Excellent final line and overall thesis. It goes this way across industries, even in software development — a field in which objectivity is prized, of course. You know that. However, snobbery coupled with classist favoritism earns a special place in everything that is wrong with the humanities to me.
See: the humanties tout themselves as being inclusive — about humans and humanity. The aim is huge! To encompass and express human existence, and — at times — to envision non-human experience. It is to be empathetic and egoless in a way which allows adherents to bring people to a common understanding of various types of experience.
Yet, the same kinds of voices get published, on the same subjects, with the same backgrounds, mostly.
When I was a really, truly awful poet in college, I tried to get published repeatedly, and faced discouraging rejections. I knew it was related to the type of dynamic you described. Who was getting published in the college journals? Editors of other college journals! Or other people who seemed to represent a class and a form of access I could not participate in. And I was a white male cishet dude.
Later, when my poetry evolved, I started to get even better rejection letters, and even some acceptances, but it just was too much work to be worth it. Even the exclusive journals I managed to get published in were crap, really, and the really good journals seemed to have limited space for voices, even privileged voices like mine, outside the network of shared names and conferences.
A lot of what I’m discussing below is not meant to educate the educated, just to give my layperson perspective in a field in which you, Melissa, and many of your readers are experienced professionals.
I respect the argument that writers should be paid, though. In my utopia, as other jobs are automated, we’d route our resources into reimbursing our creative efforts. I actually believe it would make more room for more voices and improve our democracy / our culture / etc. to have more written word being published. It seems like people not being able to differentiate between an unedited piece and an edited piece contributes to the “fake news” argument, which discredits all journalism. However, we’re not going to get to a place where people want to buy journalism and/or literature, like with their hard earned cash, unless and until people feel like they have buy-in, until they are stakeholders in the narrative, until their voices can be shared. Climbing up the ladder which disappears beneath itself of cultural elitism is just making the process worse: the cocktail party acceptance of work needs to end now. We absolutely need people to know the difference between Medium and an established literary journal or an edited newspaper, but we also need our establishment to open its arms to more voices, more perspectives, more dialogue.
We need more readers.
The Katie Roiphe way, like the DNC/HRC way of 2016, doesn’t make the tent larger — it makes the tent smaller. And people start looking for other tents.
Good luck, and thank you.