In the process of bringing you our latest issue, the Westerly team noticed something amazing: a whopping 73% of the work in Westerly 62.1 is from female authors! This figure is a big shift from the Westerly issues of fifty years ago, where the female contribution to the 1967 issues sat at around 30%. The last decade has seen a steady increase in female representation in Westerly print issues: the three year average for female representation in 2007-2009 was around 39%, compared to 2015-2017 which stands at over 66%!
Without a doubt, these figures are worth celebrating. All of the pieces selected for publication in Westerly are the result of a blind selection process, which we believe is important for creating a balanced, representative discussion of literature and culture. We see Westerly as a vehicle for thoughtful writing by people of all genders and backgrounds, and we believe that our receptiveness to all stories and responses is the most valuable tool we have for building a culture that benefits everyone.
This was the motivation behind our Editorship in Indigenous Writing, as well. For Westerly to be truly representative of Australia’s best new writing, it must also be an open and inclusive space.
Westerly 62.1 has no special focus or theme—as is often the case with our general issues—but common threads emerge nevertheless. Many of the works selected for issue 62.1 are concerned with ‘responding to the wrongs of the world’, and it is interesting to contemplate how this theme correlates with the high proportion of female representation. We see, for example, in Susan Midalia’s Women in fragments, emotional snapshots of the ‘tiny cuts’: sadness and anxiety over body image, emotional abuse, casual misogyny and belittling; all social problems that are gaining ground in our collective consciousness.
Other recent events, like the establishment of the Stella Prize, have shown the importance of recognising of Australian women’s writing, and that is why we are so excited by this organic growth. Westerly depends on the submissions of talented Australian writers and the generosity of its subscribers, and we would like to thank you all helping us make Westerly what it is today.