Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Quadrant and Wimminz: Lies, damned lies, and statistics

In the wake of the Windschuttle hoax there's been a lot of discussion around the online traps, in the course of which I observed as part of an argument about something else that Quadrant was not a particularly woman-friendly space.

Along with other people who have been familiar with Quadrant for decades, I should have though this observation on a par with 'The sky is blue' or '2+2=4', but of course there was angry reaction from the sorts of people one expects to react angrily to any mention of gender whatever, a phenomenon fascinating in itself.

One of these people worked himself up into such a monumental tis-was that one would think he had been personally insulted, though he has no visible connection with Quadrant apart from reading it. So much so, in fact, that he could have done (as we all so often could in life) with a gentle reminder that this was not all about him.

Then, in the course of a discussion with a far more reasonable chap whose interest is in statistics rather than in defending Quadrant, I discovered that Quadrant does in fact publish more poems and fiction by women than I would have expected, although the same names recur again and again even within single issues, and I retracted accordingly. The reasonable statistics chap used a comparison with Meanjin to make his point, saying that in the respective current issues of Meanjin and Quadrant there were more poems by women in the latter than in the former, which was true.

In the course of this exercise I spent a bit of time at the home pages of the respective magazines, and it gave me an idea: each mag has a 'current issue' page listing all contributors, and it was reasonable to expect that other magazines would as well. So here are some numbers I gathered, as at last night, from the 'current issue' pages of Australian magazines -- monthly, quarterly, bi-annual -- that are partly or wholly literary in content.

In one or two cases there was one name on the page whose gender could not be determined by even the most assiduous Googling -- but no more than one, which is nowhere near enough to skew the order in which the mag titles appear here. Each contributor has been counted only once, though occasionally the same name appears twice or more. Let me repeat that these numbers are based on the contributor names listed in the magazines' own online home pages, on the evening of 12 January 2008 2009.

(*Sighs and reflects that one always does this at least once in the first week or two*.)

Please note that this does not claim to be an exhaustive list of magazines.

The numbers show the ratio MEN:WOMEN. I offer them in a spirit of scientific curiosity, without comment.






MEANJIN: 23:16






bernice said...

And first prize goes to....Quadrant. Well at least Keiff has won something this week.

Pavlov's Cat said...

Yes, I'm as shocked as you are.

klaus k said...

I had already assumed your initial observation was based on both quantitative and qualitative methodologies, albeit informal in both cases. 'Women' may be a problematic category, and some of the statistics were less clear cut than I assumed, but I still think your point had a critical force and validity that wasn't easily dismissed by the simple fact that some women are published in the mag.

But then, I'm a constructivist and obfuscator, so you should probably take this with a grain of salt.

David Prater said...


nico said...

I love The Monthly - almost irrationally. My only problem with it is that ratio favouring male writers - and in previous months the difference has been more marked. I don't think more men published means more men writers, so I hope that soon all those numbers balance out.