Gender Bias Strikes Again in the Lit World

6 Mar

VIDA charted the number of male-versus-female book reviewers and authors reviewed—and it doesn’t look good. By and large, men are reviewing and getting reviewed much more often than women. And yet, according to this old article on NPR, women read more than men. Go figure.

Two years ago, I presented the argument I’d heard that women aren’t submitting as often as men to the big-name publications. I’ve heard it said that this is because men are more likely to take risks or feel like they could actually get published in these magazines and journals, while in contrast women feel like they aren’t good enough writers yet and so don’t query as often in general and that when they do it’s to smaller, lesser-known publications. I’d still like to see some hard evidence of this.

Tin House responded to this year’s VIDA report, with editor Rob Spillman saying:

Our unsolicited submissions are nearly 50/50 consistently year to year, and our acceptance rate is also 50/50. Agented submissions average closer to 2/3 men versus 1/3 women, with acceptance rates around 60/40. Interestingly, the number of agents who are sending these submissions are 2/3 women versus 1/3 men. We were also surprised to find that although we solicited equal numbers of men and women, men were more than twice as likely to submit after being solicited. This even applies to writers I’ve previously published.

History has taught us to read “dead white men” so I don’t think it’s all that surprising that even female agents would pass along more male writers than female. What I do find curious is that, according to Spillman, women writers are less likely to send work in when it’s directly asked for.



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