Friday, January 21, 2011

Bring Diversity to The New Yorker

Posted by: Rachel Henes
    Recently, Anne Hays wrote a letter to the editors of The New Yorker
    expressing her outrage about the lack of female contributers to the
    magazine and demanding a refund for issues that feature less than five
    female writers. I strongly support her stance and have expanded it
    for myself to include the exclusion of contributers that are people of
    color as well. To this end, I have sent the following letter to The
    New Yorker:

    Dear editors of the New Yorker,

    I am writing to support Anne Hays in her outrage at the lack of female
    representation in your magazine. This is a problem that I too have
    long been frustrated by and it is time for some change.

    Back in 10/20/09, I sent you the following email:

    "I am a longtime and avid reader of the New Yorker and I am highly
    disturbed by your Oct 19th issue. Out of the 15 writers featured in
    this issue, only 2 are women! If you add in the contributers to The
    Talk Of The Town, you are up to a total of 3 women out of 19 writers!
    Additionally, there is not one female artist contributing to the
    drawings in the issue – and there are 16 artists listed! How is this
    possible? As of 2000, women made up 52% of the total population of
    New York City and as of 2008, 50.7% of the whole USA (US Census
    Bureau). This means there are endless talented female writers,
    critics, artists and thinkers out there – which leaves no excuse for
    any issue to be so devoid of female representation. For such a
    thoughtful magazine, this was a supremely unthinking (and male-
    centric) choice to make and an oversight that I truly hope is taken
    seriously and reflected upon."
    -Rachel Henes

    Obviously, as Anne Hays' recent letter points out, nothing has changed
    since then. Women remain seriously underrepresented as both writers
    and artists. In fact, in the past five issues from December 13-
    January 17, 81 of the 90 drawings featured were done by male artists,
    as were all five covers of the last five issues. Often, the only
    women that appear in The New Yorker pages are those featured in
    seductive ads or cartoons. This is totally unacceptable - and sexist.

    And the lack of diversity in your pages goes beyond gender - there are
    virtually no women or men of color contributers to the magazine. In
    fact, out of a total of 91 contributing writers (of which only 23% or
    21 were women), only ONE writer was a woman of color (Edwidge
    Danicat). And out of the remaining 70 male writers, only FOUR were
    non-White men.

    I am joining Ms. Hays and will be sending back every issue that does
    not have five writers that are female and/or people of color. I will
    be asking my friends and colleagues to join me in this effort to bring
    diversity to such an influential magazine. Because there are numerous
    talented writers and illustrators that are not White males - they are
    just obviously not on the radar of the editors of the New Yorker. So
    please expand and update your networks (and your minds) and make room
    for women and people of color.

    Another dismayed reader,

    Rachel Henes


Anonymous said...

Right ... but you're still subscribing to them. Why not cut off your donation to the magazine and subscribe to more diverse publications? Surely women and people of color are writing excellent articles elsewhere. Instead of just sending back your issues, put your money into a publications that lives up to standards.

Market forces, my friends ... market forces.

Rachel said...

Thanks for your comment! I think that is a great point and absolutely, there are other publications that are more diverse, but not so much in the mainstream media (at least that I'm aware of!). And as the mainstream media shapes so much of what we think, whose stories and voices we deem important, etc, I think it's also important to build and support movements that call attention to lack of the sexism and racism that is inherent in those institutions and make demands on them to change. What do others think?