The Award For Most Male Nominees Goes to The National Magazine Awards

oh fantastic, stories by men about men!

Nominations for the 2012 National Magazine Awards were announced today, which’s the equivalent to Oscar Nominations Day for magazine-obsessed dorks like me. But before I even had a chance to check out this year’s selections, a reader informed us via twitter that  the nominees for Reporting, Features, Profile, Essays and Columns have one unfortunate thing in common — they’re all men.

The National Magazine Awards press release doesn’t include author names, so I had to verify this alleged Sausage Fest by looking them up myself. I also looked at the nominees for other single-human categories (as opposed to awards for entire magazines, feature series, special issues, overall design, etc) including News & Documentary Photography, Feature Photography, Fiction, Personal Service writing and Public Interest.

These are all the single-human “Ellie” award nominees, with authors added and asterisks indicating females:


The Atlantic for “Our Man in Kandahar,” November, by Matthieu Akins
Los Angeles for “What Happened to Mitrice Richardson?” September, by Mike Kessler (we actually wrote a similar story about Richardson a few months earlier)
The New Yorker for “The Apostate: Paul Haggis Vs. The Church of Scientology” February 14 & 21, by Lawrence Wright
The New Yorker for “Getting bin Laden,” August 8, by Nicholas Schmidle
Vanity Fair for “Echoes From a Distant Battlefield,” December, by Mark Bowden


Esquire for “Heavenly Father!” October, by Luke Dittrich
GQ for “The Man Who Sailed His House,” October, by Michael Paterni
The New York Times Magazine for You Blow My Mind. Hey, Mickey!, June 12, by John Jeremiah Sullivan
The New Yorker for “A Murder Foretold,” April 4, by David Grann
Rolling Stone for “Arms and the Dudes,” March 31, by Guy Lawson


D Magazine for “He Is Anonymous,” April, by Tim Rogers
ESPN The Magazine for “Game of Her Life,” January 10, by Tim Crothers
Men’s Journal for “The Blind Man Who Taught Himself to See,” March, by Daniel Kish
Rolling Stone for “Santiago’s Brain,” December 8, by Jeff Tietz
Sports Illustrated for “Dewayne Dedmon’s Leap of Faith,” November 14, by Chris Ballard


Esquire for “The Loading Dock Manifesto,” May, by John Hyduk
GQ for “Too Much Information,” May iPad Edition, by John Jeremiah Sullivan
New York for “Paper Tigers,” May 16, by Wesley Yang
The New Yorker for “The Aquarium,” June 13 & 20, by Aleksandar Hemon
Slate for “The Stutterer: How He Makes His Voice Heard,” February 22 by Nathan Heller


The Atlantic for columns by James Parker
Field & Stream for columns by Bill Heavey
Los Angeles for reviews by Steve Erickson
TIME for columns by Joel Stein
Vanity Fair for columns by Christopher Hitchens


Harper’s Magazine for “Juvenile Injustice,” October – Richard Ross
Harper’s Magazine for “Uncertain Exodus,” July  – Ed Ou
National Geographic for “Too Young to Wed,” June – Cynthia Gorney**
The New York Times Magazine for “From Zero to 104,” September 4 – Damon Winter
TIME for “Birds of Hope,” January 17 – James Nachtwey


National Geographic for “Taming the Wild,” March – Evan Ratliff
The New York Times Magazine for “Touch of Evil,” December 11 – Alex Prager**
TIME for “Portraits of Resilience,” September 19 – Marco Grab
Vogue for “Lady Be Good,” March – Steven Klein
W for “Planet Tilda,” August – Tim Walker


Glamour for “The Secret That Kills Four Women a Day,” June – Liz Brody**
Good Housekeeping for “Fractured,” July – by Susan Ince**
Real Simple for “Your Holiday-Spending Survival Guide,” November – the editors**
Redbook for “Would You Get a ‘Mommy Tuck?” April – Hallie Levine**
San Francisco for “The New School of Fish,” February – Erik Vance


5280 Magazine for “Direct Fail,” December – Natasha Gardner**
Harper’s Magazine for “Tiny Little Laws,” February – Kathy Dobie**
Marie Claire for “The Big Business of Breast Cancer,” October – Lea Goldman**
Men’s Health for “The Signature Wound,” November – Bob Drury
The New Yorker for “The Invisible Army,” June 6 – Sarah Stillman**


The Atlantic for “Scars,” Summer 2011 – Sarah Turcotte**
McSweeney’s Quarterly for “Ambition,” April – Jonathan Franzen
McSweeney’s Quarterly for “The Northeast Kingdom,” August  – Nathaniel Rich
Virginia Quarterly Review for “La Moretta,” Fall – Maggie Shipstead**
Zoetrope: All-Story for “The Hox River Window,” Fall – Karen Russell**

When all single-human categories are taken into account, women snag 26% of 2012’s nominations, mostly due to the bump afforded by the women’s-magazine-focused category of “Personal Service” writing, which this year honors four women and one man and includes a “Holiday Spending Survival Guide” from Real Simple and stories on domestic abuse, osteoporosis, post-pregnancy tummy-tucks and fish. Yes, I said “post-pregnancy tummy tucks.”

The “Public Interest” category is also female-friendly, acknowledging stories like Kathy Dobie‘s piece on the proliferation of sexual assault incidents on the Standing Rock Reservation from Harper’s and Lea Goldman‘s exposè on breast cancer non-profits for Marie Claire. Additionally, three of this year’s fiction nominees are female. But when it comes to photography, even at magazines geared towards women like W and Vogue, it’s men behind the lens — only two out of the ten photography nominees are women.

And the most revered categories, however, are, as promised, Sausage Fests. It’s worth noting that not only are almost all of the nominated pieces written by men, they’re also mostly about men. You don’t even need to read the articles to know this because it’s usually in the title. We’ve got “Our Man in Kandahar” and “The Man Who Sailed His House” and “The Blind Man Who Taught Himself to See.” There’s “He is Anonymous,” “Murder and the Dudes,” “Heavenly Father!” and “How He Makes His Voice Heard.” Only two of the 20 articles nominated in these categories are about women, and interestingly enough, both are about women of color (Mitrice Richardson and Phiona Mutesi, a 14-year-old Ugandan chess prodigy).

Is it surprising that the cards fell this way? Well: yes and no. Women are underrepresented at the Ellies because women are underrepresented in journalism in general…

+ Elissa Strauss, a blogger for The Forward, went through every 2010 issue of various popular magazines to break down the number of bylines given to women versus those given to men and found 30% of New Yorker stories written by women, 13% at The National Republic and 22% at The Atlantic.

+ The Gender Report tracked bylines on lead news articles online throughout 2011 and found 32.2% were women.

The American Society of News Editors says ladies account for 36.9% of daily newspapers’ full-time employees.

Of the 30 most prolific authors on, a curated site for longform journalism which finds most of its stories in magazines, only two are women. Of the 30 most popular writers on, nine are women.

+ 25 of the 98 Contributors listed at The New Yorker are women.

…but there’s a difference between “underrepresented” and “totally left out.”

There are lots of theories bouncing around. The lack of recognized women could be related to the fact that whereas writers of whatever gender are often recognized for the excellent feature journalism that happens in men’s magazines like Esquire and GQ, many women’s magazines can be a bit of a black hole when it comes to quality feature journalism, thus reducing the number of available outlets for really good stuff about lady business. The lady journos whose bylines I’m most familiar with usually publish in “general interest” publications like The New Yorker, New York Magazine, The Atlantic, Harper’s, The New York Times Magazine, Texas Monthly, Mother Jones and Rolling Stone — women like Susan Orlean, Rebecca Mead, Ariel Levy, Meghan O’Rourke, Vanessa Ggrigoriadis, Elizabeth Kaye, Pamela Colloff, Mac McCleelland and Emily Nussbaum.

The aforementioned Elissa Strauss, inspired by her own research and VIDA’s, actually attempted to get in touch with the editors of the magazines she studied for her bylines project to ask how they feel about the Female Byline Problem, and their responses (and her commentary) may or may not offer some insight as well.

Regardless, I think it’s safe to say that women penned many worthy pieces this year and it’s profoundly depressing that nobody noticed. I was surprised that Kathy Dobie’s Girl at Trail’s End (GQ) didn’t appear on this list, or Laurie Abraham‘s Teaching Good Sex, from The New York Times Magazine or Clare Morgana Gillis’ account of being held captive by Muammar Qaddafi’s forces in Libya. Women are writing really fantastic pieces about the economy, foreign affairs and education. You guys, two-thirds of journalism school students are women. Where are their bylines?

It’s unfortunate, then, that in a year when so many straight white cisgender men are working every day to take away the rights of women and LGBTQ people — and working so hard to do so without actually having to listen to any of us talk — that the best stories of last year are entirely devoted to stories written by men and almost entirely devoted to stories written about men. Zero. Think about that. Zero.

Susan Orlean, in her Days of Yore interview, was asked if she’s faced any specific challenges as a writer because she’s a woman. She answered that “in some cases I think women have a great advantage – people are sometimes more open to a woman than they might be to a male reporter.”

If only the 400 people who chose the National Magazine Award nominees understood that, too.

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Riese is the 41-year-old Co-Founder of as well as an award-winning writer, video-maker, LGBTQ+ Marketing consultant and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and now lives in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in nine books, magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. She's Jewish and has a cute dog named Carol. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 3200 articles for us.


  1. In the Dearth of Female Bylines article, I could just see the editors SHRUG at the end of every answer. OMG!!! I wanted to shake every single one of them, I was so frustrated. Each of them seemed to say, well, yes, there’s a problem with female invisibility within magazine publications, BUT we HAVE/HAD female writers, so.. uh, someday we can hope to see more?? well, zippity-doo-dah, I fail to be impressed.

  2. Why aren’t there any female magazines with the writing quality of Esquire and GQ? Or maybe there are, but I don’t know about them? Do you think the female counterparts to these men’s lifestyle magazines that happen to feature high quality writing/reporting are found in internet-only publications? I don’t know anything. Someone illuminate me!

    • Agreed. I know this isn’t saying anything new but it’s endlessly offensive that the most popular women’s magazines tend to assume that females prefer vapid commentary on celebrities, makeup, sex and the like over quality writing and journalism. I want to say BTOP, but I just don’t know — the trashy magazines do sell.

      • so anyway, basically from the dawn of time women’s magazines have been funded primarily by advertising from beauty products + fashion things, so almost the entire magazine is actually an advertisement. they’re indebted to these companies to promote and discuss their wares. and then the movies celebrities are pushing. i think men’s magazines generally came from a different place — and earlier, too — they similarly push a lot of products and so forth, but have also traditionally been a stomping ground for The Great Writers of Tomorrow and Important Journalists (men). but we have to sort of trace back to the beginning of when these magazines were invented. the crazy part about it is that when these magazines were invented, it made sense that men’s mags would be more literary and high-brow and newsy and women’s mags would discuss little women problems. now it’s been like 100 years and nothing has changed, except that now esquire and GQ sometimes publish stories by women. in fact i’d say it’s gotten worse — Seventeen used to publish some pretty good stuff in its day, and so did Cosmo before it became a trash-heap. I think good work is being done in these women’s magazines sometimes, but men never notice because why would they pick up a women’s magazine.

        JANE actually did try and publish some more literary and feature-type things, but they tanked… and a few times a year glamour or marie clarie has its moment. Glamour is possibly getting better though, and Marie Claire does some good reporting on international women’s issues. Allure actually has some nice short essays that are always well-done. Vogue is the mag most likely to feature long, in-depth feature journalism. Vanity Fair, of course, but that’s not really a gendered magazine so much as it is a class-related magazine. i think vogue is the closest thing we have to a GQ, but vogue is so so so so so inaccessible for most humans, like it’s too fancy. Ultimately they do what sells. And I guess if nobody is taking your magazine seriously enough to award its writers for good shit, maybe the incentive to publish ‘award-winning’ style work isn’t there? idk.

        i do think, though, that the internet is filling in some of those gaps, for sure. but at the same time — like we’d love to do more feature journalism but we can barely afford lunch. meanwhile OUT magazine (for gay men) does at least one grand feature piece per issue.

        i suppose when we’re talking about the internet it’s worth wondering if we’re making the problem worse by every time a successful gender-free website takes off, suddenly the girls are split into their own place (awl/hairpin, gawker/jez, buzzfeed/shift) and the formerly gender-free website becomes mostly for boys.

        • thanks for this. when i was asking that question, I was hoping you would swoop in with your magazine/journalism knowledge. maybe i should check out vogue more often.

          and yeah, i’ve wondered the same thing about the female-focused offshoots of popular, quality Internet publications…

          • oh, i was just thinking more about vogue. didn’t her highness joan didion write some of her most famous essays in vogue? like “on keeping a notebook” and “on self-respect?”

  3. This is my life, almost every single day.

    I don’t (often) write for magazines, but this ignoring/silencing/degrading of women’s voices holds true throughout the media business – both according to what I’ve experienced, and the stories told to me by female mentors who’ve been around a lot longer than I have.

    It is beyond frustrating – especially since there are plenty of us working our butts off to change things. The crap we still have to put up with can be incredibly dispiriting, almost more so when it’s seemingly so casual. Like, I could almost deal with someone being an outright misogynist dick more than I can the many, many people in the business who are super duper passive aggressively misogynistic.

  4. I used to enjoy celebrity interviews in Vanity Fair etc. but so often now they are just so sickeningly kiss-ass-y to the celebrity that they don’t really tell us anything interesting about them. The are some exceptions, of course.

    Ugh, it’s so annoying how there is hardly any recognition of women as writers and journalists.

  5. hellooOoOo, does no one here read bitch??

    also a wicked mag for women with really good writing is shameless, which was started by journalism students at ryerson university in toronto but has since blossomed into a beautiful award-winning flower.

    can i post links here because i totally will…

    • that said i definitely agree that there is a dearth of female bylines in magazines in general and it is a damn shame that women’s voices are relegated to “special interest” mags unless they’re propping up the beauty industry.

    • yes! i subscribe to bitch, have read literally every issue since they launched, and donate to them regularly. they’ve got great stuff all the time. but i think i sort of assumed that they weren’t large enough to be up for a NMA award, but i don’t know where i got that idea from. or maybe because they’re a non-profit, ultimately?

      • yeah i dunno what the requirements are for nomination but i know bitch has a pretty decent circulation. wikipedia says 50,000… that seems like a medium fish to me, even if it is a non-profit. but srsly. bitch magazine saved my little queer heart in high school. i have their 10 year anniversary anthology and it is well-loved.

        if you haven’t read shameless, i think you’d like it a lot. they have a youth-focused mandate but it’s not your typical teen mag. their blog alone is pretty awesome –

  6. Staggering. I read so many beautiful pieces by female writers on and such.

    I read essays on the Rumpus a lot, but the editor there is female (Roxane Gay) so. Point taken.

    • Rumpus essays are win. I love what Roxanne Gay has done as editor there, but it’s worth noting that the Rumpus did a great job of publishing a diverse authorship before she took up the position this year. I think the Rumpus is just generally awesomesauce.

      • I agree. Do you read her blog? Her blog kills me. Whenever there’s a new post I get a cup of tea just to drink while I’m reading it.

        Esp the Twilight post.

        The Rumpus also has a good number of Queer essays and their series on of interviews with sex workers is harrowing and amazing.

      • OH GOD THE RUMPUS FOREVER. i spent 2 days reading all of “dear sugar” and now visit that site regularly. i really wanna sign up for the letter in the mail thing but am so incredibly broke right now.

        • A friend told me their letter thing isn’t that great.

          But do you subscribe to the daily rumpus from stephen elliott (free)?

          Ditto on Sugar. Cheryl Strayed’s (sugar’s) memoir ‘Wild’ just came out and i’m reading it now. totally amazing.


  7. hmm. good to know. but i’m so cuuurrriousss! i don’t subscribe to the daily rumpus. i will have to track that down. thanks for the tip! i also reallly wanna pick up a copy of ‘wild’… i’ve even been thinking about planning a vacay to coincide with her book tour. *nerdin’ out*

  8. What about Ms. magazine? I don’t subscribe to it, but I’ve read some excellent articles from their archives.

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