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Puzzled

How many people does it take to say that the gender inbalance in SF outlets is a problem before it's seriously acknowledged, and accepted, as a problem?

Reasons, blame, motives, agenda, solutions and reason aside.

When is it allowed to be just ... an issue?

When will we be able to get past that discussion and start looking deeper at the more interesting aspects of it?


Comments

talmor
Jan. 12th, 2009 03:06 am (UTC)
I think the debate is about what imbalance you are actually seeing here. If the statistics show that 10% of all submissions from female writers are published, compared to 20% of all submissions from male writers, it shows that there is discrimination on the part of the publishers and editors (for whatever reasons - lack of female editors, for example).

Suppose, on the other hand, that it turns out that 10% of all submissions from female writers are actually published, and 10% of all submissions from male writers are actually published as well. That means that if there are fewer items published by women, it's because fewer women are submitting them. In that case, you'd have to look at readership - if both sexes (NOT genders - I hate it when people use the word 'gender' wrongly) read the genre in equal proportions, but women are writing less than men, then that's a different problem, with different solutions.

If, on the other hand, men and women have equal chances at getting their work published, and have a similar proportion of readers and writers between the sexes, then the issue is that there are fewer women than men reading in the genre. That's a different issue entirely, and it's debatable whether it's a problem at all. Is the fact that fewer men than women read romance novels a 'problem'? Is any difference in leisure preference between the sexes something that is 'wrong', to be corrected? I can see that anyone who enjoys a genre would be keen to see other people discover how enjoyable it is, but it's not a problem on the same scale as discrimination when judging a submitted story, or women being discouraged against writing.

My point is that there is little point discussing, for example, discrimination against female writers, without making some attempt to determine if it actually exists - simply looking at the number of items published doesn't do that.

The root of the imbalance between items published also has a bearing on any proposed or adopted solutions. For example, lets assume there are types of SF story that women are more likely to write and to prefer to read, and types that men are more likely to write and to prefer. A single editor, of either sex, selecting stories to publish, is going to publish stories in the style that _they_like_. Imposing an arbitrary ratio between the sexes for a given collection will just see stories that they like more rejected in favour of ones that they like less. It doesn't imply that readers of a sex different to the editor will like the collection any more...

My gut feeling is that yes, there are few female editors, and that male readers (and editors), on the whole, tend to prefer the types of story that men write, and vice-versa. That preponderance of male editors is responsible for fewer readers in the genre, and thus fewer writers (and hence fewer female editors). That said, it's just my impression, and I'd like to see it backed up with numbers.
angriest
Jan. 12th, 2009 03:17 am (UTC)
My gut feeling is that yes, there are few female editors, and that male readers (and editors), on the whole, tend to prefer the types of story that men write, and vice-versa. That preponderance of male editors is responsible for fewer readers in the genre, and thus fewer writers (and hence fewer female editors). That said, it's just my impression, and I'd like to see it backed up with numbers.

This has always been my impression as well, and of course the generally male editors of yesteryear would have led to generally male readers, some of whom have grown up to become another generation of generally male editors. And so the cycle continues.

If there is to be a deliberate move to encouraging parity, it's at the editor level I think the move would be most effective.
cassiphone
Jan. 12th, 2009 03:35 am (UTC)
And the other one of course is - with the reviewers and people determining 'best ofs' being predominantly male, the whole issue of which art is determined to be the superior example... is also skewed.

So not just male editors (and publishers), but so many male voices approving of said editors. And I do feel that those women who do make a name for themselves in the field as editors are those who select work which is generally liked by that predominantly masculine critical voice - not necessarily just at a 'lots of male authors' level, but having tastes which correspond to that voice.

So yes, we need diversity at all levels - editorial, publishing, critics, writers and protagonists - in order to get to a place where the field actually has enough of a range to appeal equally to women as well as men. And to be honest, I don't think it's just the female reader who is missing out. Male readers also deserve to be exposed to the widest possible range of experience, stories and characters in their fiction. Male readers absolutely deserve the chance to read awesome stories by female authors as well as male, and right now in the SF field they are (still) being short-changed.
girliejones
Jan. 12th, 2009 04:25 am (UTC)
I do agree with this, which I think was my original point of the argument.

And comes back to the circular one you guys were talking about before - how do men know they don't like women's stories? (Ie stories about women and experiences of being women)
cassiphone
Jan. 12th, 2009 05:43 am (UTC)
This is true. Often they simply haven't read enough to know this, whereas women are taught and cultured from really early on to see the world through men's eyes and consider their perspective, often before voicing their own.

Not me, obviously, who was raised by a militant single mother, but it's there in the culture.

If more guys read Tamora Pierce at 12 like Grant did, the world would be a better place!

(am reminded of the awesome story Sarah Rees Brennan tells on her blog of being a librarian sneaking copies of Maureen Johnson's The Bermudez Triangle to a bunch of boys, and ending up being a pusher for lesbian fiction to teenage boys!)
futbol16_4
Jan. 13th, 2009 08:14 am (UTC)
*snicker* I recall that! Her blog is like crack, and I keep crawling back for more (I can always count on her to cheer me up).
girliejones
Jan. 12th, 2009 04:21 am (UTC)
My point is that there is little point discussing, for example, discrimination against female writers, without making some attempt to determine if it actually exists - simply looking at the number of items published doesn't do that.

The aspect which would not be covered in your proposition, which does not discredit the discussion, is whether women do not submit to outlets that are seen to be biased away from publishing women. This is the part of the debate where numbers lie, and cannot be used to explore the whole issue.

And if you ask women, they do steer away from submitting to certain outlets for fear of wasting their time.

As I said, the issue is not simple and a simple analysis will not reveal all that is going on. Much as men would like it to be that way.
talmor
Jan. 12th, 2009 07:28 am (UTC)
Of course it's not a simple issue - that's why actually looking at the statistics is important. If outlets publish more stories written by men than women, there are only two possible reasons:

-They have a biased submission process, and reject a higher proportion of stories written by women

-They have an ubiased selection process, but fewer women submit stories.

The former implies that the outlets 'seen to be biased' really are, and pressure needs to be put on them to redress the issue by changing the selection process (and/or the editors). The latter implies that the apparent bias is not real, and women writers need to be encouraged to submit articles to these outlets. The fact that big magazines don't release the numbers on rejected submissions is a hint that they have a reason (ie, maybe they really are biased), but it's not proof.

Having actual figures would let you distinguish which case is which, and change it. The statistics are a crucial part of analysing the problem and finding a solution, you can't dismiss them with '... numbers lie, and cannot be used to explore the whole issue'. Statements like that are an open invitation to dismiss your entire argument as subjective and unsubstantiated.

Numbers are like facts - they simply exist, they don't lie.
girliejones
Jan. 12th, 2009 07:30 am (UTC)
Well there's always the interpretation of the numbers :-)

But yeah, where I can get the numbers, I will.

And of course, we could always be touchy and feely and just generally encourage more women to submit ...

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