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Julie Crisp, Editorial Director at Tor UK:

“The sad fact is, we can’t publish what we’re not submitted. Tor UK has an open submission policy – as a matter of curiosity we went through it recently to see what the ratio of male to female writers was and what areas they were writing in. The percentages supplied are from the five hundred submissions that we’ve been submitted since the end of January. It makes for some interesting reading. The facts are, out of 503 submissions – only 32% have been from female writers. (…) While I understand why people get so impassioned about wanting more female writers in genre, especially when it comes to science fiction, the picture just isn’t as clear cut as it seems. Accusing the publishers of being sexist, or lax in their attitude towards women writers is an easy out but it’s just not the case.”

I was all set to write a response, but I see Renay got there first:

I find this article disappointing, ignorant, and damaging. Not only is it a reductive, shallow look at the issues regarding gender parity and representation in genre, it’s defensive in the worst possible way by seeking to distance itself from the external criticism of the community which would hold it accountable for the decisions which have led to the low numbers of submissions from women. Instead of taking a forward-looking path to solving the problem of low submission, publicly posting the numbers to ask “How can we do better? What are the cultural and social issues that might be influencing women’s reluctance to submit? How can we reach out more and welcome women writers? How can we better support them once they’re here?", Julie Crisp used the numbers to say, “Not it!" and complain about the blame being laid at her door.

This is not a “good look at gender parity from a publisher’s perspective". It is not a good critical analysis of anything but Tor UK’s inability to take some responsibility for their share of the fact that women often do not feel welcome or supported in genre culture (gee, I wonder why?). What this piece is? It’s cowardly, regressive, and absolutely willing to throw women under the bus of their own failures to be a more diverse publisher that promotes a wide range of voices. Julie Crisp erected a giant statistical strawman and so far all I see is the genre community congratulating her for such an incisive look at the REAL problem — the lazy women not submitting their work, or the talentless women who continue submitting even though publishers don’t want them.

What a great dichotomy! Sounds totally legit.

Great job, SF powers that be. You continue to astound me with the levels you will go to humiliate yourself. Bravo.

Also: "I think we’re all ready for conversations about this to move from people arguing about how their bit of the publishing ecosystem shouldn’t really shoulder much of the blame to, you know, actual strategies to address the problem. I can’t really see how anything else helps." And: "The SF community needs to stop passing the buck on who to blame for sexism, and start taking responsibility for what they can *do* about it." It's a systemic issue, which means we're all to blame, and all have to try to change things.



Niall Harrison is Editor-in-Chief of Strange Horizons.
4 comments on “Women in (UK) SF (again)”

Sophia McDougall's comments in the Julie Crisp/Tor UK comment thread are also well worth reading.

They are, they hadn't been approved earlier.
I'd add a link, except that I can't work out a way to link directly to comments on that blog.

Another interesting and worthwhile comment in that original thread -- by a man, this time -- is Sean the Booknaut's:
"I don’t care what gender a writer is either and I would have said that I had a pretty even spread when it came to reading (say 60 /40 in favor of male authors). Until I actually analysed what I read over a 12 month period. Turns out the ratio was more 85/15 in favour of male authors. So I now impose a loose ratio on my reading, trying to get it to parity."
This struck me because it was something I did myself, some years ago, with similar preconceptions (viz. that I'm not sexist, and that therefore, whilst I maybe I read a couple more men than women, the overall numbers were probably on a par) only to be rudely awoken when I actually looked at the way the numbers broke down re: my reading. Like Sean, since then I've made a conscious effort -- which very quickly became second nature, and not an effort in the least -- to read as many books by female authors as male. This connects with the strongest of the many strong points in Sophia McDougall's comment: the insidious, miasmic invisibility of sexism. I genuinely do not consider myself a sexist person, but as a white male, with all the hidden privilege that goes with that, I don't need to be consciously sexist to be sexist; and that means that I'm sexist all the time, in passive, or thoughtless, or enabling ways. Being anti-sexist means being maintaining a self-conscious awareness of the myriad ways everyday sexism works.

Sorry: that last comment came out as preachier than I intended.

 

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