FAQ

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 the VIDA Count represent these writers? Why does the VIDA COUNT mostly feature “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. It’s so important to us we published an Open Letter on the subject and, with our 2013 VIDA Count, began counting trans* writers in our data breakdown. Contact us if you’d like to help organize this portion of the VIDA Count.

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. The VIDA Count is an ongoing project, each year we seek better and more comprehensive ways to uncover what’s really happening in literary publishing. This is a massive undertaking for our all-volunteer staff. We encourage anyone with a calculator and a library card to pursue their own version of the VIDA Count (as, 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 the methodology we use.

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 the VIDA Count already covers. 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 version of the VIDA Count (as, 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 the methodology we use.

How is “VIDA” pronounced?

“vee-duh.”

Is the word “VIDA” an acronym? What does it stand for?

It isn’t an acronym, nor does it stand for anything.

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.

-Sarah Seltzer, Jewish Daily Forward, March 2012, “Byline Bias – and What We Can Do About It.”

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.

Why does the VIDA Count feature these specific venues/publications?

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, 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.

The VIDA Count 2013 is introducing 24 new journals: A Public Space, Agni, The Believer, Callaloo, The Cincinnati Review, The Colorado Review, Conjunctions, Fence, Gettysburg Review, Harvard Review, Jubilat, Kenyon Review, McSweenys, Missouri Review, N+1, New American Writing, New England Review, Ninth Letter, The Normal School, Pleiades, Prairie Schooner, Southern Review, Southwest Review, Virginia Quarterly Review.

These journals were chosen based on the following criteria:

  • Consistent Editorial Staff
  • Not Edited by Students
  • Appears in Print
  • All regions Represented
  • Multiple Genres Represented
  • Staying Power (Year Established)
  • Widely Accepted as Reputable among Literary Community
  • Likelihood of Work appearing in these journals to go on to be nominated for/win a Pushcart and/or appear in Best American Series.

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.”

-Erin Belieu, Mother Jones, April 2012, “Where are the Women Writers? ASME Edition”

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.

Will VIDA help me promote my new book?

VIDA is an all-volunteer organization, we don’t have the labor to provide promotional assistance. We do love hearing about your successes and achievements, however, so please feel free to keep us in the loop via social media. VIDA members will have access to a private forum for discussion, news and encouragement.

Why doesn’t the VIDA Count include digital publications like online journals and magazines?

We do not include digital publications because online content can be changed at will leaving very little trace of the history of that change. We hold on to physical journals until the following year’s VIDA Count has been released so that we can address alleged discrepancies. While digital publications have come a long way, they still don’t quite hold the weight of print publications, especially when dealing with career advancement.

I want to work with VIDA.

Woohoo! Thanks. We appreciate you. Please contact us and give us some information about yourself and your interest in working with VIDA. We are an all-volunteer organization and your engagement is crucial.

I want to use content from/about the VIDA Count/VIDA Count pies/VIDA/HER KIND in my work.

As explained in our terms of use, VIDA owns or licenses the copyrights in all materials on the VIDA website (www.vidaweb.org), and VIDA’s protected trademarks include VIDA, HER KIND, the VIDA Starburst logo, and VIDA COUNT.  We’re serious about advocating for gender equality, and that includes women being recognized and credited for their intellectual property.  We love when the conversation spills out into the blogosphere, the print world, online journals, magazines, and your newsletters, flyers, and e-mails, but please, please, please, make sure that you properly ask our permission and/or credit us – check out our terms of use to find out how.

 

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