasing in frequency from three to six issues per year, and the editorial stipend has increased from embarrassingly small to somewhat less than the editors deserve. Taylor and Francis Ltd may put FMS forward for Thomson Reuters Institute for Scientific Information (ISI) consideration, which would put the journal ‘on the (gender- and otherwise-biased, conventional) map’ for the determination of impact factor.

6 Leave a comment on paragraph 6 2 So, what have been the benefits of creating and editing FMS? I already have suggested that money is not an incentive. I have been reminded several times, mostly by academic administrators, that I should not have taken on the job of editing FMS in the first place, a few years after completion of my doctoral degree. They are wrong, and I am no martyr; I admit naiveté on a number of fronts, but I cannot capitulate to this argument. I am well aware that the conventional academic interpretation is that I have spent much of the past 16 years improving the quality of the work of others—in addition to ‘weeding out’ the bad—instead of attending to my own scholarship. Still, I am convinced that FMS is—and will remain—my primary contribution to the field of feminist media studies, because it is a contribution to the field of feminist media studies.

7 Leave a comment on paragraph 7 0 I want to deviate here from my own story, all of which is background to my playing devil’s advocate in respect to the more presumptuous writings of advocates of open access journal publishing, with the caveat that I support open access publishing when it, so to speak, ‘walks the talk’. Certainly, when Taylor and Francis Ltd ‘support’ open access by offering ‘Green’ Open Access, pre-publisher-formatted with an 18 month embargo period as well as a ‘Gold’ Open Access for a fee of $2,950 so that one pays to have one’s own work in open access status from the time of publisher-formatted publication, this is a co-optation of the principles of ‘open access’, tying the latter to a pay-to-publish model. But, some critically oriented publications have associated ‘feminist publishing’ with ‘open access publishing’, wherein these appear to coincide as forms of democratic publishing, as in a well-know article by Craig, Turcotte, and Coombe (2011). These authors argue that feminism, like open access publication, is relational, challenging the liberal, masculinist conception of autonomous individuals as independent bearers of rights against others and the state. Instead, they suggest, masculinist self-interest (as embedded in copyright law) should be overturned in favor of ‘encapsulat[ing] collective choices about the values that members of a society hold dear’ (p. 11):

8 Leave a comment on paragraph 8 0 Accessibility and communicative exchange are necessary elements of knowledge, creativity and existence in democratic environments. This conception dislodges the dominant, modern, neo-liberal conception of intellectual property rights in which relations of communication are effectively conceptualized as relations of marketplace exchange. It indexes a commitment to a lively public sphere of common deliberation, open dialogue, and the egalitarian quest for greater mutual understanding and social progress dependent upon the combined energies of participants mutually committed to improving the commonweal. Open access and relational feminism, then, serve to dislodge the individuated and economic rationale behind dominant intellectual property regimes and offer ways to reconceptualize how the author and creative works are situated within our social, economic and political economies. (p. 31)

9 Leave a comment on paragraph 9 0 While this argument is compelling and, in many respects, consistent with my suggestion that the benefits and pleasures of feminist editing was because it was for ‘the field’, the Craig et al. article provides us with quite an idealized notion of both feminism and open source publication and treats these as though they operated at the same conceptual level and with a fair degree of homogeneity. We need to keep in mind other considerations:

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11 Leave a comment on paragraph 11 0 1. As suggested by Adina Levin, Craig et al. fail to critique the boundary-creation that is part of the process of collaborative cultural communities. The academic hierarchy offers no progressive alternative to the ‘way things are’. At the end of her five-year term as editor of Signs, Ruth-Ellen Boetcher Joeres, summarized her (1990-1995) experience with the journal as one in which feminist scholarship is undermined by the tendency of the academy to tame grassroots ideas and legitimize accepted ways of thinking; whatever is insurgent won’t remain as such for a very long period of time. Universities and their progressive journals, including those which are feminist, have attempted to challenge the arbitrary relationship between themselves and the rest of the world; now, however, universities cannot hide their deference to impact factor machines such as Thomson-Reuters ISI, and there is no compelling reason for them to do so. We are corporatized and entrenched within the university, after all.

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13 Leave a comment on paragraph 13 0 2. Bias against fields/disciplines tends to prevail when it comes to issues of impact factor. A 2013 National Communication Association (NCA) report suggests that there is a bias in impact factor data because media and communication studies journals are not taken into consideration to the degree that is warranted. Although Linda Putnam has been incredibly dedicated to proving the prominence of communications journals through the Council on Communication Associations, there is a clear bias against the field—or, rather, against persons affiliated with media and communication studies—as opposed to scholars from ‘acceptable’ fields who take cultural/critical approaches to media scholarship (association journals exempted, in general, from this exile). A recent interview with Dr. Eva Erman, editor of Ethics and Global Politics, seems to provide evidence that an open access journal can be successful in attracting prominent authors and, in addition, be accepted by Thomson-Reuters as a worthy journal with an impact factor of 0.808 (in more recent reports, the impact factor is 0.391) under current impact factor considerations. Yet, a quick scan of the journal’s issues since its inception in 2007 reveal that less than 10 percent of its articles have been written by women/feminist authors, despite the feminist inclinations of its editor.

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15 Leave a comment on paragraph 15 0 3. Whether we are discussing feminist editorship, authorship, publishers, modes of production, etc., the literature suggests that there is a masculinist bias against feminist authors, except in situations where we have a feminist publication, on a feminist topic, and with feminist editors; this is the primary recipe for women/feminists to be represented (Meredith 2013: Hart and Metcalfe 2010). Women’s Studies Quarterly and Feminist Studies, the first two academic feminist publications, both originating in 1972, are still alive and kicking. Yet, the masculinism of journal publishing continues. We make small steps, but research on journal publications indicates that men tend to publish more than women and to get more credit for their publications, because of reasons that range from women’s ‘double shift’, to the tendency for men to be listed as first authors, for men to be cited by men, to be more oriented to quantity over quality, to produce more quantitative research as opposed to women’s tendency toward qualitative research, and for most colleges, universities, and scholarly associations—often despite their formal policies—to privilege quantitative studies.

16 Leave a comment on paragraph 16 0 As numerous commentators have addressed, publishing in a feminist journal comes with risks because there always is the chance that it will be viewed as lacking in prestige, importance, and ‘less than’ publications by other scholars. For women of color, this problem likely is exacerbated.

17 Leave a comment on paragraph 17 2 Within the terms of an either/or debate pitting traditional “locked-down” journals against those which are of the open access, online type, FMS, as one might surmise, is part of a publishing regime which actively works against the democratic sharing of ideas. As I support open access journal publishing, it is not my purpose to defend FMS within the terms of this debate but rather to address the too-simple equation of “open access publishing” with ‘democracy’ and ‘locked-down journals’ with ‘silencing’. The stark language of this debate obscures a number of important considerations that associate ‘open access’ and ‘locked-down’ publishing. Neither of these forms of publishing are able to overcome basic circumstances in which ‘access’ requires literacy, English is nearly the official language of publishing, and ‘online access’ is meaningless to most persons in ‘lesser developed’ countries. Additionally, it is necessary to understand the complex mechanisms that distinguish journals from one another, to consider, for example, questions including whether the journal is deemed elite merely because it is aligned with a scholarly association, what is the price to be paid for maintaining independence from associations and not being considered important enough to be cited in elite indexes such as ISI (thus dissuading authors from publishing in the journal), and what are the challenges of publishing out-of-the-mainstream content—for example, feminist and queer theory—regardless of whether the publication mode is open access or more traditional in operation.

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The Benefits of the Job of Feminist Editor

19 Leave a comment on paragraph 19 1 I hope that I’ve made a reasonable case for the ups-and-downs of feminist editing in a manner that does not seem to be promoting self-sacrifice. If feminist editing is associated with the notion of ‘the common good’, we might move away from individualistic, competitive approaches to publishing, but, under the current system, this is an unlikely scenario (Andre and Velasquez 2013, np). Here are the main benefits that I’ve been fortunate to experience as an editor of FMS: 1) I have learned to work in a most productive manner with others (thank you, Cindy and Radha!) after years of working alone; 2) I have been in contact with people who have had an impact on my scholarship, past and future; and 3) and related to this, and importantly, I’ve been in contact with and/or met feminists with whom I otherwise would have no relationship. Finally, 4) with the exception of our first issue and anniversary issue, we’ve maintained our integrity by not treating anyone as though she or he were more important than another prospective author. I should add that, with both issues, FMS has attempted to represent authors at various stages of their academic careers, as well as activists with no university connections.

20 Leave a comment on paragraph 20 1 I am sure that the open access dialogues will continue, but I do think that ‘open access’ has announced its success too early. I want to be here when ‘open access’ reaches its promise.

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22 Leave a comment on paragraph 22 0 References

23 Leave a comment on paragraph 23 0 Andre, Claire and Velasquez, Manuel. 2013. The Common Good vs. Individualism. The Markkatule Center for Applied Ethics. Vol. 5, no. 2, np https://www.scu.edu/ethics/publications/iie/v5n1/common.html accessed January 26, 2014.

24 Leave a comment on paragraph 24 0 Boetcher Joeres, Ruth-Ellen. 1997. The Paradox of a Feminist Academic Journal. The Yale University Journal of Criticism, Vol. 10, No. 2: pp. 439-443.

25 Leave a comment on paragraph 25 0 Craig, Carys J., Turcotte, Joseph F, Coombe, Rosemary J. What’s Feminist About Open Access?  A Relational Approach to Copyright in the Academy. Feminist@Law, Vol. 1, no. 1: 1-35.

26 Leave a comment on paragraph 26 0 Hart, Jenny, and Metcalfe, Amy. 2010. Whose Web of Knowledge is it Anyway? Citing Feminist Research in the Field of Higher Education.  The Journal of Higher Education, Vol.  81, No. 2: 140—163.  Columbus, OH: The Ohio State University.

27 Leave a comment on paragraph 27 0 The Disorder of Things. 2013. What Does It Mean to Edit an Open Access Journal?. http://thedisorderofthings.com/2013/10/15/what-does-it-mean-to-become-an-open-access-journal/ accessed January 5, 2013.

28 Leave a comment on paragraph 28 0 Levin, Alina. 2011. A Feminist Argument for Open Access Publishing. BookBlog <http//: www.alevin.com/p= 2643> accessed December 15, 2013.

29 Leave a comment on paragraph 29 0 Meredith, Tami. 2013. A Journal of One’s Own. Journal of Social, Evolutionary, and Cultural Psychology, Vol. 7, No. 4: 354-360.

30 Leave a comment on paragraph 30 0 National Communication Association. 2013. Impact Factors, Journal Quality, and Communication Journals: A Report for the Council of Communication Associations. Washington, D. C.: National Communication Association.

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