March 15, 2012

Two weeks ago, VIDA, an origination for women in the literary arts, released the results of a survey in which they counted the number of women and men contributing work to 13 literary magazines (11 from the US and 2 from the UK) over the course of 2011. They also counted the number of women and men who reviewed books, and the number of women and men whose books were reviewed. It would be a bit much to say that the results were shocking, since they were nearly the same as the numbers from 2010, but the release of the survey results has sparked conversation.

After learning about the VIDA count from Quill & Quire’s twitter, I decided I wanted to do my own count. I wasn’t the only woman who felt this way. Just before I began to type this post I was contacted by my friend andrea bennett, an editor at PRISM international, who was interested in doing the same thing and who’d found out I had already started compiling stats. Together we came up with a count for the latest issues of 13 Canadian magazines, including the magazines we work for.

Dandelion 37.1

  • 31 female contributors, 24 male contributors

Event Winter 2011

  • 6 female contributors, 7 male contributors
  • 2 female reviewers, 2 male reviewers
  • 3 women reviewed, 5 men reviewed

Front&Centre #26

  • 2 female contributors, 4 male contributors
  • No female reviewers, 2 male reviewers
  • 1 woman reviewed, 8 men reviewed
  • no women interviewed, 2 men interviewed

Geist 83

  • 13 female contributors, 20 male contributors
  • 5 female reviewers, 5 male reviewers
  • 5 women reviewed, 7 men reviewed

Maisonneuve Winter 2011

  • 7 female contributors, 10 male contributors
  • 2 female reviewers, 2 male reviewers
  • 4 women reviewed, 2 men reviewed

OCW 6.1/#20

  • 6 female contributors, 6 male contributors

Poetry is Dead Issue 02, Volume 02

  • 9 female contributors, 15 male contributors, 1 trans contributor
  • 3 female reviewers, 1 male reviewer
  • 3 women reviewed, 1 man reviewed
  • 1 woman interviewed, no men interviewed

PRISM international 50.2/Winter 2012

  • 8 female contributors, 4 male contributors

Quill & Quire January/February 2012

  • 4 female contributors, 5 male contributors
  • 17 female reviewers, 14 male reviewers
  • 17 women reviewed, 25 men reviewed
  • 3 women interviewed, 1 man interviewed

Room 35.1

  • 21 female contributors, no male contributors
  • 4 female reviewers, no male reviewers
  • 2 women reviewed, no men reviewed
  • 2 women interviewed, no men interviewed

subTerrain #60:

  • 8 female contributors, 19 male contributors
  • 6 female reviewers, 3 male reviewers
  • 4 women reviewed, 6 men reviewed
  • no women interviewed, 2 men interviewed

This Magazine March-April 2012

  • 13 female contributors, 7 male contributors
  • 1 woman reviewed, 3 men reviewed
  • 1 woman interviewed, no men interviewed

The Walrus March 2012

  • 5 female contributors, 12 male contributors

The good news is that it’s not all bad in Canada. Five of the thirteen magazines we looked at had either an equal number of female and male contributors, or more female contributors than male contributors. Granted, one of those magazines was Room, which only publishes women.

Obviously looking at one issue of each magazine is not statistically conclusive, but I think it gives us a fair place to start. As the managing editor of Geist, I can say that the numbers here are fairly typical of a Geist issue, and I don’t think it’s unreasonable to suppose that the same is true of the other publications listed. Time will tell, as andrea bennett, myself and others have started a plan to do a full count of these 13 magazines in 2012.

But keeping track of where we’re at is not going to solve the problem. Being aware of the problem is a first step; the next one is to start developing a dialogue.

I spent International Women’s Day at the Joy Kogawa House, celebrating the 35th anniversary of Room magazine, where the evening started off with a mention of the VIDA count. Amber Hitchen, a Room editor, addressed the question of whether or not it was still necessary to have a magazine like Room. After all, things are different now, right? We have equality, don’t we? The VIDA count shows us that this is clearly not the case.

During the reading, members of the audience were invited to ask the readers questions once they’d finished. A woman in the audience asked the poet Katherine Poyner-Del Vento if she thought that women were published less often because they had more responsibilities in the home and therefore less time to write. Poyner-Del Vento had been explaining that she is a teacher, and that her students often take up a lot of her time.

Each reader at the Joy Kogawa House that night sparked a conversation with her reading and with the details of her life as she revealed them in the question period. Taryn Thomson read her story “The Game” and started a discussion about high school, and boys, and self-esteem or lack thereof. There was a buzz in the air that happens when people with something in common are finally all together and can talk about the things that they can’t talk about with other people.

We need more than numbers. We need discourse, and I can’t think of a better place for that to happen than in Canadian literary magazines. All editors and publishers need to start considering equality of gender and race as part of their editorial mandate. No more excuses, no more denial. No more silence.

Take a second look at the numbers and you’ll see that while a higher number of men are often reviewed, women are often doing more of the reviewing. It’s time we start putting our feet down. If we’re going to be editing, and fact-checking and proof-reading, then we can make sure that women have an equal chance of being published.


March 15, 2012

Comments (1)

Comment Feed

Gender equality in writing

I disagree with this perspective significantly. Editors should be making gender & race part of their editorial mandate?? What!? The only thing editors need to look for is high-quality writing that people want to read. If women writers aren't getting published, they need to consider whether their articles or stories are relevant & extremely well-written, and that's it. I despise the idea that someone's writing might be more likely tone considered simply because they have a vagina or brown skin or a brown vagina, for that matter. It's just as silly as suggesting more blonde-haired folks should get published.
If editors want to see more content about women or women's issues, or about race issues, they can screen for those particular topics. But if the writing doesn't make us want to read, it's inferior and we'll stop buying your magazine. The words are what count, not the politically correct affirmative action policies. What is the world coming to? Next thing you know, everyone will be worrying that there's not enough writing by iguanas...who cares if they can't write?

Penelope more than 2 years ago

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