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Perhaps I should start going by Joe.

The Count 2010 counts female and male authorship in various influential publications (via Jenniey Tallman‘s Facebook feed). These numbers are pretty depressing – just as a sample, London Review of Books reviewed 68 female authors to 195 male authors in 2010; Tin House published 73 women to 226 men; only Poetry crept over the 50% mark for female authorship, and only for interviews (11 women interviewed to 9 men).

What’s going on here? Are there more male writers than female ones? (A commenter on the Jezebel article on the linked article above mentions that 2009′s English Lit PhD recipients were 63% female – not that there’s a one-to-one map between writers and English Lit PhD recipients, but it’s suggestive that, at the very least, women aren’t less interested in literature. Further, Jezebel points to VIDA counts Publishers Weekly in 2010, where works of fiction are reviewed in nearly equal numbers by sex, so it would appear women publish about as many books.) Are men submitting more than women to magazines, and so achieving parity would require figuring out what discourages women from submitting? (Is the problem the “there, there, dear”ing that is so often directed at women writers?) Are editors rejecting women more often than men? Do we need to reassess our cultural tendency to see women as accessories? Is all of this a symptom of a larger societal problem that can’t be fixed absent fixing the larger problem?

Is my a priori assumption that modern female writers are, or have the potential to be, just as good as modern male writers even justified?

I tend to think so, but then, a girl like me would.

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4 Comments

  1. jenniey wrote:

    So many questions and so few answers. I desperately *want* to believe that if I write the best I can, and show some talent, then my work will eventually get published. But these numbers scare the crap out of me.

    This is nearly 75% men! I know that the numbers leave some wiggle room in terms of “how many women are submitting/writing novels/persisting” … but not that much wiggle room.

    I also found it interesting that the numbers would be so much more equitable in poetry… I wonder why. Is it a more “acceptable” outlet for women, or do they have more female editors, or what?

    I like your post Joe. ;) That wink looks completely deformed in this box…

    ~jenniey

    Wednesday, February 2, 2011 at 11:33 pm | Permalink
  2. I believe in you and in your work. But these stats are definitely depressing.

    Thursday, February 3, 2011 at 12:22 am | Permalink
  3. And just the other day I was marveling at the pseudonym George Elliot and thinking, “wow, that was some ridiculous shit women had to do to get published”

    Looks like it’s still the case…

    One thing I’d be interested to see to compare to these figures is the ratio of women to men actually submitting work.

    Thursday, February 3, 2011 at 9:52 am | Permalink
  4. I agree that that would be valuable data to have. The only publication that I know of which keeps these figures is Stange Horizons (which is neither literary – in the genre, not the quality, sense – nor prestigious enough to extrapolate from). The cojones (see what I did there?) to submit to The New Yorker, say, are much bigger than required to submit to an excellent, but mid-level, semi-pro-paying online market known to be friendly to women and minority writers.

    Thursday, February 3, 2011 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

One Trackback/Pingback

  1. Joanne Merriam › Gender parity at Seven by Twenty on Sunday, February 6, 2011 at 4:01 pm

    [...] to my last post and the lack of data to determine what’s going on there, I wondered how Seven by Twenty fares [...]

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