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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

monissaw
Jan. 12th, 2009 03:28 am (UTC)
I did the figures for ASIM a few years back, possibly in the secnod year of publishing, maybe later. I don't have the figures on me now, but I seem to recall it worked about 1/3 female authors published and about 1/3 of submitters (based on first names) were female. Not a rigidly contacted test no, but the publishing M:F ratio was close to the submissions M:F ratio. (No idea what it is now, of course, I suspect both might be higher.)

Which brings up the side issue -- is the number of women being published in whatever venue low because the number of women submitting is low?
cassiphone
Jan. 12th, 2009 03:42 am (UTC)
That is an important issue, because it's pretty clear that this is a significant factor. The trouble is, whenever this argument comes up, the aspect about not enough women submitting ends up being used to squash all the other elements of the argument.

The fact is, there is a REASON that many women don't submit to certain venues. I think that the lack of female names in the TOCs turns many off in droves, because - like the readers - they suspect that their work is less likely to appeal to the editors.
monissaw
Jan. 12th, 2009 03:55 am (UTC)
I think it's a more relevant issue. It's certainly more interesting (and less subjective) than arguing whether editors are showing a bias.
cassiphone
Jan. 12th, 2009 04:09 am (UTC)
It all ties in together. I know that as a submitting author, I am more likely to submit to a magazine with a) a female editor or b) strong representation of women in the TOC. I don't like to waste my time, and I assume those markets would be more likely to like my story - not publish me *because* I'm female but be more likely to relate to my stories. I feel excluded as a writer as well as a reader from those markets which don't do this.

But then my writing career was launched amid some pretty harsh criticism of me writing a blatantly "girly" fantasy book which won a prize named after an important male SF author, so... I kind of started out defensive about this stuff.
girliejones
Jan. 12th, 2009 04:29 am (UTC)
but the other aspect of that is ... if response rates are slow, and you are not likely to get your story bought cause they don't seem to publish female writers, the pace at which you can build your own cred at a writer is slowed UNLESS you can get it to an outlet you think is more likely to buy a female story. Or not not buy you because your story is about a stay-at-home mum.

So that ... if you can get more publications in a shorter time, a bigger, less female-friendly outlet might consider you more worthy cause you have a name elsewhere.
girliejones
Jan. 12th, 2009 04:26 am (UTC)
And why is the number of women submitting low? That's a more interesting question to me.
homonculus
Jan. 12th, 2009 05:18 am (UTC)
From someone completely unconnected with it all
The first principle, and the first thing that needs to be asked, it seems to me, is (A) "how many women are actively writing?"

Then we need to ask (B) "how many of these women are submitting?", with the corollary "what is this as a proportion of total submissions?"

Only once we know the answers to these can we move on to consider why women are less-than-equally represented in all published work.

For all we know, the answer to (A) may be "not many" and the answer to (B) might be "not many of the [not many]". If such was the case, then we shouldn't be too surprised that women are generally not reaching the 50% published mark. On the other hand, if we find that there are vast numbers of women writing but not submitting, then that needs to be looked at. Finally, if we find that vast numbers of women are both writing and submitting, then we should start to look for inherent gender biases on the part of editors and publishers.

Without knowing where the underlying problem is, we can't address it effectively. It would be a simple thing to demand a 50:50 split in publication, but if women only make up (for example) 30% of the writers and 20% of the submissions, then the "female" stories selected are more likely to not get in on the merits of the writing alone and therefore be inferior in quality, which would in the long run turn off the readership and destroy the business involved, which wouldn't help anyone.

Informed debate and decision making needs to be based on solid evidence from all points of the production line. You want a certain product - more female writing - but do you really know that the raw material - unpublished, unsubmitted work - exists?

(And I'm not a writer, reader or editor/publisher of short stories, just a neutral bystander)
girliejones
Jan. 12th, 2009 05:30 am (UTC)
Re: From someone completely unconnected with it all
But the problem is there is no way to find out A so either we dismiss the whole discussion because we don't know, or we come at it from another angle.
homonculus
Jan. 12th, 2009 05:41 am (UTC)
Re: From someone completely unconnected with it all
Agreed. But I have no idea what an equally effective angle would be.
girliejones
Jan. 12th, 2009 05:44 am (UTC)
Re: From someone completely unconnected with it all
I guess coming in at the reader end and showing that the declining audience of these outlets may in part be that they are not appealing to as many readers as they might be able to ?
homonculus
Jan. 12th, 2009 05:49 am (UTC)
Re: From someone completely unconnected with it all
But going about it this way will once again run into the question of whether the material that this readership wants really exists to be published.

What would you say, for example, if a publisher/editor replied to your comment by saying "That's great, gj, we agree completely and would love to publish it. But nobody is supplying us with stories like this?"

Would you believe it?
crankynick
Jan. 12th, 2009 12:45 pm (UTC)
Re: From someone completely unconnected with it all
There's a few things you could probably do to model that kind of data - it wouldn't be perfect, but it might give some kind of idea.

You could run a broad based survey of writers groups, and perhaps seek a gender breakdown of online critiquing sites (like critters.org).

Both would be a long way from perfect, but you might be able to get a data set that would give you some kind of information to extrapolate from.
azhure
Jan. 12th, 2009 05:23 am (UTC)
I agree wholeheartedly here. I find that more interesting overall than any possible bias in publication.

I'm going to be really interested to see the stats that come out of the work you're doing (and it sounds like a *lot* of work, too!). It'd be interesting to see if editors could add their submission stats as well.
girliejones
Jan. 12th, 2009 05:38 am (UTC)
I've been thinking of asking around - some have been made available to me already so it would be interesting to gather more.
strangedave
Jan. 12th, 2009 07:28 am (UTC)
That is the interesting question, and the only one worth answering.

Once the question is raised, there are always people, essentially, trying to work out who is at fault, and desperately trying to prove it isn't *them* at fault. But if the problem was in an easily identifiable place like at the editorial end, it would also be easy to fix.

But if it turns out it the issue is about the number of women who submit, then the cause is something more fundamental, and harder to fix. Quite likely something about how science fiction is, for the most part, only read in certain societies with some fairly deep biases about what different sexes should be 'concerned' about.

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