Friday, March 8, 2013

Sexism in the book review world—but not just “literature"

My friend Sam Meier suggested that I write a reaction to this year's VIDA Count for the website she works for, PolicyMic. The VIDA Count tabulates the ratio of male to female writers reviewed and reviewing in various influential literary publications over the course of the past year, in the hopes of spurring those publications to do something proactive to change for the better. This is obviously a worthwhile and important goal. But it seems to me as though one factor behind the bad ratios for a lot of these magazines is really due to something else that needs to be fixed—the underrepresentation of women in the sciences. You can read why I think this might be the case here. A preview:
None of the politics books on the Economist's best books of 2012 list were by women, nor any of the economics nor science books; of the history books, only one, Anne Applebaum's Iron Curtain, made the cut. Of the New York Times's best nonfiction books of 2012, women wrote just two of the current events or policy books — and both of those concerned, in large part, Michelle Obama. Of the science books, Florence Williams's Breasts: A Natural and Unnatural History was the sole book not written by a man. When Charles Murray's Coming Apart, one of the most widely discussed social science books of the past year, came out, it was reviewed by a male critic in the New Yorker (Nicholas Lemann), New York Times (Nicholas Confessore), New Republic (Timothy Noah), New York Review of Books (Andrew Hacker), Wall Street Journal (W. Bradford Wilcox), the Nation (William Julius Wilson), and, one imagine, many more publications. The only review by a woman I could find was in Salon (Joan Walsh). 

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