"Let us not be ashamed to speak what we shame not to think."
-Michel de Montaigne

Monday, March 11, 2013

OF: The 2012 VIDA Publishing Count

Every year VIDA publishes a count of the number of male and female writers featured (via book review, interview, etc) in several major literary magazines. The totals for 2012 can be found here.

The numbers are bad. The Paris Review, for instance, interviewed ONE female writer last year. ONE. About 50% of the fiction selections for the year were written by women, while roughly 22% of the featured poets were women. Paltry. Pitiful. Not surprising, though.

There have been many thoughtful responses to this and previous VIDA counts--including one by Roxane Gay which goes yet a step further by looking at the racial statistics present in publishing. Those numbers--also, not surprisingly--are bleak. They can be found, here.

As a writer, as a woman of color, I can't help but feel incredibly discouraged by these numbers, even if they are nothing new to me. 2012 seemed to be there year of the misogynist. Things large and small seemed to proclaim that the Good Ole Boys Club was still in full effect with it's members elect ranging from the obvious comb-over'd ranks of Congress, to the bespeckled literary elite who seemingly equate quality in publishing with middle-finger-in-the-air Lack Of Female Presence. 2012 gave us "legitimate rape," the Sandra Fluke slut-shaming-smear campaign, the Bret Easton Ellis rant over Kathryn Bigelow's success as directly correlative to her "hotness", and the downright-bonkers rhetorical rejection of the Violence Against Women Act from the likes of Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Florida) et al.

2012 gave us a zeitgeist captivated by television shows which either glamorized sexist, misogynistic culture (vis-a-vis Downton Abbey and Mad Men), or gave us particularly nauseating female characters to loathe (SEE: Lori in The Walking Dead and pretty much any season of The Bachelor). Every once and awhile we were thrown a particularly savory bone in the vein of Girls or Claire Danes' character in Homeland. 2012 gave us literary magazines devoid of women, and television shows muttling the conversation about women, and women who were ashamed to use to use the word "feminist" to describe themselves.

Even at a time when women are outpacing men in terms of college matriculation and beginning to close the gap in male-dominated fields like medicine and law, the Hallowed Halls of Art have not kept up with the times. Probably a large cross-section of writers do not really give a shit about the VIDA count--or they do, but only intellectually. And I concede that publication numbers do not rank as high, societally, as fair access to birth control--but nonetheless, these issues are interrelated, they are systemic of a larger spirit of contempt against a woman's right to the pursuit of happiness socially, reproductively, politically, aesthetically.

As such, the writing community must come together to fight against this form of silencing. We must clean and prepare our own house as one does before the arrival of a beloved guest; otherwise let us remind elite literary journals (Harper's, The Atlantic, The Nation to name a few) of their inherent hypocrisy in continuing to pretend they are above the misogyny or racism of those bodies (governmental, corporate, educational) whose actions often inform their own articles and commentary. Let us demand change.

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