Two pieces for discussion regarding Gender and Publication: Publication Bias ?

With thanks to Judith Buckrich (ex-Chair) of The International PEN Women Writers Committee, and Vice-President of The PEN Centre in Melbourne. I am attaching a linked Paragraph from : Women left on bottom bookshelf (Emma Young, full article at the base of this piece. (link#1)

It’s hard to deny that this is a part of life in fiction. It’s a popularly condoned idea that novels written by men are neutral and on the shelves to be enjoyed by anyone but novels written by women can excite lower expectations and are looked at as exclusively feminine: a female voice for a female audience. In other words, books written for women are chick lit, while books written for men are just books. This idea also has legs in the world outside fiction.” (link#2)

Oh ! back to the vexatious Chick-lit question, where consumer-choice and empty lifestyle pretends to an Austen-like inch of ivory, and where in Ireland (at least ) vacuity is rewarded with attempts by certain media-types to include disposable novels on our children’s examination certificate syllabi!! Sure police-helicopters are sent in hunt for Jonathan Franzen‘s bifocals and this tittle dominates media-time. It appears one must have a testicular style to become the luvvie, though I expect it also helps to be a writer of merit, which cannot be denied . This doesn’t explain why women writers and makers of literature are shoved into the shadows, critically, academically and historically , until they acquire the label specialisation.

Further to the discussion, VIDA have recently published a forum on Gender and Publishing, excerpted here and linked beneath Dr Buckrich’s Website and Emma Young’s Piece here as third link. it is worth the read:

Tracy Bowling: “I do believe that bias is present in the publishing world such that women writers are underpublicized and undersold after their work is published, but it’s not a bias I feel very qualified to speak to. The more distressing evidence of a gender bias I see comes before publication, in that women writers often seem pressed to fit themselves very neatly into categories, to define a space for their work or to proclaim whose footsteps they’re following in. In the wake of Jonathan Franzen’s glowing reception, many writers have discussed the infrequency with which the word “genius” is applied to women writers; I’d be curious to see if the same is true of words like “breakthrough,” “innovative,” and “new.” I think that in order to attain success, especially in mainstream publishing, women often have to (often artificially) join a particular group or cohort of other women writers in order for their craft to be perceived as serious and studied. I’ve seen this a lot among women who write fantastic or fairy tale fiction, where, for example, no matter how little one’s work resembles or echoes that of Angela Carter, that work rarely gets discussed without heavy reference to Angela Carter. The really unfortunate side effect of having to strategize and situate oneself as one among many others, I think, is that women become less likely to write the Franzen-esque literary epics, simply because there is less precedent–less of a niche within which their work can be easily framed.” (link#3)

Personally, I expect that if you are a man, its easy to have a blind-spot on the under-representation of women in Government, in the Literary Arts and in Media. The fact that many (many) people do not equate media-time (luvvieness) and column inches with that strange heeled penile-worship of modernism and that frisson of tokenist gender-equality doesn’t mean that the issue of discrimination does not occur. It occurs, it is celebrated and it is a part of our lives wherein meritocracy is just another by-word for male dominance.

EDIT : (VIDA discussion re-posted this morning on the Web)

“I soon discovered that a lot of women writers routinely perform their own version of “the count” when surveying anthologies, journals, book reviews, and awards. At the time I was unaware of Juliana Spahr and Stephanie Young’s essay “Numbers Trouble”; nearly all of the women I was in dialogue with directed me to it. I was astonished to discover that a sub-genre of poetry (which I’ll refer to by shorthand as “experimental”) I’d have assumed would most fairly represent the sexes may be as biased as the more “traditional” sub-genres in poetry, as well as the more commercial venues for prose. I would later be struck by the fact that women writing in all genres are affected by this disparity.

This experience was akin to peering over a very high wall to gaze upon a neighbor’s backyard—a neighbor I’d always assumed was living the good life—and discovering that this neighbor’s life was, in fact, quite similar to my own.”

Jonathan Franzen, whose lost glasses sparked a cop-hunt and media-dominance.

Judith Buckrich Website

Emma Young Piece ‘Women Left on the Bottom Book-shelf’

Vida Article on gender and Publication

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