"The Count," a tally of the female to male writers ratio in major review journals operated by VIDA: Women in The Literary Arts, is a necessary but immensely depressing read — not just because of the major gender disparity, but the way certain outlets have responded.
Last week's Count featured a particularly extreme example, courtesy of the New York Review of Books, which ran 30 male contributors and two women in its latest issue — one of the worst instances in the last three years of the Count, and one that reeks of tokenism. VIDA's founder Erin Belieu called out senior editor Robert Silvers in a letter: "At present, it appears that NYRoB believes women have little to add to our country's literary conversation."
Silvers responded to them and others who'd written in with a form letter:
...I wonder if our critics have fairly considered the many reviews, essays, and poems by women that have appeared in the Review and on the Review's blog. A list of their contributions just during our last year of publication follows. No one who has read the work of these writers could say that the New York Review dismisses the work of women writers generally.
Attached is a full list of women who have appeared in the publication, print or online, in any iteration. In addition to the condescending tone, Silvers overlooks the fact that the point of VIDA is to tally women who have contributed features to the outlet — not closing letters, letters to the editor, or blog-only.
Not that VIDA expected a radically different response; according to Belieu, their statistics are often met with "wounded, reactionary defensiveness."