I was intrigued by this super interesting post by the fab Ms Tara Moss on gender inequality in the world of fiction (and scroll down to the comments. Whoa).
I’ve also been avidly following the development of The Stella Prize, a new annual literary prize that is being set up to address the under-representation of women in Australian literary prizes.
Reading Tara’s post I found myself thinking: What? People actually actively don’t buy books simply because they’re by female writers? Is this some crazy parallel universe I’ve stepped into? Are these same people avoiding checkouts manned by female shop assistants or asking for a male lawyer to be assigned to their case or that the female paediatrician looking after their child be replaced by “that nice male doctor over there”?
If these people are doing any of those things then I’m sorry …
But you’re absolutely crazycakes!
Women can do everything men can do and just as well. Sometimes better. With the exception of weeing standing up and I do believe there was a device invented to even leapfrog that particular inequality. And for pity’s sake, people! Only reading books by male authors? That would be like only eating exactly half of all possible flavours of ice cream! Sure, some of the flavours you avoid might be crap but you’ll miss out on Cookies and Cream and Old English Toffee (and have to spend a whole lifetime eating “bubblegum”. Oh the humanity)!
But I also thought I should put my money where my mouth is and have a look at the books I’ve loved over the past two years – the ones I’ve given five stars to on Goodreads – and see where the gender line is drawn in my own reading habits. Am I practising what I preach?
Maybe I do have a bias one way or the other, subconsciously. Maybe I do go for books by male authors. After all I don’t seem to have any other rhyme or reason to my book-buying. I’ll just as happily read a fantasy book as I will a family drama or a thriller or a paranormal or a historical romance.
I never would have imagined I’d go for books by blokes. But was I?
The answer? In the last two years I’ve given five stars to 58 books by female authors and 45 by male authors. Pretty balanced, slightly erring towards the girls side of things and beefed up on the male side by my two St Nicks (Earls and Hornby), my Great Scott (Westerfeld) and my … um … Neil (Gaiman). And you know what? If you’d asked me before I did that count what the balance would’ve been like I probably would have replied with an honest “I don’t know” and an even more honest “I don’t care”. Because I (obviously) loved The True Story of Butterfish as much as I loved The Adventures of Nanny Piggins; Black Painted Fingernails as much as A Pocketful of Eyes and The Scourge of Jericho as much as The Shattered City.
The gender of the author mattered as much to me as the colour of their skin, whether they were gay or straight, rich or poor, vampires or werewolves.
Good writing is good writing.
So what’s the solution to more people reading books by awesome author chicks?
Maybe we need to take a leaf out of the book of Kip, the noisy rooster in author chick Christina Booth’s beautiful picture book: Maybe we just need to crow a bit more about ourselves and people will listen. Hopefully The Stella Prize will be a big cockadoodledoo for all of us!
As Tara Moss said, “We may have come a long way, but it seems we’re not quite there yet.”
It shouldn’t be a problem but it is and sticking our chicken heads under the hay is not going to work.
It takes perceptive people to notice a problem and creative people to come up with a solution. As writers we’re both. If anybody can win this fight we can.