An imbalance in the literary universe

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Professor of English Ann Townsend serves on VIDA’s executive committee.

“The Count” has stirred up a lot of talk, and that’s the whole idea.

Published by VIDA: Women in the Literary Arts, The Count is a bunch of eye-opening pie charts that detail gender [im]balance in some of the most renowned publications in the literary world. The charts show how many women vs. men had their books reviewed, and how many women vs. men did the reviewing.

From Harper’s Magazine to The Paris Review to the Best American series, the stats are hard to ignore.

It all began in 2009, when poet Cate Marvin was stewing over a particular rejection of a proposal she had submitted to the Association of Writers & Writing Programs conference. She suspected it was her feminist overtones that led to the “thanks, but no thanks” response. She found herself at her laptop, typing out a lengthy email about female literary achievement and conditions in the establishment, and she sent it to every female writer she knew.

That email was heavily forwarded, and by the next morning, VIDA was as good as formed.

Ann Townsend, poet and professor of English who now serves on VIDA’s executive committee, was one of those who received that first e-mail from Marvin.

“When I saw it, I thought, ‘Finally. Someone is saying aloud what I have been thinking for years.’ ”

VIDA set out to collect the hard data, and now writers nationwide—men and women alike—are coming together to talk about the literary gender gap.

Read more about VIDA in the soon-to-be-released issue of the Denison Magazine. In the meantime, vidaweb.org is an interactive site where you can find out about VIDA’s various projects and what you can do to join the conversation.

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