The London Review of Books: “counting is a feminist weapon”

Last week Radio 4’s Open Book programme discussed gender equality in books. Specifically, the discrepancy between the proportion of books published, those reviewed in literary magazines such as the London Review of Books, and the gender of reviewers. The LRB chose not to send a person to the discussion, instead opting for a lengthy statement, which was read out on air.

The first line of the statement was “counting is a feminist weapon”. I remember where I was when I heard that. It was a provocative salvo to an extraordinarily inflammatory statement, which would sound perfectly at home in a satirical show. But I think they were being serious.

Viv Groskop transcribed it and wrote a brilliant piece here. It is even more extraordinary seeing it written down.

I felt I couldn’t miss the opportunity to incorporate the LRB’s wise words in a few stanzas of terza rima, Dante’s marvellous and complex poetical form of which I’m sure they approve. Obviously I may not have done it as well as a bloke would have. And I’m sorry this is a few days late. I had to fit it in between school runs and cooking dinner.

Counting is a feminist weapon

The problem is both subtle and deep-rooted:
it’s down to more than editorial whim.
Just because the female voice is muted

doesn’t mean we take it on the chin.
I don’t think women think that way at all.
(Perhaps they do, with hormones leaking in.)

Economists and physicists appall
the sensibilities of half the species.
No wonder anxious pleasers’ rise is stalled.

It’s difficult to do their job: it teaches
multi-tasking fails. To hell with it.
Cook dinner, bathe the kids and then write pieces?

There’s more important stuff than all this shit:
a thousand things – but counting then would trump
the space to version sentences and sit

rewarded by an ego that is plump.
And sexism? Just one more test to flunk.