I'm copying and pasting this thread from a Facebook group on feminism. I've abbreviated every poster's name except mine to protect people's privacy. It's a damn interesting thread and worth repeating on this blog.
Topic: The Orange Prize for Fiction & The Fawcett Society
N. (West Midlands) wrote.
Just to let folks know that I have just written an essay on the UK controversy over the existence of this literary prize for women. In the essay I also talk about the work of the excellent Fawcett Society. Hope you enjoy.
Link to N's essay here.
My reply to N's post.
Read your letter/essay. Awesome. Yeah, the complainer is clearly deluded.
While women in the US do make up the majority of college liberal arts programs (English lit, etc.) -- so what? Men still outnumber women 8 to 1 in the technical (and better-paying) fields like engineering.
Of the five English teachers I had in high school, only two were women.
A random sampling of the NY Time's bestseller's list will still show that male authors dominate publishing in America and always have. While more women work in the lower rungs of publishing (admin. assts, readers, proofers, etc) I'm sure most of their employers are men.
J.K. Rowling herself was told by her first publisher to use her initials or else she would be 'less likely' to get published.
I've been told by several fiction lit. professors to use my first initial and/or my nickname (Mel) so as to not give away my sex.
When I was a newspaper reporter in the 1990s, the vast majority of my editors (and upper management like publishers) were men. It's still extremely rare to see a woman editor overseeing a city newspaper.
I think you hit on a really good point in your essay when you talked about high school-aged boys 'zoning out' whenever they were asked to read something by a female author. And I think they are conditioned to behave that way.
"Chick Lit" anyone?
A's reply to my post.
Without even bringing technical fields into the equation, your statement can be clarified even more than while women may make up the majority of college liberal arts programs, college students in general, and even associate professors, they are a clear minority when it comes to being tenured, acting as chairs, and in the upper-level management of colleges (such as Presidents and Provosts).
thanks for the response so far. Yes there is that phenomenon of women writers using initials-A.L.Kennedy, A.S. Byatt, and J.K.R herself. Think too of George Eliot, Currer Bell and the rest. Interesting too that you've found yourself in the same position. My other half works in publishing and reports that women are very well represented in the industry in the UK. But well represented enough? There's a lot of tokenism still going on, and many of the key literary editors in Britain are still men. Take the major UK poetry editors: Lee Braxton (Faber), Robin Robertson (Cape), Don Paterson (Picador), Neil Astley (Bloodaxe), Michael Schmidt (Carcanet). Talented they may be, female they are not.
With JK Rowling it was more a case of appealing to young boys, who would be less likely to buy a book they might see as 'for girls', it was just to get a wider audience.
I'm not sure that it is a huge problem if young boys are defining their masculinity and want male role models.
I prefer books by women, because I love women and how women write and see the world, and I think this is an area in which I'm not going to be convinced (to buy books by men, which is a huge generalisation, and all I can do is to say simply I prefer books by women), and I'd hate to preach.
By the way I know this is perhaps contraversial and I'm just offering it as my perspective with complete respect.
My reply to C's above post.
>>With JK Rowling it was more a case of appealing to young boys, who would be less likely to buy a book they might see as 'for girls', it was just to get a wider audience.
A-hah, good point. I hadn't even thought of that. Christ, are they really THAT biased toward male authors? That's just tragic.