I’ve started doing some number crunching on gender in the Australian literary scene, starting with a breakdown of who’s reviewed, who’s reviewing, etc in some key Australian magazines and newspapers.
I’ve spent many a Saturday morning griping about the gender bias I perceived in the literary pages, and saying I would do some number crunching one day. Well, that day has come, partly prompted by the recent release of figures by VIDA of similar figures for literary reviews in the UK and USA. You can read their figures here:
I hope, in the coming months, to supplement this analysis of what’s being reviewed or profiled in the Australian print media, and by whom, with a gender analysis of what’s being reviewed, etc, in other media (such as blogs and radio), what’s being published, who’s working in publishing, who’s doing creative writing courses (and who’s teaching them), who’s entering writing competitions (and winning them), and so on, since reviewing doesn’t happen in a vacuum and must – to be really meaningful – be considered in the context of what is happening in the broader context of Australian publishing! Of course, I will need to magically find about twenty extra hours in every week, and a host of willing minions to do all this, but a girl’s gotta have ambitions 🙂
Please note that I don’t wish to suggest that the figures below – on their own – say anything significant about publishing in Australia. They do say something about reviewing and other writing about the literary arts in the literary pages of the magazines and papers covered here so far this month, and are suggestive of a significant bias towards men as both reviewers and writers, but I feel it would be necessary to judge these figures over a longer period of time, and against other figures for gender participation/publication to really understand where the bias arises, where it is reinforced or subverted, etc. In other words, again, these are preliminary numbers and research only at this stage: I hope to supplement this work with some qualitative analysis in the coming months, as well as with some of the other stats I talked about wishing to collect above.
Anyway, for your viewing pleasure here are some preliminary figures for March:
- Where a single review is of more than one book, I have counted it as one review for the author, but counted each book reviewed separately. (So, for example, a review by a male author of three books by – say – three women – is counted as one review by a male author, and three reviews of books by female authors)
- Where a single reviewer publishes several stand-alone reviews/articles in one publication, I have counted each article separately, as well as each book reviewed. (So, for example, I have counted each of Kerryn Goldsworthy’s or Bruce Elder’s small reviews in the SMH:Spectrum – usually four each in the In Short: Fiction and In Short: Non Fiction sections respectively)
- Where books are by multiple authors, I have counted each author separately since they may be both the same gender, or of different genders, although this means there are more authors counted than books reviewed.
- Where books reviewed are anthologies, I have counted the editor/s, and not any of the individual article/entry authors. (For example, a review of The Penguin Book of the Ocean is counted here as a ‘book by a male author’: James Bradley)
- The ‘names mentioned’ figures below record the gender of authors mentioned in articles other than book reviews, such as editorials, regular columns and feature articles. I have included the names of authors whose works are cited even where they are not named (eg: I have listed Mark Twain/male author when Peter Craven cites Huckleberry Finn but does not give the author’s name). I have not included letters to the editor, or articles that are not about the literary arts (such as visual art or film reviews). I am keeping track of the titles of articles/columns analysed for these figures, but at a minimum, in the SMH: Spectrum this includes Undercover, usually by Susan Wyndham. In The Weekend Australian: Review this includes Stephen Romei’s Ragged Claws column, Luke Slattery’s The Forum and, when relevant, Deborah Jones’s From The Editor. I have not, at this stage, included the author interviews regularly featured in SMH: Spectrum, though I may change my mind about that!
- Where an author is named in more than one column/feature article in the same publication, or more than once in the same article, I have only counted them once (So, no matter how many times Peter Craven mentions Shakespeare in his article about the King James Bible, I’ve only counted Old Bill[male author] once).
- Columns: A=Australian Book Review, B=The Monthly, C=ALR, D=The Weekend Australian Review, E=Sydney Morning Herald: Spectrum, F=The Weekend Australian Review, G=Sydney Morning Herald: Spectrum, H=The Weekend Australian Review, I=Sydney Morning Herald: Spectrum
(*Please note, I have yet to do a ‘writers mentioned’ analysis for The Monthly: I’ll update those figures as soon as possible)
|March Publications – Gender Count||A||B
|Date of Publication||1||1||2||5||5||12||12||19||19|
|Male Editorial Board Members||5||4||4||–||–||–||–||–||–||13|
|Female Editorial Board Members||4||0||0||–||–||–||–||–||–||4|
|Male Editorial Advisers||6||–||1||–||–||–||–||–||–||7|
|Female Editorial Advisers||8||–||0||–||–||–||–||–||–||8|
|Reviews by men||24||4||5||8||6||7||6||5||11||60|
|Reviews by women||7||0||2||7||6||8||7||8||3||37|
|Reviews of books by men||31||5||8||14||10||11||8||8||11||87|
|Reviews of books by women||19||0||1||8||4||7||5||5||3||44|
|Interviews or profiles of male writers||0||0||0||1||0||1||0||1||0||2|
|Interviews or profiles of female writers||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||0||1|
|Other writing-related articles by men||5||1||4||2||3||1||0||2||1||16|
|Other writing-related articles by women||3||0||0||1||0||1||0||2||0||5|
|Male writers referred to by name in
regular/editorial columns/features on writing
|Women writers referred to by name in
regular/editorial columns/features on writing
Who Reviews Who?
Men Reviewing Men: 65
Men Reviewing Women: 18
Women reviewing Men: 27
Women reviewing Women: 31
And here are a few glimpses into some other figures for gender in the literary landscape of Australia:
Gender in the bestseller lists in SMH: Spectrum for the month of March
Figures are provided to the paper by Neilsen Bookscan. Some books are listed with no author (such as the Masterchef cookbook):
Gender in the longlists/shortlists for the Miles Franklin, the Peter Porter Poetry Prize and the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards, all announced this month:
By way of comparison (though it’s an older list!) here’s the gender breakdown of entrants in the 2009 and 2010 Emerging Author Category of the QLD Premier’s Literary Awards, of which I am one of the judges. I have counted co-authors individually so there are more authors than there were entries in each year:
Male entrants: 45
Female entrants: 43
Shortlist/Joint winners: 1 male, 3 female
Male Entrants: 71
Female Entrants: 44
Shortlist: 2 male, 1 female
And one more, just for fun ….
Gender of participants in the last workshop I taught:
Male participants/writers: 16
Female participants/writers: 32