Can we divorce ourselves from nepotism?


Photograph by régine debatty

From VIDA:

I hover my mouse over the “send” button before finally making the motion and clicking. It’s done. I have told these widely published writers their submissions will not be accepted for this particular publication. So sorry, and thank you very much for submitting.

I’m nervous, but there is no turning back now. I wrote my emails respectfully, but one of the writers writes back something that shows his dissatisfaction with my selection, questioning my ability to know what’s best for my own publication. I wonder if I have not only failed at aligning the collection with the right people, but if I’ve actually done damage on behalf of the collection, as this person is now considerably upset with me.

I wonder why I am even wondering about all of this. This is creative work, not Wall Street. It’s objective, and that’s exactly why dealing with it socially can be so difficult.

And so we are constantly asking ourselves, which do we choose? Integrity or opportunity? Because when it really comes down to it, opportunity for the underdog and the underdog themselves, is what fuels nepotism.

Nepotism, in any creative field, where value isn’t measurable by quantity, but rather by the feeling work gives you, goes beyond a person in power simply hiring or selecting people they know. It involves aligning yourself with people simply because you know of them and their status can assist in elevating you all. It involves an emperor’s­ new­clothes kind of fawning of selected people’s work, based on the fact that they completed their MFA somewhere prestigious, or because they’ve been published already, and let’s face it, that’s what a lot of us are trying to do here. It involves a legitimate fear of saying no to people just because they’re more highly recognized and because everyone’s feelings get hurt so easily since work is personal. It’s the idea that you’re opening doors instead of closing them. It involves those with fewer connections including more connected people in their projects simply for exposure. It results in us seeing the same work over and over again, and nobody can tell if it’s because the work selected is the best work, or if it’s because it’s simply what we know to be good and nobody feels like sifting through every single submission or defying it.

“Report from the Field: Struggling with Creative Nepotism”, Dallas Athent, VIDA