Monday, March 21, 2011

Gender Imbalance in sf reviewing: the cold, hard numbers

Following the examples of VIDA, Niall Harrison does the gender balance numbers for science fiction on the Strange Horizons blog, with The SF Count. "The good news." he writes, "is that we're not more imbalanced than the mainstream venues; that bad news is that we're not really any less imbalanced, either."

Sort of makes it clear why it's a major occasion for Aqueduct Press when any of its books gets reviewed. The red and blue pie charts are absolutely brilliant.


Athena Andreadis said...

I had an exchange recently with a regular contributor to Strange Horizons who was convinced it had gender parity, if not female dominance. I countered that it was actually the usual one-third (which seems to register as "female excess").

So here we are, with the not-surprising numbers. The real question is: is Niall Harrison, or any of the other editors, going to do anything about it?

Cat Rambo said...

Your experience matches some of the encounters I've had, Athena. When I was teaching women's studies, I repeatedly had the men indicate very skewed views of the classes, considering themselves much more outnumbered than they actually were.

I don't know how to get around that. Is it that we're so used to predominantly male groups that women's presences get exaggerated like that?

Athena Andreadis said...

Cat, this is the famous one-third rule, noticed long ago by feminists: women are perceived to outnumber men if they constitute more than a third of a group or speak more than a third of the time.

Changing people's perceptions individually may be the only way to go, if they are receptive. After both private and public interactions with some of the Strange Horizon reviewers, I have come to the sorrowful conclusion that the venue may end up becoming the SF/F version of The Valve. I sincerely hope I'm proved wrong.

Val Grimm said...

Huh. I never devoted much thought to this, but I went and checked our scheduling sheet and for our currently active staff, the numbers are 50/50. Allowing for a few folks on hiatus/infrequently contributing, they slide to 43/56.

I didn't set out to do that, that's the funny thing. I wonder if it is because I'm female? Or because I went out of my way to recruit internationally? I really have no idea.

Abigail Nussbaum said...

Just to correct one of Athena's points (which she also made, and I also corrected, in the comments to Niall's post), Niall Harrison is no longer the Strange Horizons reviews editor. I've taken over that position while Niall is now the magazine's editor in chief, with no day to day input into the running of the department. Though I think Niall deserves credit for achieving the highest percentage of female authors reviewed in the field, it's my job to build on his accomplishments and hopefully achieve parity.

I'm sorry that Athena feels that Strange Horizons is becoming unsympathetic to female writers. But again, the person responsible for making sure that doesn't happen, and for representing the reviews department's policy, is me, not Niall and not our individual contributors. I hope I haven't said or done anything to give the impression that I'm unaware of the issue of female representation, or unwilling or incapable of addressing it.

Martin said...

After both private and public interactions with some of the Strange Horizon reviewers, I have come to the sorrowful conclusion that the venue may end up becoming the SF/F version of The Valve.

Who are these reviewers and what does this mean?

Nisi said...

And I had been a little concerned about perhaps overemphasizing reviews of sf/f by written by women in the reviews section of the Cascadia Subduction Zone. Not no more. We are medicating the field's blindspots.

People, if you want to do something to redress this balance, subscribe to the CSZ, and you'll see reviews of work by Stina Leicht, Nnedi Okorafor, Laura Mixon, Vonda McIntyre, Kathe Koja, and lots and lots of others of the female sort. Here's the link: