Monday, July 11, 2011

VIDA: Women in Literary Arts

I recently applied for a position as a research assistant with VIDA, Women in Literary Arts, to support the board of directors chaired by USF Associate Professor of English, Susan Steinberg, a 2010 United States Artists Ziporyn Fellow in Literature.

This vital nonprofit was founded in 2009 "to address the need for female writers of literature to engage in conversations regarding the critical reception of women’s creative writing in our current culture." VIDA prides itself on being grassroots, co-founded and co-directed by Erin Belieu and Cate Marvin after her email, "As I Stood Folding Laundry: Women's Writing Now" went viral.

One of VIDA's primary projects is The Count, a collection of data on gender disparity in publishing, using pie charts to visually demonstrate the percentages. Number of men published in The Atlantic in 2010? 158. Women: 52. You get the picture. In each literary magazine or review represented, including Boston Review, Granta, Harpers, Paris Review, New Yorker, NY Times Book Review and more, the gender bias is striking. There is only one exception: in 2010, Poetry reviewed 11 women poets and 9 men.

Now VIDA has come up with The Best American Count (renowned anthologies of short stories, essays, poetry), and the results aren't in our favor. According to the VIDA website:
In the Best American Essays Series from 1986 through 2010, the numbers look dire across the board. Works by women accounted for only 29% of those published in the anthology. There was only one year in twenty-five that the number of works by women published in the anthology outnumbered the works by men.
Many people commented after VIDA announced their initial findings. Among them were editors of several smaller journals that publish at least 50/50: Shelf Unbound, Prairie Schooner and Fourth Genre. An interesting side note: Of the six essays published in Fourth Genre that were selected as Notable Essays of 2009 in Best American Essays, all were written by women.

1 comment:

Virginia said...

Hi Nicole -- I follow VIDA and value the work they do. That Best American Count is an eye-opener. As for book reviews, a recent radio interview with Australian newspaper literary editors revealed a similar gender ratio to that which VIDA identified in the US. If it's not encouraging, then it's at least consistent. I decided that it was time to step forward and I let one of the Australian editors know I existed. What do you know, my first review appears in a couple of weeks.
Good luck with the job application!

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