Think that Women’s Studies and the opening of the literary canon mean that gender inequities in publishing are a thing of the past? Check out these stats, compiled by VIDA: Women In Literary Arts. The data, which they gathered last year as well, OVERWHELMINGLY suggest a disturbingly deep and widespread bias. Although this caused quite the kerfuffle in literary blogs and in editorials, seemingly little has changed within the last year.
This is interesting (as well as appalling) on many levels. One puzzle that strikes me: we usually hear about girls being steered away from the STEM fields from an early age. If young women are rewarded for their prowess in the language arts early in their educations, why is there this reverse at the top levels, where literacy becomes literature? “Sexism is pervasive” may be an accurate answer, but its grand narrative vagueness is unsatisfying and ultimately unhelpful. Where is the glass ceiling located? In MFA programs? Journalism schools? How is it justified? Does the feminized construction of the American reader create a backlash against real women writers? Is the implicitly masculine Romantic genius still a compelling category for understanding literary writing?
The field of Book Studies, with its theories and methods for understanding the nexus of authorship, reading, and publishing, and its ability to look for parallels in the past as well as project the future, is well situated to tackle this problem. I would like to think that scholars feel some urgency in taking this on. Let’s not just leave it to the blogosphere.