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Hello, Ladies ([personal profile] helloladies) wrote in [community profile] ladybusiness2012-03-06 10:42 am

Coverage of Women on SF/F Blogs

The Backstory
In mid-2011 after a discussion about diversity in reading with my partner, we agreed to focus our reading in 2012 on women by undertaking a project called She Wrote What?. The project is not focused on SF/F, but those are the genres he likes the best. To find recommendations for us I began following popular SF/F blogs for their reviews and back catalogues.

A trend emerged as I collected women writers. Women's names started to repeat while more and more new male writers emerged. This reminded me of The Count 2010 by VIDA and The SF Count by Strange Horizons (which I hope they repeat). I did two test cases on blogs I was already following, using their current reviews for a three month period. Toward the end of my test case, I mentioned it on Twitter and had a conversation, which I include here for context:

@renay: I am basically looking at SF/F blogs and counting how many books by ladies they've reviewed in 2011. SPOILER: it's depressing.
@kingrat: I've thought about doing that project. I could predict the results.
@renay: Is that why you never did it? End result too predictable?
@kingrat: When @niallharrison did the print mag review numbers this year, i thought a similar blog project might be worthwhile.
@niallharrison: @kingrat @renay I shied away from blogs at the time because so many of them are single-author it felt a bit personal.
@niallharrison: But it would be instructive to see, I think.
@renay: @niallharrison Many position themselves as professional, especially those receiving review copy.
@niallharrison: Even so, I think there's a difference in the implicit promises magazines and blogs make: comprehensiveness vs idiosyncracy.
@renay: Whereas if I sample a group of them over a one year period, meaning will be had! What kind, though, remains to be seen.
@niallharrison: Yeah, that's the level at which it gets interesting. Though I wouldn't want to be the one selecting the sample. :-)
@renay: @niallharrison I started at the Major Players and used blogrolls. I'm sure this is the most effective and least wanky solution! #doom
@niallharrison: Defined methodology is good! I look forward to seeing the results, anyway.

I'll come back to defined methodology.

The Inevitable Disclaimer
This has been such an undertaking; five months of my life were consumed by this project. An unexpected development is that after spending time with the blogs that became my sample, I feel protective of them even though all of the owners, sans The Book Smugglers, are strangers to me. Toward the end, even though KJ told me early on I couldn't hoard the data and mask the blog identities, that it would be a Jerk Move, the more tempted I became to do so. But here we are, and nothing is being hidden, but I still feel like standing on the rooftop to wave my arms and shout about how awesome these blogs are for literature, how diverse of opinion and thought, how lucky we are to be in a community and fandom with this much to choose from, and to please not go pick on them or call them names or accuse them of things based on a year's worth of numbers gleaned from narrow rules I applied to collect the information. Honestly: don't do it. That's a Jerk Move.

I did not begin this project as an expose of individual blogs, because individually there's nothing to glean from the numbers. One year of a person's reviewing habits tells you exactly zero about that person, and furthermore, not all reviews are included — only SF/F and speculative fiction, defined by me, by using Amazon and Goodreads and tags, and reviews of the work elsewhere. On top of that, a list of reviews and an actual reading list are two different things.

I'm not making any claims as to how each blog owner or contributor feels about women writers.

Although Niall had qualms about examining blogs in this way because of the personal aspect, I obviously disagreed, as here we are, on the cusp of Graphs and Lots of Data. Yes, it can be personal, but when we have review policies (most of the blogs I examined did) we're positioning ourselves as a voice for literature to other people, even if they happen to be our friends. When we tell a publisher we're willing to read and review books and then post those reviews, we're telling the world we have something to say and inviting the world in to listen. Furthermore, for me this is personal, because recommendations from mostly recreational, non-professional reviewers is how I tend to find the SF/F media I consume.

I did my best to apply my decisions equally across all reviews. I stopped at 21 blogs because of severe issue fatigue. There are hundreds of SF/F blogs and 21 barely skims the surface.

I chose my sample by using the blogs I follow, blogs from their blogrolls, recommendations from my co-contributors to Lady Business and Ana of The Book Smugglers who is active in the SF/F community (this is apparently called snowball sampling). I based my decision on whether it seemed like the blog was SF/F related and subscriber count. I did not research archives of any blogs but my two test cases beforehand and once I started processing a blog, I did not remove it from my sample.

I am not sure what I would have found if I had kept adding blogs. Maybe 50 would have been the magic number where the scale tipped the other way from what my results turned out to be. However, anyone can feel free to look over their favorite SF/F blog and its reviews and report back what they find and how it compares to my results. Google Docs is free! \o/

This survey focuses on reviews of science fiction and fantasy texts (more on sequential art below). Many blogs were good enough to note the genre. Some didn't and I had to do a little legwork. Several people came behind me and gave me advice and opinions on reviews I was unsure about and did checks on author gender for me.

In the reviews total, each book was counted M, F, or U. This project is, at its core, a binary one. I make no claims as to the gender identities of the authors or bloggers classified as Unknown.

Authors can appear multiple times in the reviews total. The only exception to this was when there were multiple books by the same author in the same post. That's counted as one because those reviews are happening at the same time in the same entry. That's different than putting that author and their work in front of eyeballs three different times.

1. I took a very generous line on what I counted as SF/F and speculative. There's going to be something like Spellcast by Barbara Ashford in the same study as The Clockwork Rocket by Greg Egan. That's how I'm rolling; it's okay if you don't agree.

2. I only counted reviews hosted on the actual blog. Woe, should they be posted elsewhere with a link to them!

3. Young Adult and adult SF/F and speculative fiction were included, but not Middle Grade. If anything was unclear, I used Amazon/Goodreads based on where it was listed to make that decision.

4. Anthologies with multiple authors are treated by authors (sorry editors).

5. Writers under a shared pseud that's publicly known were counted individually. Unfortunately concerning authors filed under Unknown, it's impossible to know if those are shared and thus they are counted as one author.

6. Co-authors were counted individually.

7. Guest Post reviews were not included (unless they weren't labeled as Guest Posts, and if so, well-played blog owners. Well-played.).

6. Originally I included sequential art (comics, manga, and graphic novels) in these numbers, but unfortunately, they skewed the results too much. While all blogs included traditional texts, only a handful covered sequential art: strike one. The sheer number of men in the industry also made some blogs have wild ratios that, bottom line, annoyed me and made their coverage look terrible through no fault of their own due to my inclusion standards: strike two. It was extremely difficult to find complete lists of all artists. Including all artists — colorists and pencilers, etc. — was a requirement for me based on opinions of artists I asked. Some projects were almost impossible to find information for, which meant some listings would be complete but others wouldn't be. Because this project relies on complete contributor lists, I deemed it too time intensive: strike three. It was also like a bonus round of "wow, women sure are invisible in the comics industry, huh?" It was supremely depressing and in the end that was a discussion I simply didn't want to dive into at this time.

7. Horror that was psychological or based on gore or torture porn didn't count. Horror that was fantastical or paranormal did. This is still my most personally conflicting category; there are probably a lot of errors and missing information or additional information that shouldn't count. It still makes me unhappy. I asked for second opinions here because I don't read horror and did the best I could with research.

8. On gender of authors and bloggers: when possible, I checked when gender was not clear. I noted when it was unknown or if I couldn't find enough data to make a clear decision. I did my best to examine each. It feels pertinent to note that one of the hardest things I faced was women writing under male pseudonyms. There are so many men represented that it's truly difficult to say I researched each one as thoroughly as I could have. I did my best and erred when in doubt. If I was wrong, please tell me, and I will make the correction with apologies.

I was also dealing with hundreds of blog posts and Google Reader, which underwent a horrible, eye-gougingly awful redesign in the middle of this project (thanks Google). I am certain there are reviews I missed because of this awesome development, authors I've placed incorrectly because of lackluster research, and other fun, humiliating errors. I'm willing to update my spreadsheets and include notes in this post if the information is brought to me and presented convincingly, although the data presented graphically in this post will not be updated for a few months, as I'll let any corrections float in and request a final update of the graphs to be included alongside the current information.

Version one of my spreadsheets can be found at Coverage of Women on SF/F Blogs (I). All the data and the blogs I acquired it from that I am discussing below is contained in these sheets.

The Results
In the beginning, I was fairly sure of what I was going to find: men discussing mostly men, and women discussing both either equally or more. Does the data follow?

This is a fairly standard result that's not ideal, but is better than what it could be. Men still dominate the literary conversation, but women are in there, too. I was initially surprised by this result, because my gut back in 2011 had said it was not this even.

Even when expressed in a different way, the "overall" score seems to indicate that my gut was jumping the gun:

However, if you start rearranging the data a bit, things change. There are women being reviewed by men, yes, but there are also women being reviewed by women. My initial instinct was correct. My results highlight an interesting development here given the context of Girls as Omni-Readers, as Jodie wrote last year during an unrelated debate in the YA community, where she said,

'Omni-reader' is a term Maureen Johnson used on her Twitter feed two weeks ago. She used this word as a way of describing beliefs that girls are readers who will read about anything regardless of whether the subject matter looks traditionally masculine, or traditionally feminine. Articles like this one by Sarah Pekkanen of The Washington Post agree that girls tend to accept a broad range of books and will read a book featuring a boy on the cover [...]

If you look at the same graph, reorganized to take into account the blogger's gender (as expressed in profiles, about pages, etc.):

Here we have the data reorganized by gender of the reviewer, female, to mixed gender, to male, to the one unknown. And thus, the feeling I had turned out not to be so wrong after all: the 40/60 is an average, and that average is the way it is because the women reviewing women drive it up.

The breakdown comes out to:

  • Group blogs: 25% women

  • Female bloggers: 58% women

  • Male bloggers: 19% women

(The blogger with the unknown gender is not included in this graph.)

So no, I wasn't wrong last year to go, "hey, wait a minute..." and feel like things were unequal. If you're following popular SF/F blogs run by men I believe this is a problem you will continuously run into, except by those focused on their review diversity. Reviews of books by women don't feature as often on blogs run by men or shared by men, but on blogs run by women, it's more equal and sometimes even women as majority because culturally women are trained to read "traditionally" male things, while the reverse is not true.

Recently I linked to a post by [personal profile] coffeeandink where she examined a panel of authors talking about SF/F titled The erasure of women writers in sf & fantasy. I quoted that post then and said I would come back to quote it again because it's so insightful and says everything I wasn't educated enough to know or speak about:

I am not suggesting that the participants are consciously sexist or intend to suppress or erase the existence of women writers. I am saying that this conversation follows a typical social pattern in which (a) men talk more than women in mixed company; (b) men promote male writers significantly more than they promote women writers; (c) the criteria which determine value or worth inherently favor men's contributions over women's, which are deemed trivial or inapplicable; (d) women's contributions to the critical or cultural canon are systematically devalued, forgotten, or erased.

Are there answers in these numbers? I'm only finding more questions. There are no good, easy answers. Of course, some like to pretend there are easy answers and that's where I've watched this debate fall apart in the past whenever it's cropped up. It goes to Disasterland immediately and becomes a shame spiral. Someone inevitably shows up and starts talking about why quotas are bad and no, no, how dare you call them sexist and a game of Defensive Assholes is launched. The entire situation devolves into Don't Read the Comments™ and it's Gender Catastrophe Theater and general badness, which accomplishes less than nothing, because if we go back to the beginning, no one called anyone any names at all. I want to avoid that as much as possible. Reading diversity is a complicated subject and book selection often a process that we're not conscious of. We're impacted on all sides by a myriad of things influencing our decisions. But reviewing and talking about titles on public blogs and journals is an active decision that we're making every time we put a book down and go, "I'm going to write 1000 words about that and share it with the Internet!"

As friends finalized this data for me, made the graphs you see above and I started thinking about what to say about them, VIDA released The 2011 Count. It's not specific to SF/F like my project and and it's professionally focused, but I think it's fascinating to look and see the same trends in an unrelated sphere repeated in this one.

What are we saying to those who trust our reading choices? What are we saying to the publishers who send us materials to review about the books that deserve that kind of virtual hand-selling? Does it impact what they think is relevant and sellable? What does it mean when we review that book by a man, and that one, and that other one and pass over the women writing the same kind of story? There's worth in examining the reviewing choices we're making. There's worth in thinking about what messages we're sending when our promotional energies favor the dominant gender without letting ourselves get mired in arguments grounded in gender essentialism.

Diverse voices in literature we celebrate is incredibly important. I encourage everyone to look at their SF/F review statistics. It's not an easy task if the results are uneven, but it's a worthwhile one.

— Renay

Credit: Ira and Susan for advice, Lex for beta help (congrats on finding a typo in the 200th edit), Ana and Jodie for their support and suggestions, handholding, long chats about all the feelings this project caused and beta help, Ana from The Book Smugglers for blog suggestions, feedback and beta help, KJ for graphing the data and being a sounding-board, and Philip for derail critique, enabling and supporting from backstage with the promotion hat. Thank you all for your assistance, I will never ask you to do this again...probably. ;)

Further reading:
Sidetracks - Science Fiction Edition!
Summary of comments for SF Signal's Russ Pledge post
Everyone Can Promote Equality In Genre Writing
How to Suppress Women's Writing

eta - 3/9/12 3:15P.M.: Going forward, to leave anonymous comments on this post you must sign your comment with the name you use online or a name created specifically for commenting across this post. Any non-signed comments will be screened upon discovery. We will not engage with unsigned anonymous comments.
kingrat: (Default)

[personal profile] kingrat 2012-03-06 05:31 pm (UTC)(link)
My book blog isn't sf only, so the numbers in the sf portion may be skewed. However, I have an overall rule of thumb to start reading a book by a non white male for every book by a white male that I finish. It's not hard and fast, but it keeps me reading more diversely than I would otherwise. Kind of my own version of Nicola Griffith's Russ Pledge.
renay: artist rendition of the center of a nebula (Default)

[personal profile] renay 2012-03-06 10:19 pm (UTC)(link)
Hard and fast rules are extremely restrictive. I enjoy reading women writers, but have constantly chafed with She Wrote What? because the nature of the project locks me into a certain number of female writers. I am the last one who is ever going to argue for quotas after 2012.

It's my FedEx arrow analogy I love so much; once you put a rule to just think about it, it really opens your eyes. That happened to me in 2007 when my ratio was pretty dismal and mortifying. I may adopt something like your guideline post-project.

Or I may fail out of books and read nothing but Avengers fanfic where Steve and Tony make out a lot. You know me.

(Anonymous) 2012-03-06 06:17 pm (UTC)(link)
Thanks for putting this all together Renay. It was great to follow part of the journey here and it is great to see the results now and the very thoughtful questions you pose. I love this:

"But reviewing and talking about titles on public blogs and journals is an active decision that we're making every time we put a book down and go, "I'm going to write 1000 words about that and share it with the Internet!""

YES absolutely.

Ana - The Book Smugglers

renay: artist rendition of the center of a nebula (Default)

[personal profile] renay 2012-03-06 10:19 pm (UTC)(link)
Thank you for helping, Ana! I really appreciate it, and all the reviews you write helping me find awesome books by ladies I wouldn't have otherwise. ♥
coalescent: (Default)

[personal profile] coalescent 2012-03-06 10:07 pm (UTC)(link)
Thanks for doing this; very interesting.

The SF Count by Strange Horizons (which I hope they repeat).

We are, but it probably won't be ready until Easter or thereabouts. On methodology, we're following most of the principles you do, with one exception -- anthologies get categorised by editor, not by authors.
renay: artist rendition of the center of a nebula (Default)

[personal profile] renay 2012-03-06 10:25 pm (UTC)(link)
Others found my decision to list anthologies by author odd. I really cannot figure out the original reason why I chose to do it that way (maybe I told someone when I first started and they can remind me). It's possible that it's often because in reviews people namecheck favorite stories or maybe I just love creating more work for myself. Once it was done I wasn't going back. I was all-in. :)

I look forward to seeing Strange Horizons do this again, too! I will keep an eye out. :)

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(Anonymous) 2012-03-06 10:27 pm (UTC)(link)
The trend I've noticed with male-run SFF blogs is that there are certain female writers they will review multiple books from, while covering many more individual male writers. Certain female writers have received a 'pass' but when you start looking at male v female individuals, the numbers skew even more toward male because the books by the female authors are several books by this approved handful.

There was also one blog I was reading that was explaining the skew in its book coverage and the blogger stated that he only read books with male protagonists.
renay: artist rendition of the center of a nebula (Default)

[personal profile] renay 2012-03-06 11:12 pm (UTC)(link)
I am not sure the data I compiled would show that information that certain blogs favor certain female writers. I didn't analyze the data, though, because that would have been a comedy of errors, so may be wrong on that score.

We'd have to have a longer sample to say one way or another (two to three years, perhaps, which I considered back in December, before I re-found my sense of self-care). But I don't disagree, as I've read plenty of blogs over the years where it felt like the same women being featured constantly, even when new women writers were entering the scene and writing interesting work of the same type. Women and men both get afraid to step outside of comfort zones, even literary ones, until it becomes a habit to never step outside of them. I know I do it, too.

I feel like I read that same blog, with that same "I only read about dudes" statement. It sure does feel familiar, though I can't be sure. I'm also just as sure if I did, I immediately unfollowed them.

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aliettedb: (Default)

[personal profile] aliettedb 2012-03-06 10:28 pm (UTC)(link)
Thank you very much for doing this; it's definitely enligthening.
And men review 80% male authors on average? Wow, that's depressing...
renay: artist rendition of the center of a nebula (Default)

[personal profile] renay 2012-03-07 05:52 am (UTC)(link)
You're welcome!

Yeah, the numbers when taken by single gender become much more troubling. I would argue that it's just a year's worth of data, so there's no telling how it might change. I suppose one would have to do it more than one year in a row. I'm not sure I could do it again given how discouraging it was, but maybe someone else would be willing to try?

(frozen comment) A small note

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owlfish: (Default)

[personal profile] owlfish 2012-03-06 10:36 pm (UTC)(link)
Thank you very much for this data, and all the work you've put into it. It's an important contribution to the ongoing conversation about representation of women in SF/F!
renay: artist rendition of the center of a nebula (Default)

[personal profile] renay 2012-03-07 05:52 am (UTC)(link)
You're very welcome! I hope it creates good conversations. :)

(Anonymous) 2012-03-07 01:12 am (UTC)(link)
My experience (especially from feedback we received from our podcast, Galactic Suburbia, which discusses these issues in relation to SF and fantasy a LOT) is that men generally believe that they read (and correspondingly, review) a much higher percentage of women than they actually do.

Which is why stopping to crunch the numbers is so important - we've had such wonderful responses from so many men who were genuinely shocked to realise how unbalanced their reading was, and have been working to do better, and often to publicly communicate their discoveries to other readers.

As another commenter said, sometimes just THINKING about it makes all the difference. Because most people don't.

Tansy RR
renay: artist rendition of the center of a nebula (Default)

[personal profile] renay 2012-03-07 06:02 am (UTC)(link)
This was actually me! Back when I first got back into reading after university, I was reading and when asked, swore I was reading pretty equally. In original fiction, that turned out to not be true. I fixed it, though it had to be pointed out to me first.

Also, I listen to your podcast! It's super fun. ♥

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[personal profile] phoebenorth 2012-03-07 03:56 am (UTC)(link)
Interesting! I was just commenting on a discussion on metafilter how we review mostly female authors at the Intergalactic Academy, though I can't help but think that is, in some ways, simply a side effect of both the large number of women writing in YA as well as our personal tastes. Still, seeing this makes me feel a bit proud.
renay: artist rendition of the center of a nebula (Default)

[personal profile] renay 2012-03-07 06:09 am (UTC)(link)
Yes. Part of my exhaustion with this project came to be reading yet another denigration of YA. "I don't like YA" and "This was good for YA" and "I don't normally read YA, but". Because YA is a monolith. YA is full of women writers! Then there are readers who read a handful of titles and then write off the entire category as beneath them and after that if a book lands on their radar they suppose they'll stoop to read something YA, they guess.

So over it.

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[personal profile] james_davis_nicoll 2012-03-07 02:53 pm (UTC)(link)
May I link to this?
renay: artist rendition of the center of a nebula (Default)

[personal profile] renay 2012-03-07 06:35 pm (UTC)(link)
You may! :)

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[personal profile] chrisa511 2012-03-08 07:18 am (UTC)(link)
OMG Renay...this is SUCH an awe inspiring and amazing and kind of sad post. Sad at what it points out. Though I have to say that I was surprised that the numbers weren't even more skewed. But then when you break it down to male blogs vs. female blogs....well that's where it really gets sad :( And I know I'm just as guilty as the next. I'd love to get deeper into this too...because when I ask myself what some of my favorite SF/F/H books are, the ones that immediately come to mind aside from Neil Gaiman's American Gods are Margo Lanagan's Tender Morsel's, Lynn Flewelling's The Bone Doll's Twin, Cherie Priest's Four and Twenty Blackbirds and some of Anne Rice's earlier stuff. So why is it that most of what I read is still male oriented at the end of the year? Is it the influence of other bloggers? (because that's where I get most of my recommendations honestly) Is it because that's what just gets advertised more and pushed in our faces more? Is it because that's what I've been trained to go towards? I don't know :( I can tell you that this post DOES make me want to make a real effort to try to focus my reading on women writing SFF though. There are so many amazing stories out there by women. Thank you times a million for doing this amazing project. I can't even imagine the time and work you put into this but I was blown away reading this!! This is great info!

Base rate

[personal profile] omgkittens 2012-03-08 05:50 pm (UTC)(link)
It's awesome that you've done all this. I think you need to consider the base rate, though; it really matters what percentage of books published are by women.

For instance, I went to amazon.com, selected SF&F paperbacks, sorted by date (which should be a fairly random selection) and counted the number of books in the top 100 with at least one female author. I counted 35. Now a sample of 100 isn't that many and the 95% confidence interval is about +/-9% and I'm not really happy with how I handled the multiple authors, but for the sake of argument let's work it through assuming 35% women and 65% men. If I denote the probability of someone reading a book by a same-gendered author by 'ps' and by an opposite-gendered author by 'pd' then

for women:

(pd/ps)*(65/35) = 42/58
pd/ps = 35*42/(58*65) = 0.39

for men:

(pd/ps)*(35/65) = 18/82
pd/ps = 65*18/(82*35) = 0.41

So these numbers suggest, bearing in mind all the caveats above, that if I pick a book entirely at random from the SF&F books being published, the women in your sample are 39% as likely to review it if it's by a man as if it's by woman, and the men are 41% as likely to review it if it's by a woman as if it's by a man. The difference doesn't make men seem so awful when you express it like that!

Now here's the thing: I bet the publishers have similar figures to yours. And I bet they're reading them the same way many people are, as 'women read male authors and men don't read female authors', since publishers generally aren't statisticians. And they may well be drawing the conclusion that it's better to publish books by men because they appeal to a wider audience. And they might be *completely wrong*.
julieandrews: (Default)

Re: Base rate

[personal profile] julieandrews 2012-03-08 06:50 pm (UTC)(link)
Amazon is hit or miss whether YA or 'Teen' books are included in SF/F. I searched within SF/F for 'stephenie meyer' and got The Host and Breaking Dawn, but none of her others.

So I'd say mostly your search didn't include any YA. Which should skew female.

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very interesting

(Anonymous) 2012-03-08 09:48 pm (UTC)(link)
I'm at work right now, so the gaphic are blocked. I can't tell if I was one of the blogs looked at, but I'm certainly a usual suspect on blogrolls, so it's possible.

I actually keep a pretty detailed spreadsheet with book attributes so I can play with the statistics of the numbers. For me, out of 236 reviews in 6 years, I fall quite firmly in the classic male numbers you site - 80% male authors, 20% female authors. Of course there are a lot of little caveats in those numbers - was the book sent by a publisher or did I buy it, how do count anthologies, some are reviews of entire series (basically some double counting) - but even given those, I doubt the overall stats would change much.

So obviously this is an interesting (and important) issue.

However, I do urge caution with statistics. I know enough to be dangerous, most people don't even know that much. The famous quote says 'there are lies, damn lies and statistics" and it's quite correct. I'd love to see what a trained statisical expert would think of these numbers. How would one control for various important factors? [for example - how skewed are my reading habits by the books that are sent to me and the gender of the writers publishers choose to send me? further, does the gender of the publicist sending me the books play an additional factor?] this a case of (more) simple linear statistics, or is it a non-gausian situation? Would a fractal analysis of some sort be more realistic and meaningful? etc. And definitions need to be developed so apples can be compared with apples.

But, I don't want to seem like I'm tyring to nullify this rather simple thought experiment. I think the coorelation is pretty clear and significant, and I'm certainly a 'guilty' party myself.

Anyway, thanks for doing this and I'll be followign the comments as I'm able.

Neth Space
kingrat: (Default)

Re: very interesting

[personal profile] kingrat 2012-03-08 10:09 pm (UTC)(link)
I think it's important to keep in mind that one blog out of many isn't a concern. It's the overall skew and the fact that EVERY male blogger was skewed one direction. While I don't think most of the list are intentionally trying to shortchange women (one or two possibly excepted), we have some biases that we're not counteracting.

The data on what publishers send bloggers can be important, but not if it's used as part of the argument that it's not my fault, it's the publishers'! If I noticed that publishers were sending me stuff I didn't like, I'd be compensating. Bloggers aren't (or shouldn't) be publishers' marketing arms. We're supposed to be fans with our own judgment.

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Guilty as charged

(Anonymous) 2012-03-08 10:40 pm (UTC)(link)
Yup, this is an issue I'm aware of. There are some practical reasons behind it - for financial reasons I'm reliant on publishers sending me review copies for most of my reading and they tend to send me books written by guys - but ultimately those are things I can address. This year I'm going to try to correct the balance somewhat.

Cheers - Adam Whitehead @ The Wertzone

So, I review plenty of Urban Fantasy

(Anonymous) 2012-03-08 10:44 pm (UTC)(link)
So, what sub-genre are all these blogs focusing on? If a blog focuses on YA, UF, PNR, etc. I would think the tendency towards female authors would be much greater than those blogs focusing solely on Epic Fantasy and Sci-Fi regardless of the gender of the reviewer.

I'm a fairly new reviewer, since last August, and have written 28 reviews or so, 15 of them are for female authors if I counted correctly. If I add those from my blog partner, it'd be 35 total reviews with 20 of them for female writers. Both of us are male (he also reviews for Fantasy Book Critic, so this isn't all inclusive of him). Our blog has a lot of urban fantasy reviews.

Interestingly enough, my female reading for sub-genres outside of UF is quite limited. This has nothing to do with gender preferences, but just a matter of what's out there that seems interesting.

I wonder what this type of study would illustrate for male authors in the urban fantasy field, and their exposure in blogs focused solely on UF and the sort, and see how the gender of the reviewers come into play. Then compare it to the findings here. I don't think they'd be as dissimilar as the results being shown here, but the inverse. I wouldn't know really, but something to think about.

nymeth: (Default)

Re: So, I review plenty of Urban Fantasy

[personal profile] nymeth 2012-03-09 08:52 am (UTC)(link)
Something else to think about: yes, there may be a couple of subgenres (UF, romance, paranormal) or marketing categories (YA) where there are more women writers, or where they are more visible. The one thing they all have in common, though, is that they lack prestige. They're niches that even genre fans, who are used to dealing with the disdain of the literary world, often look down on and dismiss as silly. Why do you think that is? The correlation between this kind of attitude and the fact that these are female-dominated niches is enough to ring alarm bells in my head. So even if that study yielded the kind of results you suggest (which yes, it very well could), I don't at all see how pointing out a non-prestigious niche in which results would be different changes the overall trend Renay has shown here.

RE: "This has nothing to do with gender preferences, but just a matter of what's out there that seems interesting.", I have just addressed that here.

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[personal profile] sqt 2012-03-09 04:50 am (UTC)(link)
First off-- let me just say that I'm flattered my blog was included in the list. I'm one of the mixed-gender blogs that skews heavily to the male side of the equations. That said, we have one female (me) and two male reviewers. I checked my own list of reviews and I'm almost dead even between male and female-- so good for me I guess.

I'm not one to get worked up over this though (don't hit me). I just feel that we gravitate to what interests us. I'm sure if we looked at the gender bias in romance novels you'd see a predominately female audience that reads predominately female authors. I also belong to an all-female book club and I think 1 book in 10 are written by male authors-- so I suppose we're guilty of our own gender bias there.

Fantasy & SciFi Lovin' News & Reviews
bookgazing: (Default)

[personal profile] bookgazing 2012-03-09 07:45 am (UTC)(link)
Y'know last year, for the first time I was skewing more heavily towards reviewing female authors than male authors. I'd made a real effort to combat the years of skewing the other way, when I was reading (and maybe reviewing, I'd have to check the numbers, but I suspect reviewing as well) more men than women even though I was way keen on female writers. Last year I found was reading so many books by ladies now. And instead of feeling great about that I felt... guilty. I wasn't achieving parity and I'm always countering sexist arguments with the ideas that gender inequality hurts men and that equality means um equality, not women dominating men. I felt like a bit of a hypocrite and I may have apologised in my stats breakdown post.

What I've come to realise over the last few months is that my personal reading parity is unimportant in the face of vast, systematic inequality of women. So many places aren't reviewing women, or are actively denigrating female literary contributions (which if you want to drill it down to practical capitalist terms may result in women earning less through their books and receiving less prestigious awards, or grants which could further their earning ability) that any worries I may had about not reading enough men really don't matter. Male authors get a lot of attention right now, a lot of visibility and that is creating huge, problematic, real inequality. If I don't review as many men as women, well that does not affect men in a comparably negative way. So I've stopped worrying about that and won't return to being concerned about it until everyone everywhere is reviewing 99 female authors to 1 male author.

'I just feel that we gravitate to what interests us. I'm sure if we looked at the gender bias in romance novels you'd see a predominately female audience that reads predominately female authors.'

I have feelings about this and I'm seeing this argument repeated elsewhere, so I'll be back to talk about it later, but I have to go to work now. Maybe someone else will beat me to replying ;P

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thank you

(Anonymous) 2012-03-09 08:10 pm (UTC)(link)
what a great post, and such a huge amount of work. You are very very appreciated.
- Kathleen

We need more data

(Anonymous) 2012-03-10 05:13 am (UTC)(link)
And I would love to be a part of making that happen. I'll keep track of every book reviewed on our site this year and see what kind of numbers we come up with. So far, not looking too good for female authors (28-3), but lately I've just been reading what I've gotten for free, which seems to be overwhelmingly male authors. I did request some books from female authors, though, so those reviews will be on the way.

I don't think it's bad to read what interests you, and if male protagonists that you feel you more closely relate to (and are more frequently written by male authors, perhaps) are your thing, then that's fine. The number I really want to get at is how many books of all published books in a given year are written by men, because that might be a very revealing number. Also, I read The Count, which was a little depressing. Could it simply be that female authors are more active in genres that are less frequently reviewed? I don't know, but I'm interested in knowing more, that's for sure. Great stuff!

-My Awful Reviews
kingrat: (Default)

Re: We need more data

[personal profile] kingrat 2012-03-10 07:17 am (UTC)(link)
So what do you suggest be done to fix the problem of women's writing being invisible in much of the SF blogosphere? Should women be writing more in these subgenres than men are willing to read? Like Epic Fantasy? There are plenty of women writing epic fantasy. That's the subgenre reviewed most heavily by most of these blogs. Take a gander at the spreadsheet and you'll see them covering Brandon Sanderson, Robert Jordan, George R.R. Martin, Steven Erikson, Daniel Abraham, etc. like I used to cover my PeeChees with doodles. Yet C.S. Friedman gets covered once. Elizabeth Moon gets one read on a male blog. Trudi Canavan gets two. Beth Bernobich gets none. I could be off on these counts by one or two, I just did a quick eyeball.

The spreadsheet is there if you want to go and classify them. But you won't find female written epic fantasy getting read like male written epic fantasy.

Is there more epic fantasy published by male writers? possibly. does it matter? not really. the publishers have figured out that putting out another schlocky Terry Brooks is going to get more buzz and sales than something by a woman. Why spend the effort finding and nurturing and promoting female authors if one of the two big genders will pretty much ignore it?

And the "conventional wisdom" (such as it is) is that women write fantasy and men write science fiction because women read fantasy and men read science fiction (it's false, but that's what you'll see all over). But here we have men pretty much ignoring fantasy by women and devouring fantasy by men.

I thought you would find this interesting.

(Anonymous) 2012-03-10 05:27 am (UTC)(link)
According to this blog, http://freda-writes.livejournal.com/16598.html, the numbers for SF&F are about 50/50 for published men vs women. So if they're getting disproportionate reviews, which is seems they are, then it's particularly sad.

- My Awful Reviews

(Anonymous) 2012-03-12 12:20 am (UTC)(link)
Wow, this is really interesting. It must have been a lot of work too, so thank you for this. I came here through Kristen's (Fantasy Cafe) blog, and there I am, L, skewing the stats to the female side. I know that I'm biased towards reading women authors. I've read more male authors when I was younger, but not as much in the past few years when I decided to focus on reviewing stories with romantic elements in them. That is probably why my numbers are the way they are. These graphs make me wonder if I should be reading more male authors, but I have thought about that over the years and I've always come to the conclusion that other blogs are covering male authors just fine.

By the way, calico_reaction is female.

- janice (aka janicu)
renay: artist rendition of the center of a nebula (Default)

[personal profile] renay 2012-03-12 02:32 am (UTC)(link)
[personal profile] owlmoose and I extrapolated that Blog B (calico_reaction) was female based on the averages, but since I couldn't find anything on the profile claiming one way or the other, I erred on the side of Unknowmn. We'll update the graphs appropriately. :) Thanks for letting us know!

jjhunter: Closeup of the face from postcard of da Vinci's 'Mona Lisa' with alterations made by Duchamp, i.e. moustache and goatee. (LHOOQ)

[personal profile] jjhunter 2012-03-13 03:00 pm (UTC)(link)
I've signal-boosted this post here at [personal profile] jjhunter, with a side note re: bemusement over how often people assume 'J.J. Hunter' is a man despite my L.H.O.O.Q. default icon & the fact that I list my proper pronouns (she/her) on my profile. Male is the default in poetry blogging too.
bookgazing: (Default)

[personal profile] bookgazing 2012-03-22 11:20 am (UTC)(link)
Thanks for the signal boost :)

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robertsloan2: Ari sweet (Default)

One thing I can do as a reader...

[personal profile] robertsloan2 2012-03-18 11:19 am (UTC)(link)
For a reader there seems to be a simple answer. Pay more attention to women bloggers writing about SF/F so that I don't miss half the good books out there on account of this unconscious gender bias.

If I started reviewing books I could consciously buck the trend. Finding the odd male reviewer that bucks the trend could be good too, reward the ones that aren't doing it. When I look at the books I read and love, I find a ton of good female writers.

Ignoring them is worse than panning them. I can't count the number of times I read a nasty review and came away determined to buy the book because the reviewer hated my taste in books. If the reviewer consistently hates my taste in books, that's as good as sharing my tastes. I'll know what's out there, ignore his picks and buy what appeals to me. Ignoring it, I don't know what's there.

I don't read many reviews any more, tend to choose books more on back cover and title or my knowing the author. It's good to know if I hunt down female bloggers that I'll get a good overview of what's available.
bookgazing: (Default)

Re: One thing I can do as a reader...

[personal profile] bookgazing 2012-03-22 11:20 am (UTC)(link)
That's a good idea, we can always use more people talking up the ladies because like you say if no one says anything how can you know what's out there. Visibility is hugely important.

(Anonymous) 2012-06-29 04:43 pm (UTC)(link)
Given that I only, to my knowledge anyway, read female bloggers in the book sector my view of the trend is apparently rather skewed. :)

I could have sworn that we have a greater percentage of female writers (discussed and active) than male ones these days - but then again, I don't read as much genre fiction as I used to, and when I do it's a lot of the classics, mostly written by men.
So guess if I where to blog about my reading preference it would look equal to above statistics in the SF/F field. :)

Gerd D.