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The Conium Review 2014 “Count”

The 2014 VIDA Count comes out tomorrow, revealing which big-name literary journals have increased gender parity and which continue to marginalize women’s voices.

Ahead of the big count, The Conium Review is proud to announce that we’ve dramatically improved our numbers. In 2013, we published 15 women and 37 men, for a year-long ratio of 29% women and 71% men.[1] In 2014, published 14 women and 8 men, for a year-long ratio of 64% women and 36% men.[2]

Conium count graphs

These numbers are organic, with each submission bubbling up from our normal submission process.  We didn’t set a quota. Furthermore, all the work we published in 2013 and 2014 was unsolicited. We didn’t change our standards from one year to the next—in fact, Vol. 3 may be our strongest issue yet.

Basically, when a publisher says their VIDA numbers are low because they don’t want to sacrifice editorial standards, you can officially tell them that the excuse is bullshit. Publishers can increase gender parity without any such sacrifices, and to suggest otherwise is insulting to every female author who write kickass fiction.[3]

Change isn’t easy, though.  Individually or in clusters, our editors put their boots on the ground—attending workshops on feminist theory, reading plenty of gender studies books, discussing the VIDA Count with other editors, and nursing an uncontrollable addiction to Roxane Gay’s Twitter feed. Then we reached out to a number of women’s groups. Among the groups we talked to, we were especially glad to work with the Submission Bombers[4] in 2014. Conducting deliberate outreach helped increase the overall number of submissions from female authors, and increased publication ratios followed suit.[5]

Changing our gender ratio wasn’t a fluke. And that’s the point here. Things don’t change unless magazines and presses change. We need more outreach, and we need more editors who are willing to have real conversations about gender.[6] Next time you hear an editor give some lame excuse or a boilerplate line like “we publish the very best submissions,”[7] call them out. Ask if they can remember the last time they stopped rattling off excuses in exchange for real reflection on the VIDA Count and discrimination in the publishing world.

[1] In 2013, we published two volumes. Vol. 2, No. 1 featured 6 female authors and 19 male authors, for a ratio of 24% women and 76% men. Vol. 2, No. 2 featured 9 female authors and 18 male authors, for a ratio of 33% to 66%.

[2] In 2014, we published one volume and began featuring work online. Vol. 3 included 5 female authors and two male authors, for a ratio of 71% women and 29% men. The Conium Review Online Compendium featured 9 female authors and 6 male authors, for a ratio of 60% women and 40% men.

[3] Probably some kickass poetry too, but we’re a fiction journal, so let’s leave it there.

[4] An online collective of marginalized writers, spearheaded by Weave’s Laura Davis

[5] See, you don’t need to set quotas! If you get more women submitting, somewhere in that huge pile of submission are several fantastic stories. Some publishers may insist that their raw submission pool skews male, therefore they publish more men as a result (and we used to be one of these guilty publishers), but if they are doing absolutely nothing to reach out to women, then they are complicit in the problem.

[6] We look forward to having more of these conversations at the upcoming AWP Conference in Minneapolis, MN. Stop by table number 2025 if you’re attending the event.

[7] Some editors who say “we publish the very best submissions” don’t really mean it; they actually mean to say “we publish the very straightest-whitest-malest submissions.”