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Monday, February 24, 2014

It's VIDA Count Time!

Posted by Alison Hallett on Mon, Feb 24, 2014 at 1:28 PM

Every year, the VIDA count looks at how many women are published and have their books reviewed by major literary magazines. The numbers are always surprising—I find it less offensive than just bizarre that female bylines are so underrepresented in places like The Atlantic, McSweeneys, The Nation, and the New Yorker. But these sorts of institutional imbalances don't change unless editors make an effort to change them, and too often, editors instead circle the wagons around the "we publish the best writing" defense—as though there were a finite quantity of good writing in the world; as though women should just be better at writing; as though "best" weren't a subjective category policed by editors themselves.

Last year, we congratulated Portland's own Tin House for being one of the only magazines to equally represent men and women. And they're still at it:

Tin House continues to kick ass. It’s called: taking a stand and sticking with it.

VIDA interviewed Tin House editor Rob Spillman last year, and what he said about it was so exactly right that I'm going to quote him one more time: "If you don’t actively seek change, then stasis sets in and the status quo remains."

The VIDA count draws attention to the gap between the ostensible values of an institution ("best writing"!) and the reality of how freelance dollars are spent and bylines are distributed. To that end, I hope and expect we'll see VIDA looking more closely at how writers of color are represented in the future.

My interest in this is two-fold: As a feminist, I'm interested in doing what I can to make sure other women are represented in my little corner of the world; as arts editor at the Mercury, having a diverse pool of writers means I get a diverse range of pitches which means my coverage is better and more comprehensive. I'm in good shape gender-wise—we might even be a bit of a girls' club—but (as far as I know) all of my writers are white, which is something I'd like to change, though I'm honestly not entirely sure how to do that. Pitching guidelines for the Mercury are here.

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