THE YEAR OF INTERSECTIONAL THINKING
VIDA is proud to introduce our newly-expanded VIDA Count. In this iteration, we examine race and ethnicity, gender, sexual identity and ability.
Why would you consider such information? you might ask. VIDA has a history of advocating for women’s voices to be heard. An intersectional approach, such as looking at these demographic factors, is a natural development necessary to deepen the conversation. We want to take a closer look and identify what factors affect all women’s representation. This next step requires asking how those factors might affect certain populations of women writers when it comes to publication rates.
Examining women writers by using their demographic identities may feel uncomfortable, but we have historically considered identity as a starting point when interrogating the deficit of specific women’s voices in the literary landscape. As the charts below reveal, some women writers are better represented in print in terms of race, gender identity, sexual identity and ability than others. This closer look enables us to ask why some are underrepresented. In future years, we hope to refine our categories so that we can accurately link categories and their impact on women writers’ reception in the literary landscape.
If certain women’s voices are absent or poorly represented in mainstream publications, how does that deficit shape public thought? What are implications on the public imagination, if any? Do stereotypes take the place of lived women’s thoughts, ideas and experiences? To what extent is the status quo rendered bankrupt by such glaring absences?
If the literary landscape is dominated by specific groups, how can we be healthy as a society and benefit from both our differences and commonalities? Isn’t one of literature’s effects to humanize populations beyond our own?
One of VIDA’s principles is to shine a light where some would rather not look. We hope that what is illuminated through this work moves everyone to ask for more.
The enclosed survey outcomes reflect responses from a sample of women writers identified through the 2015 VIDA Count. Nearly 700 (50%) of approximately 1,400 writers responded to the survey during a three-month period (January through March 2016). As with all of our efforts, we share this information to highlight where deficits exist, to gather more insight on the spectrum of women writers currently included in top tier journals, and to hold each other accountable in bringing equity to publishing.
—Amy King, VIDA Chair, Executive Committee
Amy King’s The Missing Museum is a winner of the 2015 Tarpaulin Sky Book Prize. I Want to Make You Safe (Litmus Press) was one of Boston Globe’s Best Poetry Books of 2011. King joins the ranks of Ann Patchett, Eleanor Roosevelt & Rachel Carson as the 2015 winner of the WNBA Award (Women’s National Book Association). She serves on the executive board of VIDA: Women in Literary Arts and is currently co-editing the anthology Big Energy Poets of the Anthropocene: When Ecopoets Think Climate Change. She is also co-editing the anthology Bettering American Poetry 2015 and is an Associate Professor of Creative Writing at SUNY Nassau Community College.
Highlights & Observations
2015 VIDA Count
Two years ago, we celebrated a great turnaround at The Paris Review as the publication reached gender parity with women representing 51 percent of the pie. In 2014 we reported 40 percent representation. In 2015, women make up just about one-third of the pie, at 34 percent overall. The silver lining? Interviews of women are 64 percent.
Harper’s overall numbers reflect executive editor Christopher Beha’s public commitment to improvement. In 2015 the share of the pie for women was 38 percent (83 bylines by women), its highest since VIDA began reporting. Bylines by women increased by 11 percentage points since last year, following last year’s 10-percentage point increase.
Poetry‘s consistently good pies reflected 49 percent (185 bylines) were by women. Since VIDA began tallying the numbers, women have represented 40 percent of the pie or more. Poetry‘s bylines in 2015 also included writers who identified as trans women — transfeminine (1) and trans women — genderqueer/genderfluid (2), which taken together comprised 0.8 percent of the pie.
Granta continued steady progress toward gender parity in 2015. Women represented 49 percent of contributors, up slightly from last year’s 48 percent.
Last year we reported that The New Republic made good on its promise to change, with slight improvement in most categories. In 2015, we observed a dramatic increase, as women’s share of the pie increased to 45 percent, up 18 percentage points from 2014’s 27 percent.
Of the six years VIDA has reported, at The Times Literary Supplement women writers have made up less than one third of the pie. In 2015, overall, 917 pieces by women writers made up 29 percent of the pie. This reflects a 1-percentage point increase from last year’s 28 percent. Three book reviews and one author reviewed identified as trans women, comprising 0.1 percent of the pie.
The VIDA Count favored women in the categories of book reviewers, authors reviewed, and in-brief at the Boston Review. Overall, women made up 46 percent of the pie, which is the highest percentage over the six-year period we’ve been tallying, up from 33 percent in 2010.
Last year we were cautiously optimistic about progress at The Atlantic, which saw an 8 percentage point increase to 40 percent women overall. Unfortunately, this trend did not hold for 2015, as the overall percentage for women dropped to 30 percent, its lowest percentage for the last three years. Men took home a greater share of the pie in every category, including bylines (70%).
2015 Larger Literary Landscape VIDA Count
Our Larger Literary Landscape VIDA Count is in its third year, and we are seeing results worth celebrating!
Of the 26 publications in our 2015 Larger Literary Landscape VIDA Count, 15 of them published as many bylines by women writers as men, or more! We are celebrating A Public Space (72%), The Normal School (69%), Crab Orchard Review (64%), Jubilat (59%), Ninth Letter (59%), Cincinnati Review (58%), N+1 (57%), Conjunctions (56%), Gettysburg Review (55%), Kenyon Review (55%), Prairie Schooner (54%), Colorado Review (53%), Missouri Review (52%), Pleiades (50%), and Harvard Review (50%).
In 2015, nine publications are closing in on gender parity, with bylines by women writers representing 40 to 49 percent of the pie: Copper Nickel (49%), Callaloo (48%), Fence (48%), The Believer (47%), New American Writing (46%), McSweeney’s (45%), Virginia Quarterly Review (45%), AGNI (43%), and Southwest Review (40%). We don’t think it’s pie in the sky to hope to see these publications close the gap in 2016! Some are already so close!
Women’s share of the pie represented less than 40 percent at only two publications: Southern Review (35%) and New England Review (39%).
At A Public Space, bylines by women represented 72 percent of the pie in 2015, with 33 bylines. Last year, we reported that women represented 43 percent of the pie, with 18 bylines.
Women’s share of the pie reached 69 percent at The Normal School (42 bylines). Last year, women represented 51 percent of the publication’s bylines.
Crab Orchard Review continues to bake tasty pies. Last year we reported women enjoyed 57 percent of the overall pie (51 bylines), and this year we’re pleased to celebrate 64 percent (98 bylines).
Ninth Letter made great strides toward gender parity in 2015. Bylines by women writers made up 59 percent of the pie (53 bylines). The 2014 VIDA Count yielded 34 percent (24 bylines).
Kenyon Review reached gender parity with 55 percent of bylines by women writers. The last VIDA Count period yielded 42 percent.
2015 Intersectional Survey
We are particularly encouraged by the response rates at Poetry and Tin House. Women authors/reviewers contributed 188 bylines at Poetry in 2015. Of those 188 bylines, we received survey responses from women writers who represent 117 bylines, a 62 percent response rate. Women writers who contributed to Tin House also responded well to our survey. We received survey responses from women writers who represented 47 of 77 bylines, or 61 percent.
We are mindful to limit our discussion to the demographic data we received from women writers who responded to our survey. As more authors respond to our future surveys, our data will become more complete and accurate. We consider this year’s VIDA Count an important step and believe the outcomes are worthy of careful consideration.
2015 Women of Color (WOC) VIDA Count
In 2015, of the survey responses collected from women who published in the 15 publications included in VIDA Main’s Count, the publication that published the greatest percentage of bylines by women of color was The New Republic. Women of color contributed 17 of the 47 bylines our survey respondents represented; overall 107 pieces were contributed by women. During the previous VIDA Count period, the magazine included only one byline from a writer who identified as a woman of color.
The publication that reflected the most diversity with at least one survey respondent in ten different racial/ethnic identity categories was The New York Times Book Review. During the last VIDA Count period, it published one byline by a writer who responded to the survey and identified as a woman of color.
Threepenny Review published women who identified as white.
Granta published only 3 bylines by women writers who self-reported as women of color—2 bylines by South Asian writers and one byline by an Asian writer.
2015 WOC Count – The Outliers:
Mixed-Race/Mixed-Ethnicity: Thirteen out of the fifteen publications included in VIDA’s Main Count published mixed-race or mixed-ethnicity identified writers. The New York Times Book Review published the greatest number of bylines by writers who identified as mixed-race/mixed-ethnicity (25 bylines), with The Times Literary Supplement coming in a close second at 18 bylines.
Asian: Ten publications included work by writers who identified as Asian, and of those The New Republic published 6 bylines by women who identified as Asian. Poetry, The New York Times Book Review and Tin House published five bylines.
South Asian: The New York Times Book Review published the most bylines by women writers who identified as South Asian (8 bylines). The Times Literary Supplement published 4 bylines by South Asian women. In all, eight publications included bylines by women writers who self-reported as South Asian.
Southeast Asian: Five publications included bylines by women writers who self-reported as Southeast Asian. Poetry Magazine published 11 bylines, The New York Times Book Review published 2 bylines, and Boston Review, The New Republic, and New Yorker each published one byline by women writers who identified as Southeast Asian.
Middle Eastern or North African: The Nation, The New York Times Book Review, and the Times Literary Supplement each published three bylines by women writers who identified as Middle Eastern or North African. The New Republic and The New Yorker included one byline each.
African: Only two publications published pieces by women writers who identified as African; they were the Times Literary Supplement (2 bylines) and The New York Times Book Review (1 byline).
Black or African American: Of the eight publications that published bylines by women writers who identified as Black or African American, New York Times Book Review had the highest number of bylines (6 bylines). The others publications include The New Yorker (4 bylines), Poetry Magazine (4 bylines), The New Republic (3 bylines), Tin House (2 bylines), Boston Review (2 bylines), The Nation (2 bylines), and Paris Review (1 byline).
2015 Sexuality VIDA Count
According to the self-reported intersectional demographic data by women authors/reviewees who responded to our survey, The New Yorker published women writers in all sexual identity categories, as did the The Times Literary Supplement.
Poetry published bylines by women writers in nearly every sexual identity category, including 55 non-heterosexual bylines compared to the 48 bylines contributed by straight/heterosexual women writers.
There was a noticeable absence of non-heterosexual writers in The Atlantic, which published 19 bylines by straight/heterosexual writers and just one byline by a writer whose sexual identity is broad spectrum.
Threepenny published bylines by 4 straight/heterosexual and 3 broad spectrum women writers. No other sexual identity categories were self-reported in survey responses.
2015 Disability VIDA Count
According to the self-reported intersectional demographic data, six of the fifteen publications in VIDA’s Main Count did not publish bylines by women writers who identify as disabled or a person with a disability. These publications include The Atlantic, Harper’s, The Nation, New York Review of Books, Paris Review, and Threepenny. Further, neither Threepenny nor the New York Review of Books published bylines by women writers who reported an impairment, difference, or disability.
The Nation included one byline by a survey respondent who reported a cognitive developmental impairment, difference, or disability. The Paris Review included one byline by a survey respondent who identified as blind or visually impaired. Harper’s and The Atlantic each included one byline by a survey respondent who reported a combination of impairments, differences, or disabilities. No other impairments, differences, or disabilities were reported by survey respondents representing bylines at these four publications.
Our survey data revealed that The Times Literary Supplement, New York Times Book Review, and Tin House published the most bylines by women writers who identify as disabled.
Of all survey respondents, across the fifteen publications, the impairments, differences, and disabilities most frequently reported were cognitive-psychological (31 bylines). Physical or ambulatory impairments, differences, and disabilities comprised 11 bylines. Eleven bylines were also contributed by writers who were blind or visually impaired.
2015 Trans Women VIDA Count
According to the self-reported intersectional demographic data by authors/reviewees who responded to our survey, eight of the fifteen publications included in our Main Count published pieces by writers who are trans women, trans women-genderqueer/genderfluid, or trans women – transfeminine. These publications include Poetry (0.8% of bylines), Tin House (0.7%), The New Republic (0.4%), The New York Times Book Review (0.2%), New York Review of Books (0.2%), The Times Literary Supplement (0.1%), The Nation (0.1%), and London Review of Books (0.1%).
Seven of the fifteen publications in VIDA’s Main Count did not publish bylines by writers who are trans women, trans women-genderqueer/genderfluid, or trans women-transfeminine. These publications included Boston Review, Paris Review, Threepenny, The Atlantic, Granta, Harper’s, and The New Yorker.
Download a .pdf file of the above primers by clicking here.
*A word about methodology; helpful reminders for interpreting survey data*
Last year we reported on the inaugural 2014 Women of Color VIDA Count. Our method relied upon survey responses from the women writers whose bylines we tallied in the fifteen publications that comprised the 2014 Main Count. To contact these women writers, our interns reached out to journal editors, searched author websites, and used social media, listservs, and other networks.
This year, we expanded our method of the 2014 Women of Color VIDA Count to also tally self-reported demographic data on racial and ethnic identity, sexual identity, gender identity and disabilities or impairments. Response rates varied by publication. Of the fifteen publications, six had survey response rates between 20 and 29 percent, six had survey response rates between 30 and 39 percent, one had a response rate of 43 percent, and two had survey response rates between 60 and 69 percent.
Infographics: The 2015 VIDA Count
Infographics: The 2015 Larger Literary Landscape Count
Credits & Acknowledgements
VIDA thanks the following individuals and organizations for their roles in the completion of the 2015 Count:
Sara Iacovelli @sarayikes
Bibi Lewis @bibi_lewis
Carly Rae Zent
Christina Djossa @cdjossa
Count Committee & Count Leads
Amy King @amyhappens
Holly Burdorff @hburdorff
Lynn Melnick @lynnmelnick
John Lee Clark
Women, Action, and the Media: WAM!
Out of the Binders, Inc.
The University of Alabama Department of English
The University of Alabama Digital Humanities Center
The University of Alabama Libraries
Every editor who assisted us with survey work and/or information clarification
Every writer who provided us with their email address for the survey
& the entire VIDA community.