I came across a Buzzfeed article this week that got me thinking. In the article it was talking about the gender gap in literature. Women are not as published as much as men are. “Wait, what?” some of you may be thinking. “You’ve seen the romance section at your local bookstore right? It’s filled with female authors!” And it is filled with female authors, but have you ever walked up and down the other isles and noticed a lack? I bet you haven’t. If you have good for you! And this is what this Buzzfeed article was about. Apparently there is a bookstore in Cleveland that decided to turn all the male authored books around so that the pages were turned outwards. The results are staggering. It’s a virtual whiteout in that bookstore.
Here is the link to the Buzzfeed article and I seriously suggest that you check it out:
In a lot of my English classes at university we would study mostly male authors, but I was fortunate enough to have quite a few professors who made sure they had at least one major female author to study on their course outlines. In a sense this Buzzfeed article didn’t completely surprise me, but the degree in which this disparity exists, when seen, is still a shock. It also got me thinking about the whys.
Here are some of my findings:
- Pulitzer Prize winners (USA):
- Are male: 64
- Are female: 31
- Things are a little bit closer and more representative in the United States (which is saying a lot considering the state of their politics). The list shows just the winners. On their website you can also look up the finalists for that year and there are some more women – and a lot more men.
- Nobel Prize for Literature winners (World):
- Are men: 825
- Are women: 47
- There has been an increase in women winning this award in recent years, but it is still not where it needs to be. This is also over all categories that you can win a prize in. So not only are men dominating in every category, but their writing is being celebrated more than women’s writing.
- Governor General’s Award winners (Canada):
- Are men: 51
- Are women: 26
- Yes Canada has a literary award and it is prestigious for us Canadian writers. No it isn’t a lame moose themed prize or a Tim’s card. It is a legitimate award. In fact, it’s something that I’d love to win one day. Again here we have men’s literary work getting celebrated more than women’s. We’re not as good as the States for representation but we’re not completely horrible either.
- Editing and Publishing:
- This industry is primarily female dominated. Books are marketed more towards women as women are seen as having more time for reading. So if this is dominated by women why don’t we see more female authors on the shelves? My dad and I talked about this and he said that he didn’t read female authors because they don’t write things that interest him (he’s very much into the shoot-’em-up type books or deep fantasy type books), which can suggest that even though women are the target audience we’re still focusing on appealing to and appeasing a male audience not necessarily a female one. I can understand this as I am not big into reading horror books or those shoot ’em up classics that my dad likes. At the same time though I do read a lot of female written books as my preferred genre of reading is the romance genre (and we know why I have issues with the genre). I can understand why a lot of book readers and lovers don’t read that genre. But again this creates a huge problem. The reason why this genre gets dumped on and why it isn’t read or taken seriously by men is because it is seen as superfluous and uninteresting. So when these books are being submitted for publishing by women they’re looked over and dismissed as being important works of fiction because they are either not conforming to what women are “supposed to” write about or they’re considered uninteresting because men and/or women may not read them. And that’s my theory on that.
Now what does all this mean for women trying to enter the writing world and to actually make an impact? Well it means that women are going to have a tougher time establishing themselves as prominent writers in genres outside of the romance genre. It’s going to take a lot of time and effort and that’s not a bad thing. It also is going to mean that we as avid book readers and consumers should support not only new authors in general, but women authors as well. So the next time you’re thinking about trying a new author out just be conscious of the name on the cover. Still look within your preferred genre, but maybe choose that female author over the male one and test it out. And if anyone knows of any great male romance genre novelists, who aren’t Nicholas Sparks, let me know! i’d like to support them as much as the female authors in other genres.
Until next week!