Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Writer's Block. Or The Vida Counts.

I don't really have a writer's block of the usual type,  but last week I wrote fourteen hours one day (my fingertips still hurt!) and then got food poisoning the next day (monsters really should have better hygiene if they wish to be divine food).  And the overall effect is to quiet me down.

Which means that you will be spared the long litany about the multiple causes of the lack of reviews of women's books in all sorts of serious places.  You can look at which magazines do well and which do not do terribly well here.  And here's more information about the count.  And here's an article which argues that the scarcity of women is linked to the scarcity of women in sciences and such.  And, finally, this article   is linked to in the previous one.

As I mentioned, addressing all this properly is complicated (what is the role women's "choice or preference"?  what role does the invisibility of women play?  is it OK to argue that discrimination is not a problem if it hits in earlier stages of the game?  can we even define a "good and important book" without noting that anything about war is by definition going to be important, anything about childbirth is by definition going to be of lesser universal significance, despite the fact that we are all born but we don't all experience war).  And I really should have more energy to write about it.

Instead, I steer you to a piece by one of the sites which has done much better in recent years.  This is what they say:

It really isn’t rocket science. For us, the VIDA count was a spur, a call to action. Our staff is 50/50 male-female, and we thought we were gender blind. However, the numbers didn’t bear this out.” So why not?
“We did a thorough analysis of our internal submission numbers and found that the unsolicited numbers are evenly split, while the solicited (agented, previous contributors, etc.) were 67/33 male to female. We found that women contributors and women we rejected with solicitations to resubmit were five times less likely to submit than their male counterparts. So we basically stopped asking men, because we knew they were going to submit anyway, and at the same time made a concerted effort to re-ask women to contribute. We also adjusted our Lost & Found section, which featured short pieces on under-appreciated writers or books. We had been asking 50/50 writers, but the subjects were coming back 80/20 male to female, meaning that both men and women were writing about men versus women writers. We then started asking both male and female writers if there are any women writers they would like to champion. It has been a total editorial team effort, and each editorial meeting we take a look at our upcoming issues to see where we are for balance. Again, these are all simple solutions. What I found interesting was that we had all assumed that we were gender balanced, when in fact we weren’t. Now, with a concerted effort, we know that we are.”