Counting Women

Birders, when on vacation, take notice of the sorts of birds around them. Foodies just naturally notice the restaurants and grocery stores. Auto enthusiasts will pay attention to the sorts of cars on the street.

I count women.

I count the women in movies and tv ads and on billboards. I count the women who are special guests on radio news programs. I count the women authors on display tables at bookstores. I count the women who teach in my daughter’s school and the women who are in administrative positions in the same school.

Some days, it feels like there aren’t many of us out there.

Much has been written about this, with much more scientific rigor than I’m going to bring to the subject. I suggest you read the studies. But this week, I had two examples sort of smack me in the face.

I enjoy the Crash Course series, produced by the famous Vlogbrothers. (For some definition of famous.) And sometimes I watch their vlog. Today I was watching Hank Green’s “Happy Graduation, Future Dead People!” and the bookshelf behind him caught my eye. It looked a lot like one of my bookshelves, to be honest. But something was not quite the same. So, without really noticing, I started counting women.

Now, you have to imagine me, sitting here, with my cup of tea, pausing this video every few seconds and then googling madly to try to find the authors. Or image searching for a picture of the spine to confirm that I had the right book. And tilting my head sideways and getting really up close with the screen, trying to work out the fuzzy letters. (Hank, being an experienced videographer, keeps the camera focused on him and not on the book titles.)

I found the following man authors: Terry Pratchett, John Scalzi, Neil Gaiman, Rick Yancy, Bryan Lee O’Malley, Kim Stanley Robinson, John Green (obvs), Matt Ridley, Bob Seidensticker, Paolo Bacigalupi, Robert Charles Wilson, T.H. White, Greg Bear, Markus Zusak, Phillip Pullman, Andy Weir, Dan Simmons,  Peter H. Diamandis, Seamus Heaney, Alan Moore, Rainn Wilson, Phillip K Dick, Ray Mazza, Daniel Quinn, Hugh Howey, Randall Munroe, Iman Wilkens, Orson Scott Card, Sam Kean, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Bill McKibben.

All good authors. I have most of them, too. 31 men, many of them represented by more than one book.

I found these women authors: Esther Grace Earl, Grace Helbig, Samantha Shannon, Ursula La Guin, Maureen Johnson,  Colleen Hoover and Tarryn Fisher, Carrie H Fletcher, Diana Wynn Jones. Marie Brennan, Natalie Angier, Terry Windling. Twelve women. Two of them in the same title (Ms. Hoover and Ms. Fischer) and only one, Maureen Johnson,  had more than one book.

Now, I was picking out books that I could read on a video on my crappy monitor. Maybe there is a much more even representation of genders behind Mr. Green’s head. I don’t know. But I found it a little disheartening.

In addition, a radio show that I enjoy, On Point, is doing a whole live program early in June about women’s voices with awesome woman Cheryl Strayed. But I’ve listened to this show for years and I notice that women’s voices aren’t really given room on this show, at least. So, this morning, after counting Mr. Green’s books, I counted guests on Mr. Ashbrook’s show for the past few weeks. I choose the shows starting on April 14 until April 30 of this year becasue it seemed like a good chuck of time. (Starred guests were solo, with no one else on.)

There were 47 men, including two solo guests: Haleh Esfandirari, Sayyed Mohammad-Marandi, Thomas Erdbrink, Rep. Joe Courtney, Mark Pauly, John Burns*, Gidon Eshel, Ethan Brown, Rowan Jacobsen, Paul Shattuck, Noel Sharkey, Paul Scharre, Patrick Tucker, Jack Beatty, David Sanger, Ben Montgomery, Fred Wertheimer, David Keating, David Brooks*, Gordon Hanson, Tim Fernholz, Joseph Giambrone, Nick Bilton, Michael Lynn, Bob Donegan, Martin Haroutunian, Eric Bogosian, Yochi Dreazen, Gaylord Torrence, Benjamin Wittes, Andrew Cockburn, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), Jamal Bryant, Carl Stokes, Craig Mello, Carl Zimmer, Mike Sacks, Kenji Yoshino, Lynn Wardle, H.D.S. Greenway, Viet Thanh Nguyen, Peter Schweizer, Joshua Green, Joe Conason, Paul Rosenzweig, John Cook, Michael Cohen,

There were 25 women, including two solo guests: Elise Gould, Julie Rovner, Kate Snow, Denise Resnik, Rachel Smolkin, Mireya Ramo, Shae Fiol, Jeanne Cummings, Lori Wallach, Kate Bolick*, Amy Mayer, Sherrill Davison, Kim Halvorson, Cynthia Barnett*, Kathleen Kingsbury, Litty Mathew, Juana Summers,, Jodi Gillette, Laura Jacobs, Laura Erickson-Schroth, Renee Graham,Erica Green, Natasha Pratt-Harris, Marcy Darnovsky, Camilla Taylor, Rosalind Helderman,

So, roughly half the women are represented. I could write things about how the women were mostly representing “women’s” issues, like the all-woman mariachi band (two women guests) or the author of the book “Spinster” (one of the two solo women). But really, there are twice as many men as women on an NPR show produced in liberal Boston by a guy who cares enough to do a whole show on the issue.

I count women. And I’m tired of coming up short.


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