Mar 8, 2013

On International Women’s Day and VIDA (with bonus reading list)

International Women's Day logo
Today, March 8th, is International Women’s Day. As you probably know I’ve been a bit out of the blogging loop lately, and I didn’t really have a post planned for this year. However, earlier this week the VIDA stats for 2012 were released. The VIDA numbers, along with a data project for Lady Business I’ve been helping Renay with (more on which in the next few days), were a strong and timely reminder of two things: one, of exactly why we need dates like IWD; and two, of why blogging is a deliberate act with political implications. As I tweeted on Monday, “the VIDA count helps with the whole blogging motivation thing. I may be tiny in the grand scheme of things, but I can help fight this by creating and maintaining a space where women are not routinely ignored”.

The VIDA count has been happening for three years now, and in this period of time we’ve seen absolutely zero progress. I suspect that people often assume that simply drawing attention to these inequalities is enough to change them, but in fact in takes effort and deliberation to change deeply ingrained cultural habits. The VIDA numbers are not the result of chance, but of a culture that teaches everyone to see women’s contributions as less important and interesting than men’s. The fact that we’re still having these conversations in 2013 is enough to show this is not something that will just go away with time.

Over the past few months I’ve had several conversations with my fellow LB bloggers about how easy it is to feel discouraged when the issues you care about just don’t seem to change. I’ve been blogging for almost six years now, and in this period I’ve seen the exact same discussions about women’s writing, invisibility, and lack of prestige happen again and again. But what they helped me realise is that sometimes, for the sake of your peace of mind, you need to step away from the aforementioned circular discussions and adopt another strategy: you become the change you want to see. You push back by creating a space that embodies everything you’d like to see elsewhere, and you hope that doing that comfortably and successfully will help the rest of the world catch up.

This, I think, is a more effective strategy than we realise, and that’s what makes me want to use International Women’s Day as an opportunity to say that through my blogging I attempt to create spaces where women like me have a voice, and also where women’s writing is prioritised. I do read and celebrate media by men, and I don’t think this is something anyone ever has to apologise for. But I’ll also not apologise for having reviewed 65% books by women last year – in fact, this is a ratio I’d like to maintain.

I can’t change the whole world, but I can keep doing what I do and hope it’s a small part of a large change. And in the spirit of just carrying on, here are five books by women I’m currently very excited to read:

book covers
  • Feminist Perspectives on Sociology by Barbara Littlewood: Lately I’ve been wanting to read more about sociology, mainly because I’m wary of our ever-growing tendency to individualise problems that in fact have social roots. This is a tendency I’m critical of but in no way immune to myself, which is why I think a bit of reading might help me train myself to think differently.

  • The Second Shift: Working Families and the Revolution at Home by Arlie Hochschild and Anne Machung: Same as above, and a classic work I can’t believe I still haven’t read. If any of you have further recommendations for sociology books, I’m all ears.

  • The Cultural Politics of Emotion by Sara Ahmed: an analysis of “of the role of emotions in debates on international terrorism, asylum and migration, and reconciliation and reparation, and reflects on the role of emotions in feminist and queer politics.” I can’t remember where it was that I saw this recently, but doesn’t it sound fascinating?

  • The Women’s History of the World by Rosalind Miles: I spotted this at work and it caught my attention. I’m familiar with Miles’ Arthurian novels, but I didn’t know she’s written any non-fiction. As the title suggests, this is a look at semi-forgotten historical women.

  • Disturbed by Her Song by Tanith Lee: Last but not least, some fiction. Tanith Lee’s gender-bending collection of linked stories, which has been compared to Angela Carter, has been on my cart countless times over the past year, but at the last minute I always seem to get something else instead. So I’m adding it here to remind myself that I really need to include it in my next book order.

To celebrate IWD, why don’t you tell me about a book by a woman you’re excited to read?


  1. I'm excited about The Girls of Atomic City by Denise Kiernan.

  2. I can't wait to read your thoughts on Disturbed by Her Song; I really enjoyed that collection.

  3. The book that has made the best impression on me so far this year is The Mists of Avalon, and since Zimmer Bradley's story is a typical men's story told from the women's perspective, it is a perfect one to include in a list on this day. I haven't posted about it yet because I have way too much to say! :-)

  4. Accidentally but suitably, today I started reading up on Emma Goldman and Angela Davis, two pretty bad ass women and activists. I'm eager to learn more about them and read some of the books they wrote. I also have been meaning to read something by Tanith Lee for years - thanks for the reminder. And the Miles book you mention sounds awesome.

    Thanks for providing this bit of space for women for those 6 years. Hopefully it'll be around for a long time more. Cheers!

  5. Lord, too many to count! I get worried my gender ratio is skewed way too far in the women writers direction. :p

    The VIDA count depressed me unduly when I looked at it this year, even though of course it's not new information. Apparently nobody is shamed by this sort of count. :/

  6. I love this. My ratio was pretty bad last year. I read a lot of classics which means a lot of dead white dudes. Working on it this year.

  7. 90% of the books I read are by women, so... all of them? ;)

  8. The Second Shift was referenced in Delusions of Gender, wasn't it? It was also referenced on an amazing PBS special called Makers that aired a couple of weeks ago, I think.

    I agree with you that sometimes it can be so frustrating to believe in something and see no real progress, or to realize that most of the world doesn't even view it as an issue. But all you can do is keep on trucking and hope that somehow, somewhere, you can light a spark. If it makes you feel any better, I think you and Eva more than anyone else have inspired me to read more about women's history and women's roles :-)

  9. "But what they helped me realise is that sometimes, for the sake of your peace of mind, you need to step away from the aforementioned circular discussions and adopt another strategy: you become the change you want to see. You push back by creating a space that embodies everything you’d like to see elsewhere, and you hope that doing that comfortably and successfully will help the rest of the world catch up. "

    I love this. I don't blog as much as I want to (or should), but I have a similar goal. It amazes me that these circular discussions happen and people act as though they're happening for the first time.

  10. I'm excited to read classics by women. And poetry. For so long women have struggled to be heard, and recognized, that I think of every book, every story, every poem published, as a victory for all women. George Eliot excites me, as does Christina Rossetti, and the paintings of Evelyn de Morgan and the other Pre-Raphaelite women. Diana Wynne Jones. Angela Carter. Women actively reimagining the stories we can tell, and how we can tell them. Thank you for asking the question, Ana :-)

  11. I applaud you and your activist activities and highlights to books that need to be read. Read by me, I know. So thank you for what you are doing. Perhaps you can't see all the ripple effects you create but don't stop believing you do make a difference. Thank you.


Thank you so much for taking the time to comment - interaction is one of my favourite things about blogging and a huge part of what keeps me going.