Wednesday, March 26, 2014

VIDA: Uncovering Inequality in the Literary World

Shelby Engelhardt
            Just this week, I was searching the web for literary criticism to use in one of the papers I am writing for my international women’s literature class. As I combed through page after page, I began to realize that most articles I found were written by men. This actually shocked me because the book is about the issue of gender inequality.
I have never been one to really even realize or comment on the inequality of women, but this reminded me about an email that I had sitting in my inbox about VIDA. Let me be honest, before this email, I had never heard of VIDA, but I knew from reading the first line, that they were about uncovering the inequality of gender in some way. So, I logged on to my email and clicked the link. That is when I suddenly realized how much inequality exists within the literary field!
            VIDA began in 2009 as a group of women who spent countless hours scouring literary publications and book reviews to find out how many women are involved. It has now evolved into a huge project that occurs each year, and they are now looking for people to help undertake this enormous task. The numbers for 2013 were just released. Did you know that New York Review of Books consists of 80% of male authors, meaning only 20% of their books reviewed were written by women? They are not the only ones: The Atlantic, London Review of Books, New Republic, and New Yorker are high on the list of publications that subscribe to the good ol’ boys mentality.
This group makes sure women know that they are not forgotten in the literary world and is starting to open the eyes of editors at major publications. They are shining the spotlight on female authors such as Jesmyn Ward (Salvage the Bones and Men We Reaped). VIDA is calling out national publications like Times Literary Supplement for their lack of publishing of female writers and praising publications such as Ninth Letter (62% of their published works come from women) and Tin House (69% coming from women).
 They have definitely started ruffling some feathers, but the group warns that this fight is nowhere near over. They have just started the battle, and it is up to all of us, men and women alike, to continue to fight to reach equality in every field and not just literature and publishing.
            I encourage each of you to take a few minutes to visit the site and consider joining in the count! You can access this year’s and previous years’ statistics at


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