Monday, August 10, 2015

Gender Matters

or is this how to get your novel published? If this link is anything to go by the answer is to start by being a man.

We've all heard of women who opted to use a male or androgynous pseudonym or only the initials of their first name or names because they (or their agents or publishers) believed that they would be taken more seriously if they were not known to be women and sadly the link at the beginning of this post seems to confirm it. I find it depressing that a bias (which I'm sure is based in culture and certainly not intentional) still exists and I'm not suggesting this unconscious discrimination only happens in publishing, of course. It happens across the board. This is just the most recent example I've come across.

There's nothing particularly new about this in the book industry, of course. It's been well known for years that you just have to look at the lists of so-called important books put out for all genres other than romance to see that the gender imbalance is enormous. Look at these examples - this one which appeared in Business Insider Australia and doesn't include one woman or this one which has only three women authors listed out of fifty. I'm not suggesting any of these books aren't excellent - they clearly are - and as always such choices reflect the view of those who compile them but why would you not include at least one of C J Cherryh's award winning novels or Margaret Atwood's multi award winning The Handmaid's Tale or one of Nancy Kress's or Connie Willis's books to mention only a few?

The good thing is that slowly but surely in speculative fiction - my preferred genre - women are being acknowledged more and more in the major awards. Sadly, there are those who see this as an assault on the purity of what speculative fiction should be instead of celebrating the fact that we are reaching equality. I don't want to give the way certain groups attempted to manipulate the Hugo Awards this year any coverage here - I and many others have already wasted far too much time on it - but if you Google Sad Puppies you can find out for yourself what happened and see an example of what happens when things go too far.

Why is this important? Because I'd expect that most reasonable folk, in the developed world at least, would want today's young women and their daughters to be able to expect equality in all aspects of their lives.  Unfortunately, this is is still lacking in so many areas of the world and not only in places where extremists like the Taliban and ISIS refuse to allow women any independence or control over their lives. US Presidential hopeful Donald Trump has demonstrated that lack of respect only this week when he said this in response to questions about misogynistic remarks he had made previously.

That world I dreamed of as a young woman when we would all be respected and treated equally irrespective of gender still seems to be quite a way off.


Satima Flavell said...

Too true, Helen. I even find myself doing it - the conditioning goes really deep. If several women are chatting and a respectable looking man comes up and speaks over the top of them, I find myself switching to listen to him!

Jo said...

I know I have heard this said time and time again. But in fact I find I read a lot of books written by women and thoroughly enjoying them. Then I think of one of today's successes, J.K. Rowling and there is a case in point. Would she have got anywhere using her actual name I wonder.

Helen V. said...

You're right about the conditioning, Jo, and it is very hard to overcome. The good thing is that the young women of my daughter's age are less likely to accept it. Of course, they are still talked over though, and it's tiring as well as exasperating.