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The Conium Review 2016 “Count”

Typically, we release our gender ratio statistics around the same time as the official VIDA count. However, we wanted to tally the numbers before the AWP Conference in Washington, DC. There’s also the small matter of today’s inauguration, wherein a serial misogynist was sworn into the nation’s highest office. It seems like a good time to remind the literary community that there are still places where women’s voices can be heard, even if those places seem increasingly under attack.

The Conium Review: Vol. 5 featured a larger percentage of women than any previous print issue of The Conium Review, and our combined print and online count held steady at 76% self-identified female authors. For those who haven’t read The Conium Review: Vol. 5 yet, there is also a distinct feminist undercurrent in many of the pieces, even more noticeably than the average issue of The Conium Review. This wasn’t a reactionary plan of any sort (the issue was finalized before the November election results). In the simplest terms, this is just where our editorial aesthetic leans — toward fiery voices that refuse to be marginalized. Given the events of today, I’m glad to see our press putting out a lit mag with stories in this vein. It seems necessary in this social climate. Keep writing. Keep submitting. Keep reading. Stay strong.

(And as always, we’d like it if you’re writing something a bit weird/surreal/bizarre too).

The Conium Review 2016 “Count”

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Female (Total Print & Online)

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Male (Total Print & Online)

%

Female (Print)

%

Female (Online)

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Male (Print)

%

Male (Online)

Okay, now let’s break it all down. Our 2016 count is 76% female and 24% male. The previous year’s overall count was identical at 76% female to 24% male. The 2014 gender ratio was 64% female and 36% male.

Throughout the entire year, The Conium Review published 29 authors total, with 22 self-identified female authors and 7 self-identified male authors.

In the annual print edition, we published 9 self-identified female authors and 1 self-identified male author, for a ratio of 90% women and 10% men. Within our online arm, The Conium Review Online Compendium, we published 19 authors total, with 13 female authors and 6 male authors, with a ratio of 68% women to 32% men.

Throughout most of 2016, the editorial masthead contained 10 people, 7 of whom self-identify as female, 3 of whom self-identify as male, for a behind-the-scenes ratio of 70% women and 30% men.

Historically, we’ve tallied out “count” only for The Conium Review as a periodical. However, we launched a few books in 2016 through Conium Press. These authors are not reflected in our overall count, but the numbers don’t change much either way. We’re a boutique press with only a couple titles each year. Of the two books published this year, one was written by a self-identified female and one was written by a self-identified male. We also released two limited-run micro-chapbooks, again with a ratio of one woman and one man. If you add these Conium Press numbers to our tally, it becomes 33 authors total — with 24 women and 9 men — for a total ratio of 73% women and 27% men. Whether you crunch the numbers as 76% or 73%, we still think it’s a damn good gender ratio. With the excessive number of magazines that seem to propagate the same male voices over and over and over and over again, we’re glad to offer a counterbalance — even if it’s only partial counterbalance. Especially on today of all days.

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.”