White Women, White Supremacy, and Literary Appropriation Part 2: Opportunity
White Liberal Hypocrisy, Proactive Accession of White Privilege/Supremacy, and Nell Zink
The first part of this essay explored the racial advantage that white women have in the field of publishing and writing and the way in which they dominate executive positions in this arena. Writers of color such as Marlon James understand that he must ‘pander to white women’ in order to succeed. This illustrates not only the significant privilege that white women have but the fact that, as a group, they behave just like the white men they criticize on a regular basis. Through a complex of self-deception typical of white liberal supremacy, white (liberal) female writers embrace their privilege as if it is intrinsic success, denying their extrinsic privilege. This denial of privilege is simultaneously a denial of the disadvantage to which POC’s are subjected, because it implies that POC subordination doesn’t exist.
To summarize, ongoing studies on white privilege/homogeneity in publishing — and the degree to which a lack of diversity persists — show that, at executive levels, publishing companies are comprised of 40% white males and 59% white females.
Nell Zink is another white female writer who accesses white privilege (and thus, supremacy) and then denies she is doing it, instead attributing to herself internal success for what is clearly external privileging. She does this on multiple levels: she participates in cultural appropriation as is evident in her poorly-written book Mislaid, in which her characters are treated with flippant and superficial disregard. But unlike Shriver, who admits she has conservative and libertarian leanings, Zink classifies herself as liberal in typical self-deceptive fashion. At least Shriver is honest with herself (in this regard).
Like many white liberals, Zink frames herself as an anti-racist despite the fact that she admits to vigorous participation in cronyism overtly in interviews: decades into her career, with no fame or recognition, she begged a famous white male writer to launch her career. Like many white liberals, she fails to make the connection between her enthusiastic participation in white supremacist cronyism and herself despite the fact that she admits it. As if that isn’t enough, she projects her own behavior onto the literary establishment with the sort of self-righteous self-deception which is, again, typical of white liberals.
White Liberal Female Cronyism: The Importance of Complete Self-Deception
A review of Zink’s behavior — based on her own words in interviews — proves her to be a prototypical white liberal female. The main components are:
- Participation in white supremacy;
2. Denial of participation; and
3. Strenuous efforts at projection (optional), claiming disgust with others who exhibit this behavior (cronyism).
All three can be classified under the general rubric of deliberate self-deception. White liberals are particularly fond of this last tack, in which they deny their own white advantage in the interest of a superficial indignation about the disadvantages to POC as a result of ALL OTHER WHITE PEOPLE, BUT NOT THEM. Conveniently, they excuse themselves from the privileged category of ‘whiteness’ even though they are white.
Prior to the deep praise Zink garnered from a panel of mostly white critics, she aggressively pursued the writer Jonathan Franzen, who won a Pulitzer for his novel The Corrections which catapulted him to fame and subsequent wealth. Like most multi-millionaires whose books have been published, Franzen is white. Zink wrote a short book in response to his writing on birds, and he wrote back.
“’Next thing I knew,’ [Franzen] says, ‘I was getting, like five emails a day’” from Zink, whose response “was, like, either you’re going to support me in practical ways, or you’re going to shut the fuck up about my talent.”
After begging for Franzen to do for her career what her writing couldn’t, she received his support. Then, her decades-long career suddenly improved significantly.
Zink classified her book Mislaid as ‘agent bait.’ Just as her book was written in slapdash manner in order to earn money at the expense of portraying POC’s with depth and genuine empathy, Zink’s constant emphasis on badgering Franzen — which she has the added white female privilege of being able to admit with impunity — led to her success. This is true in general and not just with regard to Mislaid. In a more recent interview, the writer states that Zink brought up Franzen’s name “21 times.” (sic) The interviewer reveals that Franzen was contacted separately and replied that he had “been advising Nell to stop adding to the Google hit count for Zink/Franzen.” Yet, despite the fact that her claim to fame rests on the laurels of her aggressive — and persistent, continued — access to white privilege, she portrays herself as a rugged individualist who succeeded on her own.
In one interview, the writer states that Zink brought up Franzen’s name “21 times.” (sic) The interviewer reveals that Franzen was contacted separately and replied that he had “been advising Nell to stop adding to the Google hit count for Zink/Franzen.”
Talking to Nell Zink About Hefty Advances, Millennial Prudishness, and Her Pen Pal Jonathan Franzen
Nell Zink has an enviable problem. "I've been working hard to find ways to spend money," she told me a few months ago…
This article simultaneously reveals her narcissism, an inevitable result of extrinsic privileging that is transmogrified into personal success. “’I’ve been working hard to find ways to spend money,’” she tells the interviewer, who tells the reader, “Most writers are loath to discuss their salaries; Zink clearly isn’t among them” when she rapidly reveals her six-figure advance to him. Further, Zink “tosses darts in conversation,” stating that “‘a friends’ novel has weaknesses you could drive a truck through.’” (sic) When offered a position as an assistant professor, she states, “‘You’ve got to be kidding me. I’m a novelist for a living. Now I’m supposed to do this job reading scribblings of 19-year-olds and telling them how wonderful they are?’” Apparently, what she demands Franzen do with her scribblings is exactly the sort of behavior she shuns doing for others. The implication is that hers are not ‘scribblings’ because she is authentically successful. Reality is expendable.
The Elaboration of Self-Deception Through Denial of Extrinsic Privilege
These sorts of statements convey an overt narcissism typical of any privileged person who fails to take accountability for their profound extrinsic advantage and instead credits themselves despite aggressive opportunism in the form of white privilege. Zink’s definition of ‘friend’ is peculiar: imagine being the alleged ‘friend’ of Zink’s who has lent the novel to read and then finding your novel disparaged this way in a publicly-published interview by a ‘friend.’ Privilege fosters arrogance. The interviewer’s skill at conveying her arrogance and ignorance is much closer to satire than her writing, and she might want to take notes.
Despite her aggressive participation in cronyism, Zink reveals the degree of her self-deception by perceiving herself as outside of this pattern of high-grade privileging: typical white liberal supremacist self-gaslighting. Her hypocrisy is also evident in The New Yorker interview above, in which the interviewer states Zink “regards the U.S. publishing industry as shallow, profit-driven, and parochial…As Zink saw it, the publishing industry operated on cronyism and commercial possibility, while she lived six thousand miles away, knew zero insiders, and wrote the kind of stories those insiders would flatly reject.”
Zink “regards the U.S. publishing industry as shallow, profit-driven, and parochial…As Zink saw it, the publishing industry operated on cronyism and commercial possibility, while she lived six thousand miles away, knew zero insiders, and wrote the kind of stories those insiders would flatly reject.”
Bricklayer, Bird-Watcher, Literary Sensation
The kookaburra in the Berlin Zoo is ten thousand miles from home, squat, top-heavy, large of beak, attractive of…
This pot-calling-the-kettle-black is, once again, pathognomonic of the sort of self-deception with which white liberal women participate on a routine basis so as to avoid being honest with themselves. It can be summarized by the word ‘hypocrisy.’ Zink admits she had a long-standing career which wasn’t going anywhere until she begged Franzen to use his fame to sell it. Zink criticizes others with self-righteous indignation for deploying the kind of cronyism she aggressively utilized to her advantage. Then, she lied to herself about the reason for her success so that she could perceive herself as successful, nice and anti-racist.
This glaring example of white liberal feminism has one redeeming quality: it is overtly — embarrassingly — shameless.
POC Lack of Opportunity is Linked to White Denial
This self-deception simultaneously operates to deny that it depletes opportunity for POC. Zink acts as if the discrimination doesn’t exist regardless of what she says about sympathy towards POC’s. This profound hypocrisy is directly related to opportunity . When white women like Zink utilize white privilege and cronyism to launch their careers, it is not only that superficial, poorly written books that are published, it is also that POC’s are sidelined with regard to opportunity. Given the significant extrinsic advantage that white women have in publishing — as well as their claims of oppression at the hands of men — it is their responsibility to acknowledge that white liberal female self-deception operates to damage opportunity for POC’s. Yet, most don’t.
Most, like Zink, replace extrinsic privilege with intrinsic success in their minds. They deceive themselves. In Zink’s case, her own admission of cronyism is never acknowledged with any depth: she skims over it as if Franzen’s hefty contribution to her career was an aside, as if he finally realized how wonderful she is and made the necessary effort to promote her. He publicly portrays her as an irritant, yet she converts this in her mind to his realization of her talent.
This distortion is the sort used by liberal white people as self-serving attribution to convert, in their minds, actual unjust enrichment/privileging with the more morally tolerable (but actually inaccurate) concept of ‘merit.’ Yet, this unjust enrichment can only lead to deniability of the reality for POC’s. When white women deny their privilege and replace it with a warped version of ‘merit,’ they not only lie to themselves, they take advantage of POC’s. By dint of the homogeneity of the entire publishing world, opportunities at both corporate leadership levels and for actual publication for POC’s are attenuated. Our current system privileges white women at the expense of POC’s of all genders. Zink’s lack of acknowledgement of her privilege is tantamount to active participation in white supremacy.
Zink embodies the attitudes of liberal white woman willing to exploit their racial advantage and then refuse admission of their advantage, instead pointing to their cronyism as evidence of success and then adopting an attitude of self-righteous indignation when anybody else utilize that same free ride, refusing to acknowledge their own active participation. Cronyism is still cronyism even if the two cronies can’t admit it to themselves or anybody else.
Unfortunately for POC’s, Zink’s fundamental narcissism also operates on a collective white liberal basis. It is as if most white people — and certainly most white literary critics — have decided to gaslight not just the entire POC population but also themselves. They criticize the very behavior that they display. This behavior is summarized by the word hypocrisy. Imagine, for example, a black person, a WOC, or for that matter any POC stating that they wrote a book as ‘agent bait’ or badgering a famous white author incessantly until he used his power to launch her career: it is nearly unimaginable. POC’s would immediately be accused of receiving unfair minority favoritism even IF we had access to rich white men, which is rare.
The ugliest part of this equation is that white liberal women deceive themselves, and that this deception continues to support a persistent and onerous attenuation of opportunity for POC’s.
White Liberals Scoff at MFA Programs Because They Don’t Need Them…White Privilege/Supremacy Has Much More Power
Like many white liberal ‘rebels’ who are just really ‘hip,’ Zink disparages MFA programs on a regular basis, framing herself as an independent that achieved on her own. However, she refuses to acknowledge that her status of being a white female in a profession in which white females dominate and are grossly over-privileged compensates for any number of higher level degrees in addition to any amount of GENUINE performance/value, and that this white privilege nearly obligates POC’s to obtain an education in order to compensate for being not white. Studies have shown that POC’s with graduate degrees, in particular black people, are less likely to be promoted than white people without a college degree. Zink fails to admit this: she need not either pay for a degree nor work her way through one because her whiteness qualifies as an adequate substitute for actual work.
Zink concludes one interview by commenting on her previous denigration of MFA writing programs, always contrasting them with her apparently independently attained publications. She presents herself as a successful writer who “never lived in Brooklyn or set foot in an MFA workshop [yet] had found her way into the literary Establishment. ‘Maybe the institutionalization of the M.F.A. would have saved me a lot of grief,’” she states. In fact, if she wanted to save herself grief, perhaps she should simply have contacted Franzen sooner.
She declines to mention that, with a direct line to Franzen and cronyism, an MFA isn’t required AND that this is her actual behavior: she has actively participated.
Zink can afford to criticize MFA programs because she has an advantage which is much more significant AND which requires much less actual performance or quality: exhibiting white female damsel-in-distress behavior so that a white man would save her. When he doesn’t, just use a combination of begging and threats.
Generally speaking, POC’s don’t get white men on white horses: POC’s have to write authentic books, pay for pricey degrees, and actually produce value before any consideration of their work is made. Even then, our chances are lower. This exists in part because white women refuse to admit that their chances are falsely elevated through privileging.
“Selling it is the easy part.” Nell Zink
(When White Cronyism does it for you, that is!)
Nell Zink: How to Become a Novelist in Ten Easy Steps
1. Examine your motives. Are you drawn to fiction writing because it can be performed cheaply at home? Are you an…
“Sell it. This is the easy part.” Nell Zink
White Woman Express THEIR Ease
Easy for whom, exactly? For a white woman in an industry dominated by white women who are busily promoting each other the same way white men have for centuries?
For white women who have access to white men and their already-established dominance and privilege which can be conveniently accessed if they don’t want to spend more than a few months writing a book?
For white women who utilize an aggressive cronyism to participate in white supremacy and then conveniently deny that this was the route to their ‘success’?
For white women who project their own immoral behaviors on ‘the literary establishment’ instead of admitting their access to unearned benefit and unjust enrichment?
Yes, for white women, selling it may certainly well be easy. Apparently, so is the denial as to the reason for that actual sale.
Like most white women, Zink doesn’t complete the thought. The truth would require she admit that her behavior is typical of exactly the cronies she criticizes and that it is both grossly and minutely hypocritical. It is ‘easy’ because she, like most white women, has access to the profound extrinsic advantage of being born white, and as a white woman, she must make sure that the white male rescues her from failure. Clearly, he has responded in kind despite his expressed frustration with her constant badgering.
Unfortunately, the inappropriate classification of cronyism as ‘success’ is damaging to POC’s who have authentic stories to tell — ones which express the genuine anguish of POC subordination — — who aren’t in it just as ‘agent bait’/for money and fame, and who don’t have access to the free ride of white supremacy, never mind the profound self-deception that must attend it in order to tolerate oneself.
White liberal supremacy and the denial it employs damages opportunity for people of color. No amount of self-deception or denial can alter that reality, no matter how much white women want to believe it. Liberal white women have complained for decades about the heavy foot of white patriarchal supremacy which has depleted/eliminated opportunity for them. Now that they are in the same position, their behavior is profoundly hypocritical and indicates that POC’s will not be afforded an equal chance — if any — in the publishing world.
It is time for POC’s to understand this sort of self-privileging and move on to areas in which we afforded some opportunity, or any at all.