Sexism Watch: Male Writer Numbers Dwarf Females Numbers at High Profile Magazines

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by Melissa Silverstein
February 29, 2012 12:19 PM
8 Comments
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No matter how many times people try and convince me that things are better for women every time I see new stats they just prove the opposite.  Women's progress has plateaued.  You've seen the stats on women in the entertainment business.  You see how few women there are running corporations.  You see how few women are making it in politics.  It's like there is one giant conspiracy -- intentinal or not -- that says you girls have gotten far enough, be happy with what you've got, now shut up and leave us alone to go and pilfer another country and start another war.

The latests stats are from VIDA - Women in Literary Arts which tracks gender in literary magazines.  You know, the magazines that define cultural conversations on a weekly or monthly basis.  Women are woefully underrepresented. 

Here's a quote from Roxane Gay, HTML Giant

This conversation is stalled.  We keep trying to find ways to 'prove' there is a problem.  Many people want to understand why this disparity exists instead of working to address the disparity itself.  I'm not going to do that anymore.  There is a problem.  I am comfortable with that making me a bitch who be trippin'.  There is work to be done - let's get it done.

I am so in agreement with Roxane.  We all no longer need to prove there are problems.  That wastes too much fucking energy that we could be using to solve the problems.

Here are some of the most egregious stats.  (they are all so disturbing- except for Granta)  Check out all the data here.

The Atlantic (All Articles): Female- 64; Male - 184

Harpers (Articles): Female-13; Male 65

New Republic (Articles): Female - 50; Male - 198

New Republic (Book Reviews): Female -11; Male - 71

NY Review of Books (Articles): Female - 19; Male - 133

The New Yorker (All): Female - 165; Male - 459

Virginia Woolf has to be turning over in her grave. 

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8 Comments

  • Constance | March 2, 2012 11:43 AMReply

    Grace, I am saying no one cares what the self appointed Cognoscenti and mover and shakers read and do and they do not reflect American culture. I am saying I don't know anyone who reads or buys these magazines except when extremely bored in the hair cutting salon or orthodontist office. I read a lot of things, I like College newspapers which are often left around where I work, Newspapers from my area, Sunset, but really I have quit reading magazines and I read mostly blogs, I found this blog linked to another blog I always visit. I don't know how magazines stay in business because my needs are so much better met by blogs.

  • Grace | March 1, 2012 8:25 AMReply

    These statistics—and their durability, year after year—should enrage us all. Perhaps what is most shocking is that at this point, the situation is so entrenched that it barely looks skewed to us. It's what we all expect.
    [Lisa: Plath and Didion both worked at women's magazines—through college prizes that no longer exist, I might add—in the 1950s. Fifty plus years ago. Tina Brown is now editor of The Daily Beast, an online news aggregator which, while having many strengths and shiny-named contributors, is hardly a household title to the common American.
    Constance: The Atlantic and New Republic are DC-based, but never mind. I assume your point is about being East Coast-based. However, where do you get your rant about Vogue, a title no one mentioned? The point is that the titles actually referenced in the article are ones read by the cognoscenti and movers and shakers. And these gravely imbalanced numbers indicate major imbalances in the general culture. I'd be interested to know which West Coast magazines you read so happily.]

  • Kathy | February 29, 2012 11:55 PMReply

    Thanks for the perceptive article. All of the magazines you mentioned have anti-feminist women writers. The Atlantic loves to write badly researched articles about "The End of Men" and "All the Single Ladies." The Atlantic exploits "women's issues" when it wants to get attention and make money.

  • Carla Zoogman | February 29, 2012 4:17 PMReply

    Bravo to you for highlighting those striking figures. In my opinion, what is extremely important is the shortage of female directors and female film critics. An apt example of the results of the shortage of female film critics was the reviews of "The Iron Lady," a film which so skillfully addressed many issues of key importance to women and was created (unusually) primarily by women. Thank you very much for your astute comments and efforts to improve the situation!

  • Constance | February 29, 2012 2:30 PMReply

    Another problem is all the magazines you mention are New York based and clearly that is your concept of where the forefront of culture is. I live in Seattle. I don't know anyone who reads Vogue except a few gay guys. Gay guys are not women they are men. If you looked at magazines published and read on the west coast you would find more women writing and editing. I really resent fashion magazines being called women's magazines. They are fashion mags, they don't appeal to me or any women I know. I also resent entertainment industry mags being called "women's mags" they are entertainment mags I also don't read those. As far as I'm concerned Vogue is a hair cutting salon magazine and People is an orthodontist office mag. No one I know subscribes and these types of mags reflect industries and based in New York or LA they do not reflect my culture.

  • Constance | February 29, 2012 2:30 PMReply

    Another problem is all the magazines you mention are New York based and clearly that is your concept of where the forefront of culture is. I live in Seattle. I don't know anyone who reads Vogue except a few gay guys. Gay guys are not women they are men. If you looked at magazines published and read on the west coast you would find more women writing and editing. I really resent fashion magazines being called women's magazines. They are fashion mags, they don't appeal to me or any women I know. I also resent entertainment industry mags being called "women's mags" they are entertainment mags I also don't read those. As far as I'm concerned Vogue is a hair cutting salon magazine and People is an orthodontist office mag. No one I know subscribes and these types of mags reflect industries and based in New York or LA they do not reflect my culture.

  • Lisa | February 29, 2012 1:56 PMReply

    What I mean is, if you say the words "high-powered magazine editor," the person you're talking to is going to picture Anna Wintour or Tina Brown.

    Harpers, New Republic and Atlantic aren't really at the forefront of culture anymore. They're resting on their laurels from decades ago. The big, innovative editors are mostly women.

  • Lisa | February 29, 2012 1:52 PMReply

    I totally agree that there's sexism against women writers, particularly in TV and features. But magazines? I'm not so sure. A lot of the most talented women work at fashion publications; even serious literary women like Joan Didion and Sylvia Plath got their start on fashion mags. I'll bet if you looked at publications with the highest circulation, or editors with the highest pay, you'd find a lot more women.

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