Fourth Genre and the Second Sex

April 14, 2011 § 13 Comments

“The most mediocre of males feels himself a demigod as compared with women.”

So, we’re guessing that got your attention, and also proved that we can make a Simone de Beauvoir reference as well as the next blogger.  Our point?  The excellent nonfiction literary journal Fourth Genre has released its VIDA numbers (ratios of male to female authors submitting and published) in response to the question of whether women are under-represented in magazines due to various gender-based biases. If you missed the VIDA article, click here.

Fourth Genre‘s numbers seem to reinforce what guest blogger William Bradley suggested on this very blog, back when we revealed our own gender ratios.  Bradley wonders if perhaps magazines devoted to nonfiction — Brevity, Fourth Genre, Creative Nonfiction, River Teeth, for example — have better female representation because “the lack of preconceived notions about what nonfiction is and what makes it good somehow spares it from the unintentional institutional sexism that might pervade other genres.”

Here are Fourth Genre‘s comprehensive charts.  They’re posted to Facebook, so we’re not sure if the non-Facebookies amongst you can even access them.  We hope so.  [UPDATE: Fourth Genre has now posted a page of charts for those who can’t access the FB site.]

And we’ll close with one more thought from Simone:

“Representation of the world, like the world itself, is the work of men; they describe it from their own point of view, which they confuse with the absolute truth.”

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§ 13 Responses to Fourth Genre and the Second Sex

  • Thank you, Simone de Beauvoir.

    And thank you Fourth Genre, and creative nonfiction.

  • Bailey says:

    I will read pretty much anything that opens with a quote from Simone de Beauvoir. 🙂

    (Non-facebook members cannot access the the charts, I tried.)

  • Leslie McGrath says:

    Very pleased that you are continuing to feature this kind of information. It gives me much hope.

  • Just fascinating, what this suggests about non-fiction versus fiction publishing. If anything, the Fourth Genre figures suggest men may be *under-represented*.

  • Fourth Genre says:

    We are working on a solution so that everyone can access the figures. As it stands, as long as you are signed into Facebook, you should be able to see them.

  • […] All! Because Brevity readers might not all be on Facebook and able to view the gender charts that we posted as a album, […]

  • Fourth Genre says:

    We’ve done it! (temporarily)

    If you don’t have Facebook and would like to peruse the Fourth Genre gender charts, please head to this page: http://4thgenre.wordpress.com/2011/04/15/fourth-genres-gender-breakdown-hopefully-thats-not-a-double-meaning/

  • Thank you, Fourth Genre for making the figures available for us non Facebook users! And, Brevity, nice picture:)

  • Thanks Dinty. (And Marcia Aldrich of 4th Genre, if you’re listening.) Speaking on behalf of the VIDA Board of Directors I’m thrilled to see this conversation continuing in our dear CNF realm. These numbers are encouraging (and sure do reflect the gender breakdown of my MFA classes–anecdotal as such may be.)

    I do think it would be interesting to find some forum that allows us to get at the nuances here as well–such as how this all breaks down between the subgenres of CNF, and who seems to be in the forefront of what we talk about as the the lead thinking of the genre. (Both Mary Cappello and Eula Biss were just awarded Guggenheims for instance–along with John D’Agata. At what point do brilliant groundbreaking women inherit the “godfather” crown? (Nothing personal here–just saying.)

    Anyone interested in some of the roots of these questions might enjoy Susanne Antonetta’s essay, currently posted on the VIDA site: http://vidaweb.org/womanly-regard-gender-and-the-act-of-making-nonfiction

    thanks all–Barrie Jean Borich, Water~Stone Review and VIDA

  • DrNels says:

    There really has not been an essay published by a transgender author ever? Or a trans intern or editor? How sad considering that much of the best writing by transgender people in book form is nonfiction.

    • Not sure if the DrNels point is directed to the nonfiction world in general or to any one journal’s count–but I want folks to know that I’ve been chasing this question within VIDA as well and hope we figure out at how to add some kind of LGBT counting to the mix. (Among other things. How might we talk about these counts in terms of race? In terms of disability? In terms of fluid gender and sexual identities? We sense these markers have impact in our publishing lives, but do we know how to quantify these ins-and-outs? Etc.) And forgive the promotion of a journal I edit, but on this point do check out the current issue of Water~Stone Review, as the nonfiction board was so excited to publish a essay this year from Aaron Raz Link (a work we liked so much we named the 2010 issue with a line from from Raz’s work–WHAT WE HAVE BECOME.)–bjb
      http://waterstonereview.com/waterstonereview/CURRENT_ISSUE.html

    • Aaron says:

      A gentle reminder that only prejudice demands trans people cannot be counted as women and men. I am proud to be a trans author published in several first-rate journals, and a man (another sometimes underrepresented group in CNF) on the VIDA list. Of course it’s relevant to ask how we could list authors who identify otherwise than male or female in print, as well as authors under pseudonyms (For instance, current gay fiction would look male-dominated by author’s name, but much of it is now written by women.) There is room for all of us, however.

  • MyGreenMouth says:

    Fascinating! I appreciate the research you are doing into your own gender ratios.

    Also, I noticed that there tends to be the greatest discrepancy between the genders in the intern role. This is especially interesting as I’m assuming that the intern position is unpaid or the lowest paid of all the roles (as this is the case in most publishing organizations).

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