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As an editor of CALYX Press, a 34 year-old feminist publisher of art and literature that has published the likes of Barbara Kingsolver and Jane Hirshfield, it’s necessary to sometimes explain to curious parties what it means to be a feminist publisher.

I know what it means to be a feminist.  To me, it means a freedom of choice.  It’s not about women or men necessarily; it’s about the freedom that we deserve as human beings to choose what kind of lives we make for ourselves.  To some, this means the choice to have children, marry a partner, and be a stay at home mom.  For others, it means traveling the world or owning a motorcycle.  For me, it means living in Oregon apart from my family and devoting my life to books and writing because that’s what I love—I’m grateful that I had the ability to make that decision for myself.

So how does that freedom translate into publishing? Well, for one, the women of CALYX have always had freedom of editorial choice.  All of our editorial decisions are made collectively—that means that every submission that comes into the office is read by at least two women.  Twenty-five percent of all submissions are then discussed by 6 women and voted on—we sometimes hold stories and poems to read again later.  That means that we practice equality and fairness in our decision-making.

Freedom of choice is also big around the office in how we run our non-profit.  We work collectively to get jobs done, from our Director down to our wonderful student interns—everyone is encouraged to share their ideas about how to get the word out about different projects.   You should have seen us Wednesday crowded into the backroom, every staff member sticking stamps onto envelopes because that’s what we needed to get done and we all wanted to help.

We also choose to publish exceptional work by women that is representative of that freedom to be ourselves.  Some of the poetry and prose that goes into the journal has nothing to do with women or personal identity.  One story going into the new Summer Journal Vol. 26:2, for example, has a homeless man as the main protagonist (you’ll be excited when Lego Bionic Moses comes into the story).  On the other hand, some poems in Vol. 26:2 deeply personal and intimately explain experiences from women’s perspectives: what it’s like to give birth, look for a job as a woman, learn to Kayak for the first time.  The editors of CALYX choose work that we feel is well-written, interesting to read, and represents some important part of the diverse and dynamic experience of women.  There’s no one perspective that embodies everything that it means to be a woman (or a feminist, for that matter), so representing as many different viewpoints as we can is a good place to start.

What do you think about this? How does a business, a person, or a piece of writing be “feminist”?

-Rebecca Olson, Associate Editor