It’s International Women’s Day this Friday, March 8, and the count is in.
According to VIDA – Women in Literary Arts, several prestigious literary journals improved their representation of work by women in 2012, including The Boston Review, Threepenny and Poetry. But what of Harpers, The Paris Review, The New Republic, New York Review Of Books, Times Literary Supplement, The New Republic, The Nation and The Atlantic?
The graphics speak for themselves.*
*Note: some of the selected charts above refer to a breakdown of the number of authors whose books were reviewed; others refer to, and are labelled as, “overall” contributions by men and women. The complete VIDA Count for 2012 can be found here.
Despite the VIDA count being in its third year, it’s obvious the trend of ignoring both books by women and women contributors has continued. Gender bias is real and it affects more than the careers and livelihoods of talented female writers. Ultimately it affects the way cultures are shaped and what gets recorded as history.
What can we do?
According to the VIDA group, “Improvements will happen with effort, not accidentally or by ignoring the glaring disparities”. They advise:
Count your bookshelves… Write seriously about works by women. Solicit and commission writing by women. Consider race, gender, sexuality, and other identity categories as well.
(Source: VIDA site: Frequently Asked Questions.)
To this, we’d add: contribute to reading and reviewing challenges such as the Australian Women Writers Challenge, Global Women of Color and the newly created South-Asian Women Writers Challenge (more about this soon).
Follow these challenges on Twitter, Facebook and GoodReads and tweet using their respective hashtags. Look up the reviews of books already reviewed for the AWW challenge and take the time to comment. Mention what you’re doing – and why – to your friends and acquaintances. Get your local librarians, booksellers, and school and university teachers involved.
Even if traditional modes of reviewing continue to fail women, that doesn’t mean we’re powerless. Together we can help to create a global online reading community which takes women and women’s writing seriously. And if you have any other ideas how to help, let us know.
I’d like to see one on the Sydney Morning Herald, because it’s just as bad, and it’s local.
So good that you’ve posted this, Elizabeth, even though the content is saddening and really disappointing. All suggestions for changing the situation are excellent – and you’re certainly doing your bit, in spades.