Some call it whining. I call it facts.
March 4, 2013 1:04 PM   Subscribe

Today, VIDA (Women in Literary Arts) published their annual VIDA count, breaking down the treatment of women in literature in 2012 and the past three years of trends.
posted by roomthreeseventeen (11 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I'm glad the first link is to some good news. I'll definitely check out the publications mentioned. Thanks for posting.
posted by Currer Belfry at 1:27 PM on March 4, 2013

And previously on MeFi.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:31 PM on March 4, 2013

Wow, if you'd asked me to guess, I would've guessed an imbalance, but not this severe.
posted by MoxieProxy at 1:46 PM on March 4, 2013

Thanks for posting this - I am eager to read it every year.
posted by joannemerriam at 1:47 PM on March 4, 2013

That is depressing and stark. Three year trend: not going anywhere good.
posted by DrMew at 1:54 PM on March 4, 2013

I opened the link and saw the Boston Review and thought: hey, that's pretty equal (also small numbers). What's the fuss?

And then I looked at most of the rest of the publications. They were worse than I had imagined. Leaving the literary/pulp issue aside, there are plenty of women working in literature, whether as writers or as reviewers, critics or academics. As academics, women well out-number men in literature. So there's no good reason to have such an extreme imbalance.
posted by jb at 2:07 PM on March 4, 2013

I suspect from anecdotal observation-- though I don't have data to support this-- that the field of would-be literary writers consists disproportionately of (a majority of) women, which would make the bias against them even more egregious.
posted by threeants at 2:20 PM on March 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

These graphs are pretty meaningless without a breakdown of male vs. female authors overall. I mean, unless you think female authors are inherently so superior to men that the submissions numbers don't count, or something.
Why the Submissions Numbers Don’t Count

Whenever VIDA publishes a Count, or shares its pie charts, readers observe that men and women submit to magazines, journals, and publishing houses at different rates, and that this might inform the gender ratios we observe.…

When we suggest that the submission ratio is important, we assume that the quality of each gender’s submissions will be identical.… I’d be quite surprised if my hypothetical study found the quality of men’s and women’s submission piles to be equal… I find women submit more consistently publishable work with regard to quality and appropriateness for the given venue. Men are more likely to submit unfinished work and work that doesn’t suit the publication for which I’m reading.
posted by designbot at 2:52 PM on March 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

In fairness, that's not based on the idea that female authors are "inherently superior." It's based on her sense, which may or may not be right, that women are less likely to submit their unfinished work and their work that doesn't fit the guidelines. I understood her to be claiming that men are more liberal and women more conservative in deciding what to submit. She's not saying what women write is better than what men write, but that on average, men submit more extra stuff that she can't use. Suppose you have 100 writers, 50 men and 50 women, and they all are equally able and they all write one-third publishable stuff and two-thirds unpublishable stuff. But suppose the women submit the top quarter of their stuff and the men submit the top half of their stuff, that's what she's saying, I think. Everybody's equally talented, but their submissions aren't equally good.

It's not based on the idea that female authors are "inherently superior," but that they have different, more cautious submission habits. It may be right or wrong, but I think "inherently superior" is not what she's saying.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 3:13 PM on March 4, 2013 [3 favorites]

From designbot's link:

No one reads gender-blind. Though most editors claim to read for the quality of the work, not the gender, we know that we code the subject of a text feminine or masculine (domestic or important, for instance), and that the language itself can scan gendered.....Either consciously or unconsciously, we’ve always already divided out our submissions into those by men and women. As an editor who relishes the creative control she has over a publication, I’ve got to ask: why not own and direct that tendency, rather than trying unsuccessfully to suppress it? (emphasis added)

This is a fundamental question in many disciplines, and could stand a lot more attention than it gets.
posted by carping demon at 4:25 PM on March 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

"It Isn't Rocket Science": Tin House and Granta Editors on How to Run a Publication That Isn’t Sexist

From Rob Spillman, Tin House's editor:
“We did a thorough analysis of our internal submission numbers and found that the unsolicited numbers are evenly split, while the solicited (agented, previous contributors, etc.) were 67/33 male to female. We found that women contributors and women we rejected with solicitations to resubmit were five times less likely to submit than their male counterparts. So we basically stopped asking men, because we knew they were going to submit anyway, and at the same time made a concerted effort to re-ask women to contribute. We also adjusted our Lost & Found section, which featured short pieces on under-appreciated writers or books. We had been asking 50/50 writers, but the subjects were coming back 80/20 male to female, meaning that both men and women were writing about men versus women writers. We then started asking both male and female writers if there are any women writers they would like to champion. It has been a total editorial team effort, and each editorial meeting we take a look at our upcoming issues to see where we are for balance. Again, these are all simple solutions. What I found interesting was that we had all assumed that we were gender balanced, when in fact we weren’t. Now, with a concerted effort, we know that we are.”
posted by gladly at 11:54 AM on March 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

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