Canadian Women in the Literary Arts (CWILA) – project Count

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Canadian Women in the Literary Arts “addresses the need for female writers to engage in conversations regarding the critical reception of women’s creative writing” (cwila.ca). This is why CWILA runs an annual “count” to establish the proportion of critical reviews written by women relative to men (taking into account genderqueer-authored reviews), as well as accounting for the genders of the author of the text under review: how many texts written by women were reviewed by men and vice versa. Founded in 2012, CWILA has been investigating gender representation in Canadian literary reviews for four years now in order to “quantify the existing but often silent gender inequities within Canadian critical culture” (Scholes).

The Count project addresses the “gender imbalance in [Canadian] critical discourse” (Jerome) by looking into nationally circulated publications and counting the number of male and female authored reviews in them. It also looks into whether books (across genres) authored by men are reviewed more often than those authored by women. The publications in Count include literary journals, magazines, online publications, metropolitan newspapers, and national newspapers.

The 2013 Count included 25 English and four French publications.The results suggested that “many of [Canada’s] most prominent national literary publications reflect marked gender disparities” (Jerome) with only 37% of reviewed books written by women. The numbers and charts “on this web site tell a compelling story about the Canadian literary climate for women. Underneath those numbers, however, are, social patterns and practices whose influences weave a complicated net” (Neilsen Glenn). The full results of the 2013 Count can be seen here. The 2014 Count will be launched in early October this year and it will be the biggest Count yet (it will include 27 English and 5 French publications).

Gillian Jerome, the founder of CWILA, said that the numbers “have helped clarify [CWILA’s] mandate: to close the gender gap in [Canadian] review culture by encouraging more women to take visible roles in the community.” The Count numbers will continue to spark conversations among editors, publishers, writers, and readers, and help build a more equitable critical culture in Canada. A comment by Erin Wunker, Chair of the CWILA Board, on the 2013 count suggests a continuity between CWRC’s feminist projects and the CWILA initiative: “We have a responsibility to ask whose knowledges and histories are lost, hidden, or actively marginalized when there is not representational justice in a living literary culture, let alone literary history.”

Works cited

Jerome, Gillian. “The CWILA Numbers: An Introduction by Gillian Jerome.” Canadian Women in the Literary Arts 10 June 2012. Web. 29 Sep 2015.

Glenn, Lory Nielsen. “Context for the CWILA Numbers by Lory Nielsen Glenn.” Canadian Women in the Literary Arts 1 June 2012. Web. 29 Sep 2015.

Scholes, Judith. “2013 CWILA Count Methods and Results.” Canadian Women in the Literary Arts 25 Sep 2014. Web. 01 Oct 2015.

Wunker, Erin. “Public + Women = Risky.” Canadian Women in the Literary Arts 25 Sep 2014. Web. 01 Oct 2015.