Guardian: Why so few women in the London Review of Books?

Following on from a previous post, the Guardian newspaper have written another column, this time for the London Review of Books.

Having been asked, I told them: the ridiculously low number of women who are represented in each edition of your otherwise worthy journal is, well, ridiculous. The reply: It’s complicated, “as complicated as it gets”. The response was genuine in its bafflement and its hand-wringing consternation, and ended by stating that the editors at the LRB were desperate to change the situation.

To which I replied: then change it.

When doing some analysis on the numbers the following was found:

Indeed, in its latest innings, Guess the Ladies scored 14 male contributors and three female. Of the books reviewed, eight were by men and three were by women. By publishing a literary journal with about 70% male contributors in every edition, the implicit message is that male writing is better than female writing. If you believe this to be the case, have the courage of your convictions and admit it, so that we can acknowledge what the argument really is. If however, you believe that women writers are equal to male writers, then try harder. It isn’t complicated. It’s simple.

I have been reading almost exclusively female writers over the last few months, and have read maybe 2 male writers, all covering a mix of genres. Some were poor, many were good and there were even some excellent ones in there. The books written by the men came nowhere near the top of my “excellent” or even “good” list.

I know “book bloggers” are not the same as “journalists” or “experts” but based on the book reviewers i’ve found the majority of reviews are written by women. Does this mean that there is a wild distortion within the contributor base, either in being available or being commissioned, in favour of men? Is there a gender bias in favour towards men? (There is a similar trend being seen in the provision of “experts” on radio and television with an approx 3:1 male:female bias….must get a link to that website too at some point)

Do you read literary journals? Do you pay attention to the by-lines, and the ratio of men to women representation? Would you stop buying a journal if it shows an excessive bias (on sex, colour or creed basis)?

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