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Women Writers Continue to Be Overlooked by Literary World


For any writer, getting your work published is only the first step down the long and arduous path to literary acclaim. Book reviews and literary journals are essential in the lit establishment as they provide legitimacy for  the most valued writers in our culture. Besides determining and broadcasting the work of authors deemed most worthy of a read, these publications act as feeders for grants, teaching positions, residencies, fellowships, and more publication. They are the machine that feeds the literary world and the success and livelihood of writers depends on their recommendations for our cultural consumption. 

It is a sad reality that the world of literary criticism is subject to the same widespread sexism plaguing institutions worldwide. The VIDA Count, out this week, shows that while gains have been made over the last four years, literary publications still have a long way to go in reaching gender equality in their representation of female authors and reviewers.  Every year, VIDA compiles data from “Tier 1” journals, publications, and press outlets in an effort to examine the disparity between men and women writers in the literary world. They measure the gender gap in regards to published authors, reviews of writers' publications, and those writing the reviews themselves—and their findings range from the dismal to the encouraging. While The Nation dedicated just 20% of its review content to works by women authors, 60% of the book reviews printed in the pages of Tin House were penned by women.

New this year is the 2014 Women of Color VIDA Count—which reveals, unsurprisingly, that WOC have basically no representation in the literary review establishment. Same goes for lesbian and gender queer authors. What can we do to affect change in the seriously depressing climate of sexism in the literary world?

VIDA has some recommendations that are seriously easy to implement. From their list of things you can do right now to advance women's writing:
  1. Count what's on your bookshelves and by more books written by women
  2. Subscribe to magazines that publish women writers and cancel subscriptions to publications that don't
  3. Write to editors and publishers about gender equality in their pages
  4. If you are a female author, submit your work everywhere
  5. Use social media to bring attention to women in the literary arts

    I'm feeling inspired to write more and get something published. What will you do to encourage gender equality in the lit world?

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