It’s idiotic to blame a whole gender, isn’t it?

Well, OK, let’s do it…

Even animals can count.

Humans, one would think, would be a little more savvy at interpreting data.

We’ve seen the latest raw numbers, in which male reviewers far outnumber female reviewers, and this should make a woman’s blood boil.  The whole tribe of women should be deeply offended.

Do you feel it?  As a tribe?

The latest figures:

Males out-number females in book reviewing: Harper’s: 28-3, New Republic: 79-9, London Review: 210-66, Times Literary Supplement: 814-340, Atlantic: 16-4, New Yorker: 138-58, Paris Review: 6-1, New York Review of  Books: 215-40.

Not to make a big deal of this, but these are all liberal/left publications.

So what the hell is going on?

Are left/liberals sexist?

Ingrained sexism exists.  It does.   But to say this doesn’t solve anything.

Should a magazine present content based on gender alone?  Is it feasible for editors to go out looking for women writers—just because they happen to be women?  Is this really going to happen?  We cannot help but think that, in reality, in any sort of consistent manner, it will not.  This is not a solution, and anyone who offers it as one, is being condescending, at best.

We need to move beyond VIDA outrage and take a closer look at  the possible causes of these numbers.

We have a crime, so let’s look at the editors/publishers and cast about for a motive.

Is the following male guilt issue what’s really going on among these liberal/left editors?

“I reject this view because it is a woman’s view.”  Or, worse:  “I reject this article for the sole reason that it is by a woman.”

We need to embrace this—or not.  Because if we embrace it, (liberal) males are guilty as hell.

Do we embrace it?  In 2013, do we embrace this?

You’re probably wondering when we are going to arrive at the point we made at the top: “Are Women To Blame?”

We will get to that in a minute, but first we wanted to express outrage at the raw numbers and ask the vital VIDA question: is this the primary cause of these numbers:  liberal editors are rejecting work by women because it is women’s work?

Or, is it closer to the truth that less women are reviewing books—and why would this be so?

Could it be…could it be…that there are less women authors in history (because of past injustice) and so naturally less women are reviewed? 

The VIDA numbers demonstrate this: male authors reviewed outnumber female authors reviewed by a similar percentage to male v. female reviewers.

Women, fighting against VIDA prejudice and championing their own, are less likely to review male authors.

Now the horrible truth flashes upon us.  If men are more willing to review women and, at the same time, women are less willing to review men, does not this simple fact alone go a long way towards expressing itself in VIDA’s raw numbers?

Are women, acting in a manner ostensibly benefiting their tribe, in fact, hurting it?

Holy Counter-Intuition, Batman!

We also need to ask, and VIDA should look into this:  What’s the statistical breakdown of  gender in scholarship?  Are women restricted by being less widely represented, expertise-wise, in scholarly subjects, as a larger proportionate chunk of women, for instance, pursue “women’s studies”—thus narrowing their appeal to editors who need to fill out their magazines’ content?

One VIDA lesson might be:  Never take narrow views—even when following the seductive sirens of social justice—because, in the long run, you will only hurt your cause.

Finally, on a different note, has anyone broken down the VIDA numbers in terms of gay v. straight?  What if it turned out the female count was actually higher than the straight male count?  Would this matter at all?  Would this make the numbers a little less outrageous?  Or no?



  1. Diane Roberts Powell said,

    March 6, 2013 at 2:32 am

    A gender divide is different than a racial, or gay/straight divide. Women make up just over half of the population on planet earth. And we represent all racial backgrounds and sexual orientations, just as males do.

    Tom, I think that, as one who teaches English classes, you must have noticed by now, that the majority of students are women. It has probably been this way for AT LEAST 20 to 30 years, if not longer. Yet, men still out-number women in English tenured positions. You probably see many more women teaching as low paid adjuncts, or as HS teachers. More editors are men than women. Yes, I know men do this kind of poorly paid work too.

    I have read some tripe about men submitting much more often than women do, and this is the problem. That is ridiculous because most editors are wading through an enormous amount of submissions.

    Of course, we are told that they are looking for “the best” so we women are further kicked in the teeth by being, not so politely, told that our best just isn’t good enough.

    Of course, the men claim that they are more than willing to review work by women. However, their actions speak louder than their words.

  2. thomasbrady said,

    March 6, 2013 at 2:51 pm


    So you believe it’s old-fashioned sexism. In the most liberal publications in the most advanced liberal nation on earth, men are intentionally lording it over women by ratios approaching 10-1.

    There’s no specific reasons beyond men simply bullying women.

    I find this hard to believe, but if it’s true, what can women do?


  3. Diane Roberts Powell said,

    March 7, 2013 at 1:37 am

    Tom, I would say that those are pretty mainstream publications. Sure, Bill Buckley Jr. probably thought of them as being ran by a bunch of commies, but I don’t think so. Could it be that these bastions of liberalism, are not that liberal? Who heads these publications? Look behind the scenes. I find that women tend to be more liberal than men (just my opinion). Could that have anything to do with it?

    We are not the most liberal nation on earth. England, Germany, France, Sweden, Austria, (along with other European countries), and even parochial Ireland, are all more liberal than the US.

    Besides all of that, just because a man is a liberal, doesn’t mean he is exempt from being a sexist.

    • thomasbrady said,

      March 7, 2013 at 3:00 pm


      I hear you. But where do American women go from here? Is the answer for women to focus on women, for women to review mostly women authors, etc? How does one overturn centuries of previous oppression—which entails more male authors in history, etc? I know women are just as capable as men, but the point is: what can they do right now? My point is the whole situation will worsen if women attempt to ‘champion their own.’ It’s a counter-intuitive point, I know, but do you think it has any merit?


  4. noochinator said,

    March 7, 2013 at 10:40 am

    Interesting that institutions
    Most “politically correct”
    Would be the ones where gender equality
    Is hardest to detect.

    • thomasbrady said,

      March 7, 2013 at 3:19 pm

      Reality is not what it seems.
      Heed opinions not, but your dreams.
      The truth lies ‘behind the scenes.’
      The meaning is never what it really means.

  5. Diane Roberts Powell said,

    March 7, 2013 at 11:36 pm

    Tom, I don’t think that the problem is women chapioning their own, so to speak. I don’t think that women are only reading and writing about women. If that were true, there probably wouldn’t be very many women English majors. It is not the women who are acting unfairly. We all know that an opinion, even an editor’s, is subjective. Well, I think that some editors are arrogant enough to believe that their opinions are indeed fact, because they think of themselves as being arbiters of literature.

  6. marcusbales said,

    March 8, 2013 at 1:43 am

    This is a really hard question: how DO you persuade people to change the parameters by which they choose to publish literary works, when neither the money nor the cultural prestige of publishing literary works is sufficient to consider more than jawboning?

    In my experience hiring and managing men and women in the workplace men are almost always willing to take the promotion or the new task and give it a try; women are almost always asking for some more time and a few classes before they’ll feel ready. Of course there are exceptions, but that’s the way to bet.

    So no doubt men writers are a lot pushier, a lot more available, a lot more willing to write to order, a lot more willing to accept editorial changes in order to get published than women.

    Probably the most effective way to get more women published is to offer women writers the advice that you gotta be pushier, more available, more willing to write to order, and more willing to accept editorial changes just to get published. In other words, if more women were willing to sacrifice most of what makes a literary work a literary work they’d get published more often.

  7. Diane Roberts Powell said,

    March 8, 2013 at 4:19 am

    Marcus you said:

    “In other words, if more women were willing to sacrifice most of what makes a literary work a literary work they’d get published more often.”

    I hope you were being facetious.

    • marcusbales said,

      March 9, 2013 at 2:59 am

      Exactly, Diane — though I was really trying for satirical rather than facetious.

      Really, what editors want is for writers to be pushier, more available, more willing to write to order and more willing to accept editorial changes in order to get published? Really? That’s the game? No one’s looking for strong voices with vivid opinions and distinctive writing?

      Maybe it’s worse than I thought maybe the prose game is just as sapped by postmodernism as free verse. Maybe no one can tell any more what’s good prose now that they can’t tell what’s good free verse — so they resort to what the poetry editors resort to: publishing their friends and the people they know or have heard of. There’s no way for them to tell what’s good, so they just publish people they know.

  8. thomasbrady said,

    March 8, 2013 at 1:56 pm

    Poor Marcus…you were only trying to help…but you’ve come across as condescending and stereotyping. That’s the sticky nature of this whole issue… I think women are just as sacrificing (if not more!) and intellectually and emotionally available (if not more!) than men.

    I still think the reason—if there is one, beyond purely blind, bullying sexism—is the counter-intuitive one: women championing their own and thus tending to box themselves in with ‘women’s issues’ writing.

    Yes, Diane, there are lots of women English Majors, but there’s also lots of “Women’s Studies” emphasis in English these days, and this is not to say women authors are not worthy, or anything like that, but we’re talking numbers here…women writing on women will slant the overall numbers significantly, that’s all…

  9. Anonymous said,

    March 8, 2013 at 3:10 pm

    mr brady, condescending and stereotyping, from what i’ve seen of mr bales, is his entire schtick, including our earlier discussion this week, but you didn’t notice in it that thread? huh? selective reading comprehension strikes again.

    but please, mr brady, please elaborate on your claims about the effect women’s studies is having on the literary potential of women authors.

    • thomasbrady said,

      March 8, 2013 at 3:46 pm


      Do you mean the ‘analysis’ discussion re: rhythm & poetry? I don’t think Marcus was being stereotyping or condescending there: analysis is necessary to understanding art, as it is for understanding anything else: obviously analysis is not necessary 24/7, but…

      As for women’s studies: here’s my point again: Let’s say Mr. Editor of a non-specializing-in-women, literary magazine wants material and looks about for it: He wants something on Pound, on T.S. Eliot, on Whitman, on Millay, on Bishop, on Marianne Moore, on history, on theory, on Helen Vendler, on Camille Paglia, on Frank O’Hara, on landscape painting, on Mary Shelley. He finds Pound, Eliot, and Moore experts are men, since Modernism was one of the most sexist eras in literature; Whitman? Men. Landscape painting—dominated by men, so men. Camille Paglia, offends feminists, so…men. Helen Vendler…writes on Keats, Yeats, and Stevens…so…men. Bishop? She’s mostly championed by men…so…men. History? A field full of men and dominated by men…so…men. Theory? A field dominated by men…so…men. Millay…a life totally wrapped up in men…so…men. Mary Shelley…identified strongly with Shelley…Romantic Studies dominated by men…so men. O’Hara? New York School dominated by men…so, men.

      Mr. Editor may certainly find women who can write about these subjects, and does. But in terms of pure percentages, the ratio of experts available to write on these subjects, is probably something like 10-1 men.

      The issue is complex, obviously. Modernism, for instance is a huge literary subject these days…and Modernism is hugely sexist in a totally acceptable manner. Historically, whole fields dominated by men. Now, of course women are interacting with, attempting to change, and writing on these topics and in these fields. But there is no doubt that men have a simple and natural advantage just in terms of being there for editors looking for works that the Zeitgeist wants. For every woman who turns away from General Subjects and pursues anything which might smell like Woman’s Studies, there is a man ready to write on General Subjects, which then impacts the VIDA numbers quite “innocently.”

    • marcusbales said,

      March 9, 2013 at 2:29 pm

      It’s tough to take any anonymous opinions seriously, and tougher to take the self-pitying ones as anything but pathetic drivel.

  10. Anonymous said,

    March 8, 2013 at 5:05 pm

    i think a cursory study of any scholarly article database would prove your assumptions regarding subject and gender, for the most part, flat out wrong. literary women are writing about all kinds of subjects nowadays. not just other women. and the writing quality is the same as men. literary writing is not like sports or music, where men, for the most part, simply outperform the women.

    i think, until the average joe can feel totally at ease going grocery shopping in the middle of the morning on a wednesday, without feeling totally inept because he’s either unemployed or a stay-at-home father, you will continue to see these vida numbers skewed towards men.

    • thomasbrady said,

      March 8, 2013 at 8:12 pm


      You may very well be right.

      VIDA numbers could just be the result of socially ingrained sexism.


  11. Diane Roberts Powell said,

    March 9, 2013 at 3:01 am

    When you boys have finished taking a piss, I’ll come back and comment.

  12. thomasbrady said,

    March 9, 2013 at 3:08 am

    “Isn’t it a pity? Now it isn’t it a shame? How we break each other’s hearts and cause each other pain?”

    –George Harrison

  13. Diane Roberts Powell said,

    March 9, 2013 at 3:17 am

    Well, you did hurt my feelings. I’m an INFP, like poets used to be. I become a mouton enrage when I feel cornered.

    • thomasbrady said,

      March 9, 2013 at 4:21 am


      I’m nearly mid-way between all 4 myers-briggs ratings, half-introvert, extrovert, etc I’m more ‘judge’ than ‘perceiver,’ however. That’s something I need to work on. I’m not sure how much stock I put in myers-briggs, though.

      I read back over the exchange, and I don’t see how I could have hurt you—I’m putting out my opinion, but also conceding I could be wrong.

      What else should I do?

      Do you want me to just embrace the theory that men are arrogant assholes? I guess I could…I would exclude myself…of course!


  14. Diane Roberts Powell said,

    March 9, 2013 at 4:45 am

    Well, with the Harrison quote about breaking hearts and causing people pain, I thought that you were alluding to hurt feelings. I thought you were implying that I had hurt your feelings when I said that about you and Marcus taking a piss. I was just trying to say that my feelings were hurt as well.

    I get the feeling that you are just trying to stir up a hornets nest, which may not be the most productive way to deal with this issue. And, it just reminds me of the comments you made a couple of weeks or so ago about racism being dead. No, it is not. And sorry, but we really don’t get to decide something like that. I don’t get to decide that homophobia is dead, because I’m straight. And besides, I find it hard to believe that you don’t think that racism, sexism, and homophobia exist.

    • thomasbrady said,

      March 9, 2013 at 2:17 pm


      No, the ‘piss’ comment didn’t hurt my feelings. My Harrison comment was more about the VIDA numbers and the inability to do anything about them. The hornets are already out of the nest with the publication of the VIDA numbers. I’m trying to calm down the hornets by seeking reasonable explanations instead of the usual, “You’re a sexist! You’re a racist! You’re a homophobe!” There will always be philes and phobes about everything under the sun. I never said ‘racism, sexism, and homophobia’ didn’t exist. But the question is, what do we do about it, beyond calling it out when we think we see it? I try to use reason to calm down the hornets. That’s all I do.


  15. Diane Roberts Powell said,

    March 10, 2013 at 12:35 am

    It’s funny that when women complain they are accused of being self-pitying and pathetic. That’s probably what those editors thought when they read the VIDA numbers.

  16. noochinator said,

    March 10, 2013 at 11:06 pm

    Many smart young folks
    Get filled up with rage—
    They see the opposite sex
    As keeping them in a cage—

    But when they get older,
    And life ceases to vex,
    They feel a tender fondness
    For the opposite sex.

  17. February 28, 2014 at 2:53 pm

    […] Scarriet wrote about VIDA last year: […]

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