Monday, 8 October 2018

#Frauenzählen now counting coverage

Thanks to the Institute for Media Research at the University of Rostock, we now have a reliable pilot study on book review coverage and gender in the German press, radio and TV. It's only available in German as yet – at frauenzä – but it is clear and will form a solid basis for future research. The study is similar to the VIDA count, except it's publicly funded and applies to a smaller market. The count was carried out in March of this year (a big month for spring book reviews).

I can't decide whether or not I'm surprised that the key figure maps neatly onto the stats on translations into English by gender: one third of review coverage goes to women, with men getting twice as much.

Men write more reviews than women, and most of the books they review were written by other men (74%). Women also review slightly more male-authored books than books by women, but they dedicate more column inches or air time to women's books when they do review them, so their coverage works out equal in the end. However, women critics get less space in the first place, compacting the problem. Only women's magazines give women's writing more coverage than men's.

In terms of genre, male and female-authored children's and YA books get equal coverage, while 70% of non-fiction reviews cover books by men. Crime writing reviews top the discrimination charts, with 76% dedicated to male-authored books. In the category the study calls "general Belletristik" – so probably fiction and literary non-fiction, the largest group garnering almost half the reviews – male authors pick up 61% of reviews.

Things will really get interesting in 2019, when the researchers will be able to add newly published books by author gender to the mix. We'll see then, I hope, what's going on inside publishing houses and whether women's writing is being ignored after publication or published less in the first place. Or both, perhaps. They might also have a chance to look at a range of intersectional factors, as VIDA has started doing, or at least think about gender in a less binary way.

The report is not exactly cheerful reading, but it's good that media editors can now calmly consider which books they cover and who they commission to review them. For improved finger-pointing purposes, it would be great to get breakdowns by publications – but with the state of play as it is, pretty much everybody's guilty anyway.  Have a great book fair!


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Emine Topcu said...

Hello. It can be a little bit strange and so sudden but I am a German Literature and Language student and it's my last year, so I have been actually searching for a book that's written in German but not translated to the other languages for my thesis to graduate, so is there a chance you could suggest me some books? (I am Turkish so the book shouldn't be translated in Turkish, it's fine as long as it is translated in English.) Thank you so much.

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