Thursday 28 May 2015

Female Characters Shunned at Awards

Hmm... interesting, not sure I'm surprised: Books about women less likely to win prizes, study findsStudy of six major awards in the last 15 years shows male subjects the predominant focus of winning novels

Her analysis came as the summer issue of Mslexia, the magazine for women writers, explores the “silent takeover by men of the top jobs” in British publishing. Industry expert Danuta Kean laid out how, since 2008, the “women at the top of the three biggest corporate publishing houses have stepped aside – in each case to be replaced by men”.

I'd like to see author Chimamanda Adichie extend her outstanding talk on feminism to tackle this one.

I remember attending an LGBT book talk once where the men's group were billed as the 'Sci-fi panel' (I'm not sure if it was intentionally all-men, but it was) and the women writers' group labelled the 'Lesbian writers panel' - until I fought to add Bisexual, which added an air of ambiguity to it. Talk about a gender split, though. 

I do wince at the term 'women writers' and 'women's literature'. As the article says: 'This is the culture that still calls male writers Writers, and female writers Women Writers. The male perspective is still the real one, the standard. Women’s voices are just details.'

I very rarely ever answer the question 'what do you do?' with 'I'm a writer,' but I'm categorically certain I've never answer it with 'I'm a female writer.' Surely that's self-bloody-evident? Either one writes, or one doesn't. What's between your legs has no bearing on how well you write, whether you understand grammar, or what you write about. 

This idea of 'women's literature' being empowering... I wonder. I wonder whether it doesn't just prop up a cultural deficiency in gender equality that keeps women writers in a 'special' category all of their own? Those special, special women writers...

Which is not to say that the gender of an author isn't important - especially as far as monitoring this kind of bias goes. Had the call been close, it would have been easy to suggest that perhaps the books that won were simply better written, but the margin is far too wide to be coincidental. Certainly some subconscious bias going on there that needs dragging into the light. And no excuse whatsoever for the inequality of employment opportunities within the upper echelons of the publishing industry.

Also check out my post Sexism Rampant in Publishing and Laine Cunningham's book Writing While Female or Black or Gay.

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