Feature Friday: The Count

VIDA is a grassroots collection of people across the country, driven by the mission to explore “critical and cultural perceptions of writing by women.”  Founded in 2009, VIDA seeks to build a public forum through which the literary community can engage in conversation about the reception of women’s creative writing.  To that end, in 2010 VIDA started “the count,” which had a simple objective—to count the rates of publication of men and women in some of the country’s top literary publications.  They wanted to see if there really was a gender gap; if the perception of gender discrimination had any basis.

The results were a disturbing confirmation of the gender gap in the surveyed publications, prompting an enormous response from the literary community.  The community’s responses to the data were both positive and negative, but the numbers were irrefutable—in almost all of the publications they “counted,” women were underrepresented.

Photo Credit: VIDA, at http://www.vidaweb.org/the-2011-count

Photo Credit: VIDA, at http://www.vidaweb.org/the-2011-count

In 2011, VIDA did the count again, and their findings were quite similar to the 2010 findings.  For example, The Atlantic published almost 3 times as many articles by men as by women, as did The New Yorker and The Nation.  While such statistics are most certainly more complicated than a simple count might suggest, the numbers give us a place to start in the conversation.  And the benefit of having this count, of course, is that it sparks a discussion, an examination of the reception of women’s literature across the country.

So what do you think? Will the 2012 count produce similar results?  What can be done to close the gap?


  1. If students read more by women in K-12 and college, they might promote more work by women in magazines and print books. I read somewhere that 95% of what college students are assigned to read is work written by men.

    Women’s book clubs might be a force for change. I was invited to visit a book club in January that had read my novel. They were all women, had been together 40 years, and only read books by women. Very inspiring.

    Some good sources for this issue are:
    Dale Spender How to Suppress Women’s Writing
    Gilbert and Gubar – No Man’s Land

    Unfortunately, if you count stories or essays in “best of” anthologies you usually get the same 1/4 ratio.