For women to make history, we must tell our stories and listen to each other.
We must name names.
We must count.
When I promised my mother that I would curate her art and archives, neither of us realized how difficult it would be. I counted the paintings in her studio and the family collection, mailed a request for information to her collectors, and compiled a database of 1,200 works, out of an estimated 2,000 she created during her lifetime. I selected a representative 200 color plates for the book that I expected to finish in one year. Twelve years after I began this process, the book was finally published to national acclaim. There were many moments when I could have given up, but without a story or a record, I knew her art would be lost, dismissed, or misunderstood.
And that brings me to VIDA, a nonprofit organization that stands for parity and transparency in the publishing world. The VIDA Count presents the percentage of male vs. female bylines in magazines and literary reviews worldwide. Volunteers have performed this exhaustive audit each year since 2009, and it’s been making waves and making a difference. But it’s also become larger than these volunteers can manage, and there’s an Indiegogo fundraising effort online to keep this valuable count going. Please consider donating if you are interested in women’s voices being heard, worldwide.
Are women less literary or less interesting than men? Hardly! But women’s voices have been muted in the traditional, high profile media venues and that’s changing, in part, due to “The Count.”
Here’s a word from Amy King, on the VIDA web site:
What can we do?
Count your bookshelves. Make your stories pass the Bechdel test. Expand/evaluate/consider your notions of storytelling, line, language. Write seriously about works by women. Solicit and commission writing by women. Consider race, gender, sexuality, and other identity categories as well.
Women’s History Month is almost halfway finished, and I’ve dedicated myself to profiling women and organizations that have inspired me. When I first read the dismal results of the VIDA count, it didn’t surprise me. What surprised me was the relief I felt to see that I wasn’t crazy; our missing voices were, truly missing. This lack was quantified and made public through the efforts of VIDA, and slowly, thankfully, the tide is turning.
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