lynne spender

I rang the literary editors of a few ‘respected’ papers and asked them how much space they were giving to women writers in their 'review’ sections. Perfectly predictable response. They all said the allocation was fair. One said it was equal, and one prominent editor went so far as to say women are dominating the reviews!

… What happened when I asked who was doing the talking in mixed sex conversations? Well, it was the women of course. And then when you get to measure it you find that women get to talk about 10-20% of the time in conversations with men. A woman who talks about a third of the time is seen to be dominating the talk.

And what happened when I asked teachers who got their attention in class? Well, it was all equal, wasn’t it? No preferences there. And you measure it and find that girls get about 10-20% of the teacher’s attention. Any more, and the boys think it unfair - and go into revolt.

So what do you think I found with the reviews?

I would have predicted about 10-20% of the space went to women’s books. Well, it is less than 6% of the column inches. And the reasonable editor who thinks that women are getting more than their share is one of the worst offenders. Poor boys! It really tells you something when they think only 94% of the review section is not enough, doesn’t it? When 6% for women is too much you get some idea how much men think they are entitled to - as a fair deal.

—  Dale Spender, correspondence, in Dale and Lynne Spender, Scribbling Sisters (Camden Press, 1986), pp. 31-32