Monday, January 3, 2011


Oo-ooh, Someone's Mad at The New Yorker

A woman wrote in to The New Yorker demanding a refund because two issues in a row featured not very many pieces by women.

We were already alarmed when we flipped through the Dec 20th & 27th double-issue to find that only one piece (Nancy Franklin) and one poem (Alicia Ostriker) were written by women. A friend pointed out that Jane Kramer wrote one of the short Talk of the Town segments as well, though it barely placated our sense of outrage that one extra page, totaling three, out of the 148 pages in the magazine, were penned by women.

There's lots more, but the barely placated sense of outrage is the best part. Does this bother you? This doesn't bother me. If you like a magazine, read it; if you don't, don't. Also, if you're mad at a magazine, sounding like a total drag can't be the best way to get what you want (which is, apparently, a refund for that specific issue or a back issue with more women writers). Pick your battles, etc.

For instance, one good battle is to insist that every New Yorker has a letter to the editor written by someone from Massachusetts in it, even though when you consult an extensive backlog it proves to be more like 50%, or, actually, slightly less than 50%. But that's still a lot, though, and it really does feel like 100%.

36 Comments / Post A Comment


The only way to make a change in this world is to write Facebook notes. How do you think apartheid was ended?

sorry your heinous

That Sun City song, no?


It's ok, Edith. False indignation is the only currency that the New Yorker has generated in the past 10 years.


I'm going to need Malcolm Gladwell's pseudo-science to guide me through how I should feel about this one.


I anticipate an extended analogy involving Pit Bulls or the cast of 30 Rock.


I am more concerned that there has NEVER been a New Yorker piece written by a reptile. The mammaliarchal hegemony is just disgusting if you ask me.

krugmanic depressive

The problem isn't the abundance of Massachusettsians, its the dearth of Swampscotters.


You know Swampscott only reads the New Yorker to impress Marblehead.


I was kind of with her until the end when she demanded a refund and said that she would continue to demand refunds. That just seems kind of silly, like some kind of weird hostage/ransom arrangement, or something.


I wouldn't feel comfortable throwing out that "148 pages in the magazine" figure without knowing how many of the ads were written by women.


As long as they don't fill the quota by bringing back Daphne Merkin.


I for one only read things penned directly by vaginas.


This is like going to the Yale Club for lunch and complaining about no pork buns on the menu or siracha on the table. You're in a dainty old tea room.Give up.


sure there's no sriracha on the table, but you can still request it from the kitchen, right? RIGHT?!


This is just begging for the kind of Twilight Zone twist that will land you in hell, reading entire issues penned by Caitlin Flanagan forever and ever and ever.


Ha, I would read that!


Maybe if you are a woman and care about such stuff you ought to try to write something for The New Yorker instead?


If they would only go back to "A friend writes:" for Talk of the Town pieces they'd be in the clear.


Maybe demanding a sort of "symbolic" refund isn't the most effective manner of protest, but I do find the statistics she points out to be pretty damning. As a hopeful-writer, it is extremely discouraging to see that female writers continue to be a very small minority in the New Yorker and in the reviews in the NYTimes. This is part of my longer rant (and granted, it is a rant) on how easy critics find it to push books written by women (particularly if the subject matter has anything to do with love and/or family) as chick-lit.

Sure, there are more worthwhile causes to shout about than anything having to do with the New Yorker, but I think the lady makes a good point and it could benefit the struggling magazine to have more diverse writers in general. If the magazine wasn't such a Hearst darling, the New Yorker could have been done years ago. If the New Yorker really wants to appeal to its namesake city, they might consider the fact that the majority of New Yorkers are women.


I remember a long time ago a young woman New Yorker editor had a poem published in the magazine. It involved the writer's fantasy about her mother, who's sitting at a table looking sharp in a suit. She's the only woman among all the professional men wearing navy suits.
I thought, Wow, even the poems they select are backward-looking.
I recall Vogue doing a retrospective piece on great writers of the 60s in, I think, 2000. It was a photo with nothing but men, who I might add, were highly unattractive by today's standards. Vogue didn't even see fit to remark on the irony of a women's magazine in the then-present day celebrating The Great Man.
Yeah, some women think it's a bit late in the day for women to be so underrepresented. If they don't complain, no one else will.
It may not be elegant, but at least someone was willing to get her hands dirty.


The New Yorker is so influential, and so I'm glad someone pointed this out.


I'm going to need 15,000 angry words from Sady Doyle before I know how to feel about this.


With that comment you have incited a 4-day twitter war and the creation of multiple hashtags.



top hats and monocles!


That was probably my favorite SGR story of all time.

Harold Fethe

Anyone 'member the irate National Review reader who ended with "...cancel my subscription?" Wm F's response: "Cancel your own ***da** subscription!" Never bettered, imho.


For instance, one good battle is to insist that every New Yorker has a letter to the editor written by someone from Massachusetts in it, ...

Now just what does the author of this post know about letters to the editors of magazines?


Letters to the Editors of the New Yorker from People in Massachusetts. Get to work, Edith.


This doesn't bother me. If you like a magazine, read it; if you don't, don't.

--The Why do you care about a publication/club/school/profession that doesn't care about you? argument is dumb. The New Yorker isn't some obscure rag, it's a major publication that's very influential. If women writers aren't getting prominent play, it matters. Good for this lady for complaining.

Also, if you're mad at a magazine, sounding like a total drag can't be the best way to get what you want (which is, apparently, a refund for that specific issue or a back issue with more women writers). Pick your battles, etc.

--I really hate this too-cool-for-school attitude. Pressing for basic rights and representation often isn't very glamorous or entertaining.

--Try reading some mainstream, important publications from 1960. Back when women could only be researchers, not reporters, and they were trapped covering social events. It's not a pretty sight. You should be thanking the women who stuck their necks out. Often, they weren't the ones who were rewarded with promotions and opportunities.


Totally agree. I'm sure any author on the Hairpin would sell her blogging soul to have a piece in the New Yorker, but as recent mastheads seem to indicate, the New Yorker isn't too concerned with finding female voices.

I'm not someone who thinks that everything should be 50/50, but I think a good-faith effort to represent a diverse group of writers and voices could only up the quality New Yorker (and might even improve the number of ad pages in the process).

Edith Zimmerman

Sure I'd like to write for the New Yorker, but I just can't get myself riled up about the occasional issue that doesn't have "enough" women in it. I suspect that there's some argument that this can be boiled down to that I'd have a hard time disagreeing with — like that this whole issue could eventually be "if I don't support this issue I hate women" or something — but I just really can't take this very seriously.

Relax! Women get plenty of play in the New Yorker. I have no problem with it.
And, honestly, that woman's letter was melodramatic and annoying, and that's probably the main reason I drew attention to it. Maybe I'm an asshole for third-tier negativity -- trying to take down a taker-downer -- but to call this "pressing for basic rights" is maybe a little too extreme. Is it "basic rights" to demand a certain number of women authors in a publication you don't work for?

I've never had any problems with the New Yorker and their gender breakdown.


That lady needs to chill. John McPhee has been working on a 50000 word story about this problem since 2003.


I'm loving that you feel the need to define foreign women as 'non-American women.' Thanks for that helpful clarification! This will make my Women of the World spreadsheet so much better.


The December 20–27 issue was a pretty mediocre one. A dearth of women contributing also means a dearth of women responsible for my boredom/avoidance of that section of the coffee table.


We reported on this as well (http://womensvoicesforchange.org/the-lost-muses-of-the-new-yorker.htm) - but we had little to add - she broke it down pretty well when she brought attention to the issue. As many who began their subscriptions to The New Yorker in the late 60s and early 70s, this writer among them, invested that yearly sum in the notion that women had equal footing in the pages of that publication - she's probably being hasty as (hopefully) it's only the occasional issue that shows further imbalance.

Post a Comment

You must be logged-in to post a comment.

Login To Your Account