Friday, February 11, 2011

Is the Literary World an Old Boy’s Club?

Actually at this point, that title doesn’t even feel like a real question since VIDA, the organization for women in the literary arts, released some numbers a week or so ago that has the literary world in a tizzy. (Though a lot of us are not sure about the reason for said tizzy: we’ve all been able to read the bylines for a very long time.) Today Slate looks at the question again, and runs down some of the possible answers:
So why so little change? One reason is that only women are having the conversation, which too quickly, given the temper of the times, turns into gloomy brooding on female psychology. Do women lack self-esteem? Are they too mannerly to put themselves forward? Perhaps, as O'Rourke suggested, they've avoided the subjects the male gatekeepers want to cover? (Yes, that certainly explains why The New Yorker chose Louis Menand to write a long essay about Betty Friedan last month.) There is probably a bit of truth in all these points: Women do often doubt their knowledge and abilities, and their diffidence probably explains why the pool of writers sending in pitches and proposals and unsolicited manuscripts is, at most magazines, disproportionately male. Women are indeed less likely than men to take up stereotypically male subjects—although not as much as Barry Gewen, an editor at the New York Times Book Review, thought when he told a gathering of academic women a few years ago that there were no female military historians (turns out, there are).
Meanwhile, Quill & Quire collects enough links on the topic that we don’t really feel like we have to. Q&Q’s round-up of voices shouting back about gender parity in literary publishing is here.


Anonymous kathy Page said...

I think Tillie Olsen wrote about this rather well in Silences... Perhaps things have not changed so very much since then?

Saturday, February 12, 2011 at 3:30:00 PM PST  

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