Should you choose to accept it: discuss the validity of the statistics and the conclusions drawn in these articles on women publishing in sf magazines, particularly the latter. (If you have questions about the methodology or the datasets, it may be more useful to ask them on the Strange Horizons forum than here.)
7 thoughts on “Your Task For The Day”
My big issue is with the idea that 50/50 representation is, or should be, a goal.
I have no problems with the stats, except that I don’t really see the point in looking at the increase in the number of women published in percentage terms – saying that Analog had a 50% increase in stories by women is much less important to me than knowing that it went from 8 to 12%.
My problem with the article is the conclusion — that it is up to women to submit more to correct for the unbalanced male/female ratio in the four magazines in the study. Linville does look at the other, subtler factors that may be in play, but given the historic exclusion of women from SF (as characters in stories, as writers, and as editors, a la Justine Larbalestier’s The Battle of the Sexes in Science Fiction), it will take much more than that to get more women published.
If editors are committed to correcting the gender imbalance, I think a lot of changes need to be made. Of course, this is also a big if, as my impression has been that several editors are willing to consider what is submitted to them by women, but not necessarily willing to actively work toward getting more submissions.
In general, I’m a bit leery of articles about gender imbalance that end up placing the burden of change on women, as that’s historically been a way to absolve the system of making any changes.
Oyce, that bothered me too. I think more than a nod needs to be given to questions of why women don’t submit more to the magazines mentioned.
I do wonder about the ways that answers to that question might be examined, though. At what point is it okay for women writers to not really be interested in submitting to those magazines? What reasons for that lack of interest would be considered good and valid? And again, does the gender imbalance really need “correction” by the editors? That smacks of a quota system, to me, and I find myself very strongly opposed to that idea (not least because requiring the same number of stories in each issue by women and by men rules out stories from people who don’t want to reveal their gender or who don’t identify as male or female). If it were 45/55, would that feel “corrected”? 40/60? What if editors focus on gender-balancing protagonists, and hire more female slushreaders, and publish more stories by women, and the submission ratios don’t change?
If it’s not acceptable to have a mainstream magazine that mostly publishes men, is it acceptable to have one that mostly publishes women? If a bunch of women started a magazine that only published work by women and/or featuring female protagonists, and that magazine was of consistently high quality, would that make it more imperative that the other magazines start publishing more quality fiction by women, or less?
What about male/female ratios in other areas of fandom and publishing, like GOHs and book advances and anthology editors? The magazines are just one aspect of the industry, and it’s folly to pretend that they tell the whole story or are even bellwethers. As long as magazine editors have decades-long tenure, the magazines will be very slow to change.
I’d like to see less focus on the mythical 50/50 and more investigation of what makes SF more appealing to men (currently) and fantasy more appealing to women (currently), and more discussion of ways to make all new writers feel more welcome in the field. I don’t see a statistic as an end goal. Statistics reflect the environment that creates them. To change the statistics, change the environment, and to know that the environment has been changed in any real way, look at statistics across the board.
Given that we were just discussing the declining readership of “the big four” magazines, I do think we have to also ask whether only analyzing data from those four has correspondingly declined in usefulness. Maybe many women writers of short fiction have simply found it more productive to submit to other venues — because they feel more enabled to do so, because they sense that these other venues have readerships more interested in the types of stories they want to tell, etc. The bit at the end of the update that talks about submission and publication rates at Strange Horizons seems telling when compared to the “big four.” What picture emerges when we factor in the submissions, the publications, and also the readerships of SH, Clarkesworld, LCRW and the myriad other markets that have emerged in the last five years or are better known now than they were five years ago?
Whew, so glad that my wife does *all* of the housework and child-rearing. Ah, evenings free from cooking, cleaning, bath-giving, bed-tucking-in duties, you know, all of those awful fatherhood things that my wife takes care of around here. Honestly, coming home to my little lady in an A-line, heels and pearls, devotedly handing me my slippers and pipe . . . such a relief. And now I can focus on writing! Yeah, life is good here in Clicheville.
Over time while editing the Leviathan series, it became clear that we were getting significantly fewer submissions from women than from men, and as a result Leviathan was overwhelmingly male-dominated. For Leviathan 3, we tried to rectify the situation by soliciting more from women than from men, so that, theoretically, the unsolicited submissions could remain gender imbalanced and it wouldn’t matter. Still, Leviathan 3 was definitely about 80% male. At the same time, almost all of the stories by women were about gender identity or gender issues, and some of them could be considered “feminist.” I don’t know how to analyze that, but that’s what happened.
Since then, I’ve consciously tried to solicit more from women than from men for upcoming projects (as has Ann, my co-editor). Not to have a 50-50 split, but to make sure we’re seeing as many different kinds of stories within the confines of a particular antho slant as possible. I don’t believe stories by men and women are always alike, and for that reason not trying to get material by both genders can result in a less richness in an anthology.
That said, it’s nearly impossible for our New Weird or Steampunk to have parity (although NW will have something closer to parity) just because those subgenres tend to be dominated by men.
Ultimately, regarding who the onus should be on–I think it’s still on the writer, regardless of gender. If an editor in good faith starts a publication and is not giving off an obvious aura of bias against women writers, and women don’t submit, they can’t then complain if the publication doesn’t have that many women in it. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. And it’s ultimately very tiring and time-consuming to constantly have to artificially try to achieve some kind of parity. Whatever societal influences or pressures might or might not have influenced whether women are more or less aggressive in submitting their work, it’s still down to the individual.
Ann’s Best of the Silver Web will be almost exclusively men, and she’s most definitely a feminist. But, the fact is, from the very beginning almost exclusively men submitted to her magazine. (Weird Tales under Ann’s editorship should be significantly different from that, though.)