Wednesday 16 February 2011

Are literary publications biased against women writers?

There’s been an animated discussion about this on the Magma blog, started by Rob Mackenzie.  It’s in reaction to some statistics from VIDA, an organisation that represents women in the literary arts, showing just how much more space men get in the literary pages of newspapers and magazines. 

This prompted me to do something I’ve been meaning to for ages – check the figures for the Guardian’s regular Saturday poetry reviews.  Why the Guardian Review rather than any other publication?   Because the Guardian on Saturday is the only newspaper I read regularly.  I am mildly addicted to the Review, but not the poetry stuff: why, year after year after year, do they review so few poetry collections by women?  Also because the Review (even if some people treat it as I treat the sport section) must expose far more people to poetry reviews than any poetry magazine could dream of.   

See here for the results which were… well, interesting.  Looking at the names of poets whose books have been reviewed since the beginning of 2010, these show that a much wider range of male poets got reviewed than female ones.  What does that say about the culture and attitudes of those who commission the reviews? 

The figures for female reviewers are also very poor.  Oh, and the poetry reviews themselves tend to consist largely of adjectival praise… you might describe this as Empathy Crit.

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting to follow this discussion. It's what I'd suspected and reminds me depressingly of university - 90% of Pschology undergraduates were female and the reverse ratio for lecturers. I think it does come down to how women are still 'conditioned' to see themselves - nurturing peacemakers rather than competitors. I also read an interesting article recently(where?) suggesting that girls tend to accept that their abilities are fixed whereas boys don't and are therefore much more likely to challenge themselves, try anything, blag their way into being reviewers etc . . .