Study: Literary Criticism Is Still Overwhelmingly Male

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Women writers are all over the best-seller lists, but literary criticism is still predominantly a male field.

That's according to the latest numbers from the volunteer organization VIDA: Women in the Literary Arts, which works for gender and racial parity in the literary world. This year's report covers prestigious publications like The New York Review of Books, which published 227 male reviewers last year but only 54 female reviewers, and The London Review of Books, which published 146 male critics and 44 women during the same period. The Paris Review "made great strides toward gender parity" in 2013, the report notes, but then slid and published substantially fewer women than men in 2014.

As The Guardian points out, those figures are especially striking when you consider that women are more avid readers than men in the U.K., where some of the biggest offenders are based.

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VIDA Count data showing how many male and female book critics The New York Review of Books published in 2014 VIDA Count

The figures are not all disheartening. Major magazines like The New Yorker, The Atlantic and Harper's all showed increases in the number of women published in 2014. The Boston Review, meanwhile, "published more book reviews and micro-reviews written by women than men in 2014."

That data are valuable (without VIDA, the figures would likely go untallied), and the broader awareness even more so. Top editors likely know gender disparity is an issue, but they're more likely to pay attention to it when an organization like VIDA is paying attention to them.

"It's really interesting to see some of my fellow editors moan about how hard it is [to publish women]," Tin House's editor tells The Guardian, noting that VIDA's first report encouraged him to take action several years ago. "It's not actually that hard; you just have to pay attention."

Correction: This article originally misstated the number of women published in The New York Review of Books and The London Review of Books in 2014. Those tallies also included the authors being reviewed as well as the critics.

Study: Literary Criticism Is Still Overwhelmingly Male | Culture