I read a lot of crime fiction. Like many avid readers, I look back at the end of the year to see which books made the greatest impression on me and share my top 10 online. This year, I was shocked to realize that this only three of my top ten reads were by women.
In the past several years, women have used various platforms and organizations to draw attention to the gender divide that persists in media. We've only made a little progress.
In the new annual report from the Women's Media Center released last week on the status of women in American media, there is evidence of slow progress for women in film, print, television and radio. Aside from the lack of opinion writers, the overall tally of women staffers continued to hover at 36 percent—a figure largely unchanged since 1999.
This month, Bitch is collaborating with Her Kind, a literary community hosted by VIDA: Women in Literary Arts, by posing a series of questions to a talented woman writer. Seattle interdisciplinary artist and poet Natasha Marin took on eight questions about bitchiness.
When was the first time you remember being called a bitch? What were the circumstances?
NATASHA MARIN: Honestly, I can't remember the first time someone called me a bitch. I remember the first time someone called me a nigger though, but that's a different kind of story.
• Survivors of military sexual assault testified this week in a Senate hearing to advocate for outside review of cases. Among the strongest voices for a chance in policy was that of New York senator Kristen Gillibrand, who told lawyers for the Defense Department, "I appreciate the work you're doing, but it's not enough." [L.A. Times, N.Y. Daily News]
• The Steubenville rape trial continues, with key evidence in the form of damning text messages and, today, testimony from eyewitnesses who took photographs and later erased them. [Huffington Post]
• Meet the new pope, same as the old pope—especially when it comes to LGBT rights. Salon has a roundup of Pope Francis's greatest hits on the subject, and by "hits" we mean "terrible, awful, heartwrenchingly bigoted statements SHUT UP MAN UGGHHH STOP TALKING." [Salon]
"Who says women don't write serious nonfiction?" ask the editors at Creative Nonfiction, the largest literary magazine dedicated to publishing exclusively high quality nonfiction prose. The meaty essay section in their winter issue, titled "Female Form," happens to feature (surprise!) solely women writers. In a fortuitous coincidence, the release of "Female Form" dovetails with the most recent national count of the gender of media-makers, the VIDA count.
The VIDA count is a staggering annual statistical breakdown showing the rates of publication between women and men in several respected literary outlets. This year, the count reveals that men continue to have 70 percent of bylines in mainstream media. VIDA, a burgeoning organization of women in literary arts, conducted the first count in 2011, hoping to initiate a long overdue conversation about gender discrimination in the publishing world.
"We did not go into this thinking we knew the answer to something and this was going to illustrate it, because this is a complicated issue," VIDA co-founder, Erin Belieu, told Mother Jones last April. "But you can't deny the starkness of such an incredibly wide discrepancy."