The VIDA 2011 count

March 1, 2012 | 4

VIDA, an organization that promotes gender parity in the literary arts, has tallied up the 2011 bylines and book reviews from some of the bigger magazines . Granta was the only publication to achieve parity, but they did have an issue devoted entirely to feminism, so that may be skewing the numbers.  The Atlantic, The London Review of Books, and Harper’s are not making the cut. While institutionalized  misogyny in any profession presents a problem, gender quotas are probably not the answer.


is the editor of Little Brother Magazine, and the #LitBeat editor for The Millions. She also acts as the Toronto editor for Joyland. And she tweets, too.


  1. Gender quotas are definitely not the answer. Nor would it be wise to think that keeping score in such a manner is a good way to find misogyny.

  2. Finding misogyny isn’t their goal. The “score” they keep is only in regard to the ongoing issue that women writers are continually (by a very large margin) under-represented in publications. Their point is not to advocate quotas, but to make a specific point very clear: If women writers are as good and talented as men, why are so few of them getting published? This is a valid question that’s absolutely worth examining…and hopefully rectifying.

  3. Having an interest in what women have to say is an essential part of living in the 21st century. I mean, I don’t know how else to say it. If you can’t deal with that, then I think you really need to examine why you’re focusing so much on one type of perspective: say, male writers. That’s why the VIDA study is so important.

    In 2011, I had 28 men and 27 women on The Bat Segundo Show. (And I also note that Brad Listi, another podcaster, has been working towards a decent gender balance this year.)

    How did I do this? Well, I didn’t keep any explicit quotas. But if I felt that if there was too much of one kind of book, I’d look around the house for a book that interested me. And, of course, there were plenty of great books written by women last year. Tea Obreht’s THE TIGER’S WIFE, Diana Abu-Jaber’s BIRDS OF PARADISE (the food prose alone is worth your while), Susan Orlean’s RIN TIN TIN, Yannick Murphy’s THE CALL, Lauren Buekes’s ZOO CITY, Dana Spiotta’s STONE ARABIA, Tayari Jones’s SILVER SPARROW, Karen Russell’s SWAMPLANDIA, Aminatta Forna’s THE MEMORY OF LOVE, Deb Olin Unferth’s REVOLUTION. The list goes on. I talked with all of them.

    It really isn’t difficult to keep an informal gender balance if you’re paying attention to what you’re doing. But more to the point, why are three men discussing this issue on The Millions?

  4. I’d be curious to know how these magazines get their articles. Do they solicit? Do writers pitch them? Do they have writers under contract that they send out? I imagine it’s usually a combination but without that additional information, it’s difficult to suss out whether this is a systemic problem or an editorial one. The stats as presented, though, are rather alarmingly skewed. I don’t think gender quotas are the answer either, but if women writers are available and qualified, why aren’t they getting more chances? If Marie Colvin’s astonishing legacy proves anything, it’s that women are willing to put themselves on the line for an important story. Why not let them?

    Fiction is a whole other bugbear, and one that gets a bit grayer. How often do we pay attention to the sex of the author we’re currently reading? I’d personally say I don’t think about it that much, but I also tend to pick my next book hoping it will be different from what I just finished (my last three books read were by Toni Morrison, Amy Waldman, and Fred Exley, according to Goodreads) Honestly, anyone reading fiction these days is probably getting their mind expanded but if you’re only reading books by men or only reading books by women, that does seem like you’re reading with a bias, even if it’s unintentional. If anything, this report might help thoughtful readers take a look at their habits and question why they read the way they do and maybe inspire them to pick up something unplanned or unexpected. In any case, I think VIDA’s doing important work calling attention to these things.

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