Wednesday, January 8, 2014


I'm currently editing an anthology of young women writers in whose work I strongly believe. (Full disclosure: I went to school with all of them.) When discussing this with a man I know, he casually asked where the anthology of young male writers was and told me that women have just as many opportunities as men because we live in a post-feminist society. The problem is, that's not correct.

Let's not look at every industry or position out there. For the sake of this post, we'll just look at publishing. I have some anecdata for you: when I was in grad school, studying creative writing, there were about five guys out of my semester cohort of just over 30 people. Without doing too much research, I feel it's safe to say that this was the general distribution of male to female throughout the entire program. In spite of the fact that there were far more female than male writers, the numbers compiled by VIDA: Women in Literary Arts, indicate that the male writers are more likely to be published, interviewed, and reviewed. (Again, full disclosure: one of the professors in my graduate program is a co-founder of VIDA, and several of my classmates worked with the organization while they were students.)

Not only are these numbers disturbing, but women also have to contend with people like VS Naipaul, who thinks no woman writes as well as he, and that Canadian professor who--in his own words--isn't "interested in teaching books by women." Fashion photographers are romanticizing the suicides of female writers. There's a trend of women's backs on book covers, visually stripping fictional characters of their identities. 

I recently read two missives by lady writers: the first from Sarah Rees Brennan, who goes into detail about her own experiences and conversations with other women authors, and the second from Jennifer Lynn Barnes, who uses the scientific method to make her point. These reports are from people on the ground in writing/publishing and have experienced sexism and misogyny themselves to an alarming extent. Their words are, unfortunately, not shocking to those of us who know how it works; rather, they are a depressing reminder of how little progress we have made in some arenas.

Sexism in the publishing industry is real. This is why I'm working to improve the percentage of female writers published through my workplace, and why I refuse to hear complaints about doing so. It's not that I think men are evil. In fact, I've never met a male I would label thus. It's that I've experienced the world differently than they have by virtue of being female. As many women can tell you, we're often made to feel that sexism or harassment is our fault, which is rarely the case. And so I'm trying to be proactive and help my fellow females by supporting and promoting them in a way that is viable for me.

Cate: 1
Sexism: 0 (in this instance)


PS No disrespect to the man who started this whole thing. He's an intelligent, reasonable guy. I promise.

No comments:

Post a Comment