Poetry News

Emily Gould on VIDA Count --> Two Serious Ladies

By Harriet Staff

Over at The Awl, Emily Gould (who just interviewed Dodie Bellamy, who just gave an astounding reading in Chicago last night, with fellow astounders Peter Gizzi, Lewis Warsh, and Kevin Killian AKA Ariana Reines) has some thoughts about the recent VIDA count. First, she links us to some reactions:

Some men piously proclaimed that their publications needed to do better; some women found the idea that women need affirmative action to succeed "offensive." Some people interpreted this data to mean that "America's Top Magazines" are "Still Not Hiring Women".

Then her take:

Could it be that part of the imbalance is caused by the fact that women are choosing not to write for these magazines? Due to ... the fact that they have free will, and are not just passive victims of an unjust system? It's not difficult to imagine why some women (and men) might not want to write for these magazines: They do not, on the whole, pay well or assign articles with reliable frequency to, pretty much, anyone. If your options include: waiting a year or more for the legendary septuagenarian editor of a historically important book review to tweak your prose so that you can someday receive a check for 50 cents a word, or spending an evening hanging out with a movie star, writing about it for a sorta-vapid glossy, then cashing a check that pays your rent for four months, who is to say which is the wiser choice? That's my issue with this tally, anyway: it doesn't allow for the idea that women have agency, and they might be choosing to avoid having bad (albeit prestigious) jobs.

I'm not denying that both high and low culture need women's voices, but maybe it's worth considering that we might want to leave these print dinosaurs to the rapidly-aging crew of men who've dominated them since they founded them, and decamp for spaces where there is no shortage of women's voices. Or, hey, we could stop waiting for their magazines to accept us and start our own! We can work to unlearn the values that make us feel we need that mainstream high-cultural stamp of approval. We can work for places that want to hire us or pay us and not be snobs about it. Instead of pleading for admission to an often lame-seeming club that doesn't want us to be members, we can ignore the club's existence and watch it fade into obsolescence.

We'd argue the VIDA count doesn't represent "pleading for admission," but pretty much states the facts—would ignoring the club better the facts? There's certainly room for that debate. Speaking of starting our own, you should check out Two Serious Ladies, a new magazine devoted to writing by women and edited by the brilliant Lauren Spohrer.

Originally Published: March 1st, 2012