Anne Hays, founder of Storyscape Journal, has sent an Open Letter to The New Yorker that she also posted as a Facebook note.  In it she documents the gender imbalance in the journalists and authors represented in recent issues of  the pages of the magazine.  Reading the complete text of the letter on Jezebel, you will see that Ms. Hays is factual and even-handed as she details the reasons for her being:

baffled, outraged, saddened, and a bit depressed that, though some would claim our country’s sexism problem ended in the late 60’s, the most prominent and respected literary magazine in the country can’t find space in its pages for women’s voices in the year 2011.

We have little to add, beyond noting that The New Yorker has always had the knack of making the reader feel smart rather, than making us feel small in light of the smarts of its contributors.  It is no exaggeration to say this is because so many women guided its tastes and tone. While William Shawn was the Wizard of the publication, women have always been its fairy godmothers, not only kind but wise, and able to insert compassion as well as wit.

Say “Algonquin Round Table” in New York and someone will come back with “Dorothy Parker,” a member of The New Yorker’s Board of Editors from its Harold Ross beginnings.  Say Roger Angell, the long-time fiction editor of the magazine and its resident baseball observer for decades, and someone will sigh and talk of his mother Katherine Angell White, who held the fiction post from 1925 until 1960, debuting and nurturing James  Thurber, Vladimir Nabokov, John O’Hara, John Updike, Marianne Moore, Jean Stafford, Ogden Nash and John Cheever,  among others, and marrying the magazine’s Jiminy Cricket, E.B. White.

Janet Flanner’s columns from Paris were dispatches from the City’s of Light’s most brilliant corners, and Pauline Kael, the magazine’s longtime film critic, was the first and last word in American film criticism for 23 years—a woman not only certain of her opinions, but certain of her role as a mentor to those of us who wanted smart ones.  Lillian Ross’s imprint on the magazine is something no one can quantify, so deep are the mysteries surrounding her 55-year affair with William Shawn and her devotion to everything in the magazine’s pages.

Indeed, many who began their subscriptions to The New Yorker in the late 60s and early 70s, this writer among them, invested that yearly sum in the notion that women had equal footing in the pages of that publication.

I would hate to see a boycott of The New Yorker.  Magazines are skating on thin ice this winter, figuring out their tablet presences while trying to maintain their print configurations.  Surely there must be a more reasonable way to reason with the magazine that we have always had good reason for loving and have relied on to love women writers (Alice Munro, Ann Beattie, Annie Proulx and Louise Erdrich have all come to us through Eustace Tilly’s tutelage.)  I’d like to believe that David Remnick will be visited tonight by the spirits of those distaff staff members already mentioned.  There’s no doubt that, no matter what plane these great women are operating on, they can get a job done with grace and fairness. If that doesn’t happen, I guess Ms. Hays will need to lead us on a march in front of The New Yorker offices.  I’d be there, and I know lots of you would too.

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