There's been a bit of discussion today about the new VIDA stats on gender bias in various journals.

Here's what the stats look like for BlackInc's The Best Australian Poems 2011.

  • 126 poems
  • 81 by men
  • 45 by women

Views: 1216

Comment by Rochford Street Review on March 8, 2012 at 11:44

This is a useful stat. I know there is a large gender bias to males currently in Rochford Street Review - both in the gender of reviewers and the authors of the books they are reviewing. While I'm actively trying to change that there are some things making it difficult:

1. Most of the books being sent for review are by male writers. As RSR is a new reviewing platform I need to chase publishers for review copies and so far presses, even small poetry presses are much better at sending out review copies for male writers - one recent example I contacted a small poetry publisher (who shall remain namelsss) with a request for a review copy of a numbe rof recent titles by female poets - despite 4 requests all I got was a reply that they didn't think it appropriate......

2. When I asked for people to express interest in reviewing for RSR through various forums the only people who respoinded where male. I am now actively tring to chase up a number of women who I know would write wonderful reviews, but it is extra effort (by the way - anyone who wants to review for RSR please contact me!). I am wondering why males are more likley to put their hand up for reviewing etc. Is it a confidence thing? Self promotion? something else?

Comment by Robert Adamson on March 8, 2012 at 12:19

Have a look at the two volumes that I edited of The Best Australian Poems 2009 and 2010 (Black Inc) :

you will find an equal balance of men and women, if anything the balance sways in favour of the women.  I became aware of this gender balance as I edited ( in the introduction of 2009 I noted it was a year for women poets) and there were more women poets than men in my shortlists,  however I did not look for male or female poets, rather I looked for good poems.  From memory I think there are more women poets in the 2009 volume and about an equal balance in 2010.

Comment by Paul O'Loughlin on March 9, 2012 at 22:22

there were 126 poems.  what is the benefit of seprating the poets into man/woman, black/white, christian/muslim etc etc???  we're rare enough without creating dissension in the ranks.

Comment by Susan Sleepwriter on March 10, 2012 at 7:39

Poets might become even rarer if women are alienated! I went to a poetry session at the writers tent at the Newtown Festival last year, wanting to explore the poetry scene more. The poetry was clever and wonderful but the overwhelming feeling I was left with was - that they were all men. Yes we are all poets, but lets be wonderfully and inclusively diverse.

Comment by GL on March 10, 2012 at 8:33

Women's voices can be quite different from men's. It may be that to some extent, the way women express themselves is not judged as positively as the way men express themselves - content, style, etc. Of course, this is a generalisation and wouldn't always be the case, but (a not deliberate) bias might account for some of the result.

Comment by Anthony J Langford on March 10, 2012 at 15:58

As Roger who edited previous issues said, more women writers in 2009, yet no one jumps up and down about that. It should always be about the work and who cares if it swings one way or the other. When people try to politicise art, then creative expression becomes suffocated and censored. Paul O'Loughlin summed it up. I just don't understand the point of this Adrian...

Comment by AutoPirate on March 10, 2012 at 18:17

Art imitates life... or is life.

With both angles, the body politic is part of the overall cultural field of society. The particular field of poetry in all production, from anecdotal experience, much like Sleepwriter has experienced, can be monocultural.

Creativity should be resilient enough for this entreaty to inclusionism. It *can* be seen as a "old boy's club" and the "swinging boater's picnic" pending what schooling one had. As for the "more women writers in 2009" - this is a facile point of quantity posing as qualitative equality.

Open it up, The posturings leaves residues of distasteful elitism. The diversities of style can be accommodated. The classical yardsticks can be taught... yes, Virginia, Shakespeare hates emo poets and I won't protest that.

It behooves lips to move and hands to work.

Comment by Adrian Wiggins on March 10, 2012 at 21:22

One of the optional questions we ask when people join is their gender.

Of the 545 people who have answered this question:

  • 43.9% have stated "Male"
  • 56.1% have stated "Female"

Anthony – I'm not sure of the full point yet either – that's for others to say (and the comments on this post are a welcome part of the discussion). My own feeling is that there is an issue that needs to be aired, and the numbers help us do that.

I do have more data which I'll share when I have it compiled. What I can say is that the majority of the Best anthologies I've looked at are skewed to male poets with Robert Adamson's 2009 anthology being the notable exception.

Comment by GL on March 11, 2012 at 8:23

What I am really saying is that what is judged to be the best depends on who judges and what criteria they employ for judging. We judge according to what we think is valuable. Many great artists have not been appreciated in their time because their art was not judged to be good (think of Van Gogh). I don't believe gender would always be the reason, and I am sure there are men whose work has not been recognised as the art that it is. There are always exceptions to generalisations, but as I said in my last post, I think this might account for some of the discrepancy.

Comment by Paul Giles on March 13, 2012 at 13:14

I was a little suprised by the pie-chart. Without any sort of real research into it, my feeling about the situation in Australian poetry was that, for me, more of the poets I find interesting and important are women, rather than men - and that this has been the case for at least 15 years. 

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