Poetry News

The New York Times Breaks the 2013 VIDA Count News

By Harriet Staff


The New York Times announces the 2013 VIDA Count! And we'll second that! VIDA writes:

Luckily, we’re not stuck with the singular reading experiences set forth by publishing 80% men, and while many of the monoliths continue to frolic in John Cheever-land, we know that meaningful literature is not regulated by these tastemakers of yore. Why would they be? They’re big, full of money, and unmotivated to extend themselves beyond … well, themselves.

So this year, we look to small press publishers for the movers and shakers in our new secondary VIDA Count, the Larger Literary Landscape. Overall, we’re seeing a very different snapshot of writers writing. It is a healthier, more robust abundance of voices. Please consider these new pies, noting that seven of them include more women than men and the general trend towards parity which shames many publications in our primary VIDA Count. In the L3 Count, women writers are more respected. Their work is considered exciting and innovative. When it comes to pies, these taste a good bit better for their variety, innovation and encouragement. Many seem to be reading other realities and enjoying a literary world that isn’t solely focused on them. The pleasures and joys of literature can, in fact, be multiple as it turns out.

And The New York Times sums up:

At The New York Review of Books, there were 212 male book reviewers and 52 female; at The Atlantic, there were 14 male book reviewers and three female; at Harper’s, there were 24 male book reviewers and 10 female.

VIDA tallied bylines in 39 publications, including The New Yorker, The New York Times Book Review, Granta and The New Republic.

Since it began several years ago, the VIDA count has been a reliable conversation-starter about gender disparity in the literary world.

The New Republic followed up the 2010 VIDA count with its own tally of who was writing the books in the first place. The numbers it found, wrote Ruth Franklin, then a senior editor at the magazine, “show that the magazines are reviewing female authors in something close to the proportion of books by women published each year. The question now becomes why more books by women are not getting published.”

VIDA — “it isn’t an acronym nor does it stand for anything,” its website says — was started in 2009 by the poets Erin Belieu and Cate Marvin. It has become best known for its count, which is performed by 10 interns. To ensure accuracy, five people check each publication.

“Because the count frees our national literary community from the gut reactive, the anecdotal, we hope having the VIDA data will allow our community to find the will and means to change the gender bias you see at many of the top-tier publications,” said Ms. Belieu, an English professor at Florida State University.

Ms. Belieu said there was marked improvement at some publications last year. In 2012, The Paris Review had 70 male bylines and 18 female; in 2013, it was nearly even, with 47 male bylines and 48 female.

She also cited The New York Times Book Review, which in 2012 had 400 male book reviewers and 327 female; in 2013, it had 412 male book reviewers and 393 female.

Look at the stats yourself at VIDA. "I know lots of women waiting for this bus!" Here are the charts for literary journals. At top: Poetry's pie, for the record.

While Poetry has maintained the most consistent parity four years running, I’m wondering if there will be a tipping point of the atypical kind this year based on the new editor, Don Share’s social media efforts, nutshelled in his latest hashtag, #readwomen2014

Originally Published: February 24th, 2014