In an effort to ensure that the Count conversation moves forward, we’ve devised this Count FAQ. Please note that this is a moving document and we’ll be updating it regularly.
What about transgender men, transgender women, intersexed individuals, and/or people who self-identify as androgynous, genderqueer, or gender neutral? How does VIDA “Count” these writers? Why does VIDA only count “Men” vs. “Women”?
VIDA believes in the importance of intersectionality, and are aware that the male-female binary oversimplifies the wide range of genders and sexes that individuals may identify as and/or exhibit. “Counting” is, as a movement, in its early phases. As a starting point we’re establishing datasets that deal with the conventional binary of he/she.
Our Counters check and double-check author websites and biographies to see which pronouns writers choose to describe themselves with. If you believe VIDA has “Counted” you incorrectly, please contact us with your name, the correction, and details of the publication in question.
While our past and current Counts only consider the categories of “Male” and “Female,” we look forward to future Counts which consider a wider range of identities. Contact us if you’d like to organize or volunteer for such a project.
What about [insert various forms of identities, including race/ethnicity, nationality, religion, class, region, and many, many more] writers? Could you please create statistics for these writers?
We constantly strive to strike a balance between avoiding mission drift and promoting an inclusive brand of feminism. Counts like these are being planned, but we also encourage anyone with a calculator and a library card to pursue their own Counts (like, for example, GOOD did). By no means have we set up a monopoly on provocative pie charts. In fact, if you contact us, we’d be happy to share some Counting advice with you.
These are great, but I’d love to see [insert] statistics. Please compile statistics on songwriters, TV writers, screenwriters. Graphic designers, technical writers. Divide between traditional and experimental, please.
For now, we’re sticking with the genres and aesthetics we’re Counting. With our all-volunteer staff, we have limited resources and we can only take on so many fields.
Again, though: we encourage anyone with a calculator and a library card to pursue their own Counts (like, for example, GOOD did). By no means have we set up a monopoly on provacative pie charts. In fact, if you contact us, we’d be happy to share some Counting advice with you.
How is “VIDA” pronounced?
Is the word “VIDA” an acronym? What does it stand for?
It isn’t an acronym, nor does it stand for anything.
But what about the overall field? How many women are writing? In MFA programs? Applying to MFA programs?
We’re working on this data.
But men submit to these journals more than women do. Doesn’t it make sense, then, that journals publish more pieces by men?
No. This is the most frequently asked question in the history of question-asking, and we’ve responded to it fully here.
But don’t women read more? Don’t they buy more books? Don’t they edit these journals and read slush? And therefore – isn’t this largely the fault of women, as well?
First: sexism pervades our culture, and so it is often unconsciously absorbed/internalized by everyone, including women. Feminism is an act, not a bumper sticker. It requires the constant re-evaluation of one’s assumptions, habits, and biases. By being a part of the system, women are often a part of the problem.
Further, as Sarah Seltzer points out,
In my experience, the reality may even be worse than the numbers. Women who are allowed to be prominent — and this is not to erase those who do it on their own merit, because their numbers are growing — often don’t challenge the worldview of those who hire them. In fact, given all the anti-feminists like Caitlin Flanagan, Katie Roiphe and Christina Hoff Summers taking prime media real estate, it would seem that for women, reinforcing sexism is a good formula for vaulting ahead.
Specifically – more women are reviewers. Shouldn’t these women be proud feminists and review more women?
Our hope is that male reviewers will review books written by both men and women, and that female reviewers will do the same. Therefore, we hope that reviewers will volunteer to review books written by women, and that editors solicit and assign reviews of books written by women.
Regarding the Spring 2010 and 2011 Counts – why were those specific venues/publications chosen?
The Atlantic, Boston Review, Granta, Harper’s, London Review of Books, The New Republic , The New York Review of Books, The New Yorker, The New York Times Book Review, Poetry, The Threepenny Review, The Times Literary Supplement, Tin House (2010 Count only), Paris Review, and The Nation (2011 Count only) are widely recognized as prominent critical and/or commercial literary venues. Publication in these magazines and journals furthers the careers of writers by bolstering applications for grants, residencies, employment (academic and otherwise), graduate programs, awards, and more. Winning/earning/receiving these types of honors affords writers the time and resources needed to continue/advance their careers.
The prominence of these magazines, and the widespread respect they’ve earned, also have consequences beyond an individual writer’s career. Most notably, they have a ripple effect on what happens in classrooms everywhere – both K-12 and in colleges and universities. Prominent publications “ripple” into syllabi via anthologies, textbooks and readers, College Bound Reading Lists, American Classics Lists, and the canon.
But if these magazines don’t want women, why should women writers even bother with them? Don’t you think women might just be choosing to write for different venues?
“I know there’s a part of the feminist world that is like, “Hey, screw ‘em, we’ll do our own thing over here,” and I can see there’s a value in that. But a kind of nudgy part of me thinks: No. I want access, and I want my daughters to have access to the exact same thing, because we all know there’s no such thing as separate but equal.”
What can we do?
Count your bookshelves. Make your stories pass the Bechdel test. Expand/evaluate/consider your notions of storytelling, line, language. Write seriously about works by women. Solicit and commission writing by women. Consider race, gender, sexuality, and other identity categories as well.