A quick calculation of all non-cultural criticism stories in these three magazines over the past year shows that women trail men when it comes to bylines. The New Republic scored the worst, with only 13% of its stories penned by women. The Atlantic had 22% and The New Yorker (where I didn’t take in account fiction or Talk of the Town, in addition to criticism) had 30% of its stories written by women.
During spring’s endless industry parties and launches I watch male writers navigate rooms with a fearlessness and comfort their female peers do not. It’s actually beautiful to behold; their whisky-drenched casual discourse, their freedom from consequence, their suit jackets, scarves and virile come-ons. Everything about them — their demeanor, their conversation, the ease which they take up space — suggests they deserve to be both there and on the page. The female writers I speak to are afraid to pitch to magazines or publishers, afraid to submit their finished work, afraid to promote themselves, afraid to get in the face of someone who might hand them an opportunity. Male writers seem to start in a place of entitlement, while female writers take decades of fighting and proving to earn it. One female writer I encountered said that she didn’t go looking for attention for a recent piece because she believed that to be selfish, an odd statement in an industry that now relies heavily on an author’s ability to sell both themselves and their work.
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