New study finds continued gender disparity in book coverage

June 18, 2018 - 10:13 am

NEW YORK (AP) — A new study finds that few of the top literary publications are giving equal time to women authors and reviewers.

The highly anticipated "VIDA Count," released Monday, has The New Yorker, The Nation and The Atlantic among those devoting less than 40 percent of their book coverage to women in 2017. Only two of 15 publications analyzed in the main VIDA count gave women 50 percent or more — Poetry magazine and Granta. Those between 40 percent and 49 percent include The New York Times Book Review and the Paris Review, from which editor Lorin Stein resigned last December amid allegations of sexual harassment. In April, the magazine hired Emily Nemens, only the second woman to run the Paris Review in its 65-year history.

VIDA, a nonprofit feminist organization otherwise known as Women in Literary Arts, found far stronger numbers for women in smaller publications. A Public Space, Agni and Conjunctions were among those in VIDA's "Larger Literary Landscape" giving women well over half of their coverage.

"We believe VIDA really is making a difference," VIDA Review editor-in-chief Amy King and assistant editor Sarah Clark wrote in the report's introduction. "The numbers may not radically change year to year, they may reach parity for some publications one year and fall back the next. But we can see the impact of our work beyond VIDA's numbers."

The numbers for 2017 are the first to come out in the #MeToo era and King told The Associated Press during a recent interview that she expected the movement to make an impact, although one that "may be measured publication by publication, rather than as an overall widespread effect." She noted the recent decision by the Boston Review to keep Junot Diaz as the fiction editor even after the Pulitzer Prize-winning author faced harassment allegations. Three poetry editors resigned in protest, while the Review's editors-in-chief defended their decision because Diaz's behavior didn't rise to the "severity that animated the #MeToo movement."

At the Review last year, men received more than 60 percent of coverage, according to VIDA.

"Editors can only coast along for so long on excuses that began as 'we're just publishing the best work,' now morphing into pardons in cases of abuse of power with 'He made mistakes, but he's still a good editor," said King, who also serves on VIDA's executive board.

VIDA has been tallying gender disparities in literary journalism for nearly a decade, when it startled many in the publishing world by documenting the predominance of books by men, and reviewed by men, in The New Yorker, Harper's, The New Republic and elsewhere. While Poetry, The New Republic and other publications have significantly increased the percentage of women reviewers and of books reviewed by women authors, some have changed more sporadically. At The New York Review of Books, men outnumbered women by 5-to-1 in the VIDA report for 2010. The ratio narrowed to nearly even in 2016, but last year fell back to 3-to-1.

As in previous years, the 2017 charts were compiled by VIDA volunteers.



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