Monday, January 3, 2011

Feminist Anne Hays Launches Boycott of The New Yorker

And in another installment of my informal series on contemporary feminist schizophrenia, here comes the news that Anne Hays, pictured, has launched a boycott against The New Yorker Magazine for its two week consecutive failure to feature at least 5 women writers. Hays published a letter to the editor at Facebook, sent back her two most recent issues, and demanded a refund. And from her letter:

The New Yorker
4 Times Square, 20th Floor
New York, NY 10036
Dear Editors of the New Yorker,

I am writing to express my alarm that this is now the second issue of the NYer in a row where only two (tiny) pieces out of your 76 page magazine are written by women. The January 3rd, 2011 issue features only a Shouts & Murmurs (Patricia Marx) and a poem (Kimberly Johnson); every other major piece: the fiction, the profile, and all the main nonfiction pieces, are written by men. Every single critic is a male writer.

We were already alarmed when we flipped through the Dec 20th & 27th double-issue to find that only one piece (Nancy Franklin) and one poem (Alicia Ostriker) were written by women. A friend pointed out that Jane Kramer wrote one of the short Talk of the Town segments as well, though it barely placated our sense of outrage that one extra page, totaling three, out of the 148 pages in the magazine, were penned by women. Again, every critic is a man. To make matters more depressing, 22 out of the 23 illustrators for the magazine are men. Seriously!

Women are not actually a minority group, nor is there a shortage, in the world, of female writers. The publishing industry is dominated by female editors, and it would be too obvious for me to point out to you that the New Yorker masthead has a fair number of female editors in its ranks. And so we are baffled, outraged, saddened, and a bit depressed that, though some would claim our country's sexism problem ended in the late 60's, the most prominent and respected literary magazine in the country can't find space in its pages for women's voices in the year 2011.

I have enclosed the January issue and expect a refund. You may either extend our subscription by one month, or you can replace this issue with a back issue containing a more equitable ratio of male to female voices. I plan to return every issue that contains fewer than five women writers. You tend to publish 13 to 15 writers in each issue; 5 women shouldn't be that hard.

A dismayed reader,

Anne Hays
Is it me, or does Hays contradict the thesis of gender discrimination by indicating that the "publishing industry is dominated by female editors"? And you know, maybe the editors at The New Yorker don't pay attention to byline quotas at the magazine, considering the publication has been a leading voice of progressive politics for decades (and it publishes lots of women writers). Indeed, here's a comment at Margot Magowan's post on Hays at the San Francisco Chronicle:
Ya know Margot, you and Zennie are always looking for something to whine about that's not there. Your issues are long gone. Are you aware that Tina Brown was the first female editor of the New Yorker? And did you bother to research why women may or may not be writing for the New Yorker? Are there any serious female journalists or fiction writers who might write something worth printing in the New Yorker? Maybe it's a sign that women are engaged in other professions these days? Or maybe young women have forgotten how to write since most are into social media?

I'm a feminist who is near 60 years of age and I don't find the discrimination anymore that you complain about. I'm still working and I still demand a salary that rivals my male counterparts. Maybe you need to follow general trends instead of blaming gender discrimination for everything (as Zennie blames racism).
Hey, can't touch that.

Whiny Women Writers at it Again." And following the link, the Village Voice with latest developments, suggesting the boycott is gaining traction: "Does The New Yorker Have Girl Problems? Reader Demands Gender Balance or a Refund."


Steven Givler said...

I've never subscribed to the New Yorker, but I'm considering it now.