Sunday, March 4, 2012

Some Stuff of Interest

Here are a few links you might find interesting:

--Allison Flood's Gender bias in books journalism remains acute, research shows reports on Vida's compilation of statistics for 2011:
It was the year when VS Naipaul infamously declared no woman writer to be his equal, so perhaps it's not surprising that new research shows a huge skew towards male authors and reviewers in the literary establishment in 2011.

Vida, an American organisation supporting women in the literary arts, has compiled statistics on the gender split in books coverage at publications including the London Review of Books, the Times Literary Supplement, the New Yorker and the New York Times Book Review, each of which showed a substantial bias towards using male reviewers and covering male authors.

At the LRB last year 16% of reviewers were women (29 out of 184) and 26% of authors reviewed (58 out of 221); at the New York Review of Books 21% of 254 reviews were by women, 17 of 92 authors reviewed were female and 13% of 152 articles were by women. Of 1,163 reviews in the TLS in 2011, 30% were by women, and of 1,314 authors reviewed, 25% were women. Granta was the only publication to have more female contributors, at 53%, but much of this was down to its women-only feminism issue.
Flood's article notes that gender bias is worse for nonfiction and quotes editors of the publications preferring to review work by males over work by women effectively blaming women for not stepping up to the plate and sententiously "hoping" that the Vida reports will "encourage women." (What this has to do with getting women's books reviewed absolutely mystifies me.) She concludes with a comment from Jennifer Weiner:
Author Jennifer Weiner, who, with Picoult, has campaigned against the continuing gender bias of book reviews towards men over the last year, felt that the best response was to let the "vital conversations" take place elsewhere. "Instead of hoping that some day the boys' club will open its doors, we can form our own clubs, define 'worthy' our own way, and celebrate the books and voices that we decide deserve celebration," she said. "In the end, it's going to take a New Girls' (and Boys') Network to counter the Old Boys' Network. Men and women committed to change are going to have to step up and speak out, (and, of course, risk being called shrill, hysterical, annoying or 'just jealous' of the attention the men receive when we do)."
I suppose that Weiner's remark may be interpreted by some as pursuing a separatist strategy, but I think, rather, she's suggesting that men and women need to join together to create new venues where women's work will be treated with respect. That may be considered a kind of separatism, but it isn't gender separatism. I rather like the idea of allowing the old male-dominated bastions of the commercial literary world dry up on the vine, myself. (Link thanks to Wendy Walker.)

Two links to posts by Amanda Marcotte:

--When we say they hate women, we mean they hate women is prompted by Rush Limbaugh's despicable attack on Sandra Fluke, but sees it as part of the ongoing war on women underway in the US today:
I'd point out that most animals fuck according to the ideal Rick Santorum model: joylessly, infrequently, and only for procreation. Most even wait until the female is ovulating, to minimize the time they spend rutting! If your objective is to not be like other animals, the best strategy is to fuck all the time and take advantage of our unique ability to enjoy sex for its own sake.

Beyond all the hatefulness, prudery, and misogyny is just the plain weirdness of all of this. Reading the right wing reaction to Sandra Fluke, you get the strong impression that they think that a single woman in her mid-20s who is sexually active is some kind of freakish outlier, as if Fluke admitted to being a mercenary with side business in running drugs to pay off law school. In reality, Fluke is as normal and American as apple pie. Being sexually active before marriage is just what people do; 93% of Americans have premarital sex before turning 30. We can safely guess there's no love here for women whose main pregnancy prevention strategy is to only have sex with women. Additionally, since no distinctions between women who use contraception in or out of marriage are being made here, women who use it to have monogamous sex with their husbands are being rolled into the "town dump" category as well, which means that basically, the utterly normal and nearly universal experience of being female is being characterized on the right as something disgusting and beyond the pale. Which is just a long, roundabout way to say they straight up hate women.
--Marcotte also has a brief post about the endless GOP primary season: It's the Race that Never Ends that made me nod my head and say, yes, it does feel as if it will never end. And then led to the reflection that the reason that no end is yet in sight is because so many whackos have the support of very, very, very, very rich patrons, who have endless amounts of money to lavish on obscenely expensive campaigns for losers eager to serve them and their interests (and no one else's).

--Kim Stanley Robinson has an essay about climate change and the utopian in his novels at arena: Remarks on Utopia in the Age of Climate Change:
While writing the Mars Trilogy, or maybe before, I began to think of science as another name for the utopian way, or what Williams called the long revolution.[i] This was partly because I was married to a scientist and watching science in action, up close, and it was partly from thinking about it. We tend to take science at its own self-evaluation, and we’re not used to thinking that utopia might already be partly here, a process that we struggle for or against. But to me the idea of science as a utopian coming-into-being has seemed both true and useful, suggestive of both further stories and action in the world.
Through the essay, he moves through fascinating territory until he arrives at a startling (but utterly plausible) conclusion:
How do we act on what we know? The time has come when we have to solve this puzzle, because the future, from where we look at it now, is different than past futures. Before we just had to keep on trying to do our best, and we would be OK. Things seemed to slowly get better, for some people in some places anyway; in any case, we would keep trying things, and probably muddle through. This is no longer the case. Now the future is a kind of attenuating peninsula; as we move out on it, one side drops off to catastrophe; the other side, nowhere near as steep, moves down into various kinds of utopian futures. In other words, we have come to a moment of utopia or catastrophe; there is no middle ground, mediocrity will no longer succeed. So utopia is no longer a nice idea, but a survival necessity.
This is a must-read essay. Do please check it out. (Link thanks to Niall Harrison.)

--Common Dreams reports on an insurance industry meeting about how uninsurable parts of the United States are becoming because of climate change. The meeting occurred just one day before the latest devastating tornados slammed the Midwest and Southeast US:
“From our industry’s perspective, the footprints of climate change are around us and the trend of increasing damage to property and threat to lives is clear,” said Franklin Nutter, president of the Reinsurance Association of America. “We need a national policy related to climate and weather.”

“As a member of the global insurance industry, we have witnessed the increased impact of weather-related events on our industry and around the world,” said Mark Way, head of Swiss Re's sustainability and climate change activities in the Americas. “A warming climate will only add to this trend of increasing losses, which is why action is needed now.”

Cynthia McHale, the insurance program director at Ceres, issued a more unequivocal statement: “Our climate is changing, human activity is helping to drive the change, and the costs of these extreme weather events are going to keep ballooning unless we break through our political paralysis, and bring down emissions that are warming our planet. If we continue on this path, extreme weather is certain to cause more homes and businesses to be uninsurable in the private insurance market, leaving the costs to taxpayers or individuals.”
Resonates with Stan Robinson's essay, no?

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