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The 2016 VIDA Count: A Focus on Intersectionality

Jaime Herndon


Jaime Herndon finished her MFA in nonfiction writing at Columbia, after leaving a life of psychosocial oncology and maternal-child health work. She is a writer, editor, and book reviewer who drinks way too much coffee. She is a new-ish mom, so the coffee comes in extra handy. Twitter: @IvyTarHeelJaime

VIDA, the feminist non-profit that aims to create transparency around gender parity in publishing, as well as amplify marginalized voices, came out with their annual VIDA Count Wednesday. What is the VIDA Count? It’s a yearly inventory that looks at the statistics of men and women in literary magazines print magazines, and so forth. It includes looking at men and women who had their books reviewed, and breaks down bylines by gender. This year, they’ve expanded even more.

Why has VIDA expanded and made their count more intersectional? Two words: Donald Trump. His slogan, “Make America Great Again” was – is – a coded phrase for making America white, Christian, male-centered, and anti-LGBTQ again. It was a dog whistle for hate groups and misogynists. We have reached crisis levels with attacks on democracy, and every day, Trump makes it clear he would love nothing more than to have state-sponsored propaganda “media.” As VIDA states, “We’re now facing state-sponsored propaganda that is anti-woman, anti-LGBTQ, anti-Black, anti-POC, anti-immigrant, anti-disability—state sponsored messages that not only center the white, cis-hetero, able-bodied patriarchy, but increasingly positions it as the only America that matters.” Now, more than ever, we need a diverse literary community.

So what’s changed with the Count? VIDA has attempted to track intersections of age and education, and now the breakdowns include disability and impairment, Hispanic and Jewish ancestry, sexual identity, gender identity, and race. Given that the Count is mainly reliant on self-identification, it’s not perfect – but it’s a hell of a start.

Interested in how various publications did? Here’s a sampling:

The London Review of Books only published 22% of bylines by women, 18% of women book reviewers, and only 26% of books reviewed were written by women.

The Nation had twice as many men with bylines and women (67% and 33%, respectively), and no representation of nonbinary individuals.

The New York Times Book Review had an even split of book reviewers between men and women, and 44% of books reviewed were by women.

Tin House had 51% of its overall bylines by women or nonbinary writers!

In The Atlantic, only a paltry 36% of its writers were women.

In smaller literary magazines, the following had gender parity in bylines: The Normal School, Ninth Letter, Jubilat, Harvard Review, Prairie Schooner, The Cincinnati Review, Colorado Review, Virginia Quarterly, New American Writing, Gettysburg Review, and Missouri Review.

Literary magazines that are coming close to having gender parity include Callaloo, Pleiades, A Public Space, Southern Review, Fence, Kenyon Review, New England Review, and AGNI.

So why does any of this matter? Because publishing has long been a boy’s club, and the voices of women, non-binary, trans, disabled, Black, and other marginalized people need to be heard. Implicit bias is a factor in attitudes and actions – and many individuals with implicit biases don’t consider themselves prejudiced. It’s these hidden influences like the articles we read on a daily basis and the stories and people we’re regularly exposed to that help create implicit bias, and therefore impact unconscious attitudes and actions. Being exposed to diverse voices, experiences, and stories helps to minimize implicit biases.

How do your favorite publications measure up?

For more information about the Count, as well as wonderful visual charts, visit VIDA at Click here for the Count information.