Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A brief note on the gender gap.

We've written about the gender gap in publishing fairly extensively before and I feel we more or less said what we had to say on the subject, but here is an anecdote that I think about when the conversation gets heated:

There was a period of a month or so where we only solicited women, and were very active in doing so. We made a point of it. We wanted to be part of the solution. We wrote them individually, praising their work and letting them know how we found them so that they could easily submit similar writing. Of those women we solicited, several said they would or might submit. None of them actually did so. While several women have responded to our general solicitations, none have responded favorably to individual solicitation.

You can blame that on the nonexistent reputation of our largely theoretical magazine, but I've heard similar things from many other editors with more established outlets. As such our publishing will not be as balanced as we would like, and we've had to make our peace with that. Editors are responsible for the doors they leave open and the methods by which they curate, but writers need also to take responsibility for their own careers. 


  1. I just dug up this post I made in July:

    I'm not actually quite of the "make our peace" mindset on this question, not that it changes the real outcomes much--we will probably publish this issue with a less than equal representation of women, and in a sense, I will have to "make my peace" with it in that we have a very real publishing timeframe to think about. But I think that this is a question that needs to get re-raised with every issue, regardless of how close to equal we got with the last one. I also don't see it as a matter of writers' responsibility to promote themselves to editors, at least to the extent to which this means submitting more and thus producing more, though certainly writers shouldn't expect to just be discovered sans submission.

    I just think that it's more important, assuming the gender gap itself is acknowledged by editors (sometimes that in itself is a battle), to get women to talk about why they're not responding to solicitation, what's hindering them from sending work in the first place. Sure all writers have other responsibilities to get in the way, and sure it's ultimately the writer's responsibility to get themselves out there to whatever degree they choose. But I want to acknowledge that question of degree, and to interrogate the choice not to submit, not just chalk it up to an irreparable imbalance. Which I don't think is what you're saying, but is something that I think could be mishandled by editors looking for an excuse for their inability to publish equal numbers of women. The mechanism of inequality needs to be questioned, and what has been largely ignored, I think, is that that mechanism operates on both the writers' side and the publishers' side. I just want the writers to start talking about it from their point of view, and not to pretend we've done all we can as editors until they do.

    Again, not really what you're saying here, but I really want women writers to start talking about their writing behavior and their behavior as submitters, not so it can be "repaired," but so we can maybe start to see practical and honest ways to get the numbers up.

  2. No, I agree with that -- and indeed, I meant "make our peace" more in the sense you mean. And certainly we should continue working on it in future issues, trying to do better.