When a woman has something to say and says it with strength


Recently, I received several rejections for various pieces of my writing, each with a common critique: my voice is ‘too’ strong, opinionated, direct. Below, I have bolded and highlighted the mix of adjectives used to describe it. Being ‘too’ much of something is a critique for which I am commonly accused, like most women who tend to take up more space than is usually allotted to them in society. As a social experiment, I am tempted to resubmit this writing under a male pseudonym and see if I would receive similar commentary. Naturally, I do not wish for my voice to be weakened or muted, so this is ultimately a veiled compliment for me, but it does not mean the rejection stings less or deters me from questioning still what it is that makes people so uncomfortable with a woman who has something to say and says it with strength.


Sent: September 23, 2017 5:26 PM
Subject: Submission—Negotiating the Change in Climate Change
To: Gusman, Johanna <johanna.gusman@mansfield.ox.ac.uk>

Dear Ms Gusman,

Thank you very much for your submission. We are generally interested in the topic of your contribution. We would, however, like to ask you to make some minor changes.

Your text shows a very strong opinion, which we value. For the sake of encouraging our readers to engage in a debate concerning this matter, though, we would prefer slightly more neutral language at times. Of course, we do not want to compromise your point of view but we are convinced that slightly softer phrasing would help attract and engage readers, who may have opposing opinions, without watering-down the substance of your post.

Please let us know if you have any more questions.

Kind regards,

Sent: October 8, 2017 6:41 PM
Subject: Poetry Submission
To: Johanna Gusman <gusmanjl@gmail.com>

Dear Johanna,

Thank you for submitting to ——! Unfortunately, we have decided not to publish ‘——’ this time around. While we enjoyed the clever concept of using a series of prepositions as a springboard for the piece, we felt that an increased degree of subtlety would have benefited the overall feel of the piece, as in its current form it feels a bit too direct. The overall concept of the piece is definitely something we found interesting, and we enjoyed the double entendre of ‘around your waste’. We hope this does not dissuade you from submitting more work in the future.

Best wishes,


Sent: September 29, 2017 3:16 PM
Subject: Submission Features—Negotiating the Change in Climate Change
To: Gusman, Johanna <johanna.gusman@mansfield.ox.ac.uk>

Thank you for your interest in the —— editorial page. Unfortunately, we will be unable to use this piece as it reads too strong for our audience. We wish you all luck placing it elsewhere.


The Editorial Features Staff​​

*The photo appropriately comes from the back of a special edition version of Virginia Woolf’s ‘A Room of One’s Own’. I would like to end on this quote for added effect:

Literature is strewn with the wreckage of those who have minded beyond reason the opinion of others.

One Comment Add yours

  1. gusmanjl says:

    If you are interested in reading one of the pieces criticized for being ‘too strong’, ‘too direct’ and ‘too opinioned’, you can read it here: http://ohrh.law.ox.ac.uk/negotiating-for-change-in-climate-change/

    Luckily, Oxford’s Human Rights Hub was very happy to publish a strong piece, with a strong voice!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s