Why is gender imbalance particularly glaring in essayistic texts?
Detail of Hypathia of Alexandria, from The School of Athens, Raphael, 1509-1510
The German Pirate Party announces the dawn of the “post-gender” age; the chairman of the Frankfurter Börse complains about “discrimination against men”; the journalist Birgit Kelle argues that quotas for women are a restriction of individual freedom. In social discourse, the politics of sexual equality continues to be disparaged. Its advocates often find themselves being heavily attacked and quickly labelled as “frustrated”. In Germany and Austria, the media discussion on quotas for women often gives the impression that equality has already been achieved and has even tipped the other way, against men. However statements such as the aforementioned ignore the fact that andro-centric mechanisms still pervade (often unconsciously) the deepest layers of social life.
Literary and cultural magazines aren’t exempt either. A quick glance at the German-language magazine landscape is enough to confirm that publications by men are clearly in the majority. The discrepancy is especially noticeable in the essay genre. While female authorship of fictional texts stands at roughly a quarter, in essayistic magazines and dossiers there is often only a single contribution by a woman, if at all.
How does this imbalance arise in what are otherwise self-reflective cultural magazines? And why is it particularly glaring in essayistic texts?
The problem partly lies at the structural level: many magazines still have predominantly male publishers and the editorial work is usually divided along traditional gender lines. The background administrative work tends to be handled by women while the editorial work, i.e. what the public sees, is done by men. This has a direct influence on the choice of texts.