This morning, the 2012 VIDA count went live. For those that haven’t heard of this organization, VIDA counts the number of book reviews, reviewers, and articles in various nationally distributed magazines written by men and women in order to quantify the gender disparity in publishing. The count is now in its third year, and this year’s results are largely the same as last year’s: in most publications, male contributors outnumber female contributors 2 to 1.
Various reasons for this disparity have been proposed—an implicit bias against female writers; fewer women submitting their work; fewer women who respond to solicitations. I think the answer is complex (as these things tend to be), and the roots of our current situation are deep. Though some publications have responded quickly and with intensity to this problem—including one of my favorite literary magazines, Tin House—most have ignored the call to change.
The count doesn’t surprise me in the slightest, as disappointing as it is to an aspiring creative writer. The publishing climate in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century was much the same as our own: opinion makers denigrated female writers for publishing literature that was not as “important” as that written by men. Those women writers who were successful were considered to be morally loose and were subject to personal attacks. Women can be muses, but not active members of the literary community.
Of course, we all know this is hogwash. Popular (or public) opinion rarely reflects the actual operations on the ground. All the same, this is where we are, and we have a long way to go. All we can do is keep submitting—getting our work in front of editors is the first step—and keep buying work from writers, both men and women, who we respect.
For those of you going to AWP conference in Boston, you can join the conversation during the VIDA panel: Saturday: 1:30 – 2:45 pm
Numbers Trouble: Editors and Writers Speak to VIDA’s Count (Jennine Capó Crucet, Don Bogen, Katha Pollitt, Stephen Corey, E.J. Graff) Room 208, Level 2: Panel S198.
And if you’re going to AWP, let me know!