It’s here! It’s finally here, and this year, VIDA Count 2013 is bigger and louder than ever – because, by its own admission, “activism is outspokenness.”
With the brief wave of excitement that the long-awaited charts bring, comes too the unwelcome return of stagnant water. Another year, another sea of tiresome bro-love to wade through.
Some figures: last year, The Atlantic reviewed 17 men and three women. Harper’s gave three times as much page space to men as to women in 2013. While, The New York Review of Books dedicated 80% of their literary coverage to male reviewers and men writers.
This time round, VIDA conducted a secondary count dubbed the L3 Count (Larger Literary Landscape), intended to show those living under rocks just how easy it is to achieve parity without sacrificing their precious reputations.
Indeed, seven of these pies show a weighting towards women, including Callaloo, New American Writing and Ninth Letter, which gave 63% of their page space to women writers in 2013.
VIDA finds encouragement in these smaller publications: “It is a healthier, more robust abundance of voices… Many seem to be reading other realities and enjoying a literary world that isn’t solely focused on them. The pleasures and joys of literature can, in fact, be multiple as it turns out.”
Even, some of the mainstream publications are providing reason to be hopeful; The Paris Review‘s overall inclusion of women writers has increased by 30%.
The smell of success, however, remains more than a little unsavoury, if we have to widen the pool to see the results.The smell of success, however, remains more than a little unsavoury, if we have to widen the pool to see the results. As VIDA notes, “old habits die-hard. So does the perpetuation of ‘boy’s club’ editorial practices, presumably made palatable with a dash of tokenism thrown in to appease. But those pies are starting to taste bitter with their missing ingredients and their lies by omission.”
Illustrated astoundingly well, just last week, by our old adversaries, the London Review of Books. Last Sunday’s Open Book on Radio 4 included a feature in which Mariella Frostrup discussed gender disparity in book reviews.
LRB declined to appear on the show but issued a lengthy statement, which demonstrates little shift since our correspondence with them last year. To quote the statement: “Partly a matter of social arrangements that work against women and partly due to the effect a sexist world has on women. Women send fewer pitches to the LRB… it’s not a pathetic excuse to say that the world is still sexist and that the feminist revolution is hopelessly incomplete.” To paraphrase the statement: The world is sexist so we can’t help it that we are.
Thus it seems that much of the news is the same old – that our raison d’être, and VIDA’s work is still unquestionably relevant. As articulated by Emma Newman in her recent post about the publicity imbalance in the book industry – definitive change has to start from the top, where those with the most influence have to lead by example and give women writers a fighting chance.
And if we can do it, minus the money, standing and status that these long-established literary publications have, we so no reason why they can’t do it too.