As in a boycott, but for girls…
Apparently Michelle Obama is the first woman in a decade to take out the spot as Number 1 best seller for the year. Go Michelle! I did a little research and things are pretty good for women in the world of writing. Women are well represented in most best-seller lists, although it seems heavily skewed towards non-fiction and cookbooks. This is the top 10 from Goodreads for the past 10 years and I’m not sure if they were only counting fiction titles for this list – it didn’t say – but that’s 6 out of 10 spots to the women. They have all been made into movies or series so that might have something to do with their popularity, although I’m not sure which is the chicken and which is the egg…
Kathy Lette suggested on Julia Gillard’s new podcast that we need to stage a ‘girl-cott’ of men’s books. I’m not sure what kind of market research was done to back up the (somewhat tongue-in-cheek) claim that ‘men don’t read women’s books’ but enough research has been done to show that women buy more books than men but women writers still struggle to get the Number 1 spot on the best seller lists. The last 10 years have seen 7 of the 10 Pulitzers for fiction went to men, 6/10 for the Booker.
In Australia, women fare better with 7/10 of the awards over the past 10 years. The Miles Franklin Literary Award, an annual literary prize awarded to “a novel which is of the highest literary merit and presents Australian life in any of its phases” according to the website, is named for Miles Franklin, a novelist who published under a masculine-sounding name until outed by Henry Lawson who announced in the book’s introduction ‘that the story had been written by a girl’.
So would you commit to reading and reviewing just words-by-women for just a month, or a year, or perhaps just up your intake of women’s writing? I have and I was already reading a lot of women’s work. I did this because when I was challenged by another women, although I was reading words-by-women, my podcast and music playlists were very male-centric. Do a quick stocktake of the last 10 movies, your playlists and your book shelves. I don’t think we need a girl-cott, well not a permanent one, we just need to open our eyes to all the women who in the past have struggled to get their foot through the door, let alone a seat at the table.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the guys, we women just need to start supporting each other more in ways that count, and ways that put money in the bank!
Have you heard of the Women’s Prize for Fiction?
The Women’s Prize for Fiction is one of the most respected, most celebrated and most successful literary awards in the world. An annual award, it celebrates the very best full length fiction written by women throughout the world. Through the initiatives and promotions set up by the WPFF, even appearing on the shortlist significantly boosts a novel’s sales and ensures an author’s work will be promoted in bookshops and libraries the world over.http://www.womensprizeforfiction.co.uk
Then there’s the Stella Prize here in Australia. Also named for Stella Maria Sarah ‘Miles’ Franklin, The Stella Prize is a major literary award celebrating Australian women’s writing, and an organisation that champions cultural change. Awarded for the first time in 2013, both nonfiction and fiction books by Australian women are eligible for entry.
The Stella Prize seeks to:
recognise and celebrate Australian women writers’ contribution to literaturethestellaprize.com.au
bring more readers to books by women and thus increase their sales
equip young readers with the skills to question gender disparities and challenge stereotypes, and help girls find their voice
reward one writer with a $50,000 prize – money that buys a writer some measure of financial independence and thus time, that most undervalued yet necessary commodity for women, to focus on their writing.
The Stella Count surveys twelve publications – including national, metropolitan and regional newspapers, journals and magazines in Australia – in print and online. The Count assesses the extent of gender biases in the field of book reviewing in Australia. In order to do this, it records the authors, book titles and book genres reviewed, as well as the gender of reviewers, and number and size of reviews published. Makes for interesting reading. It’s worrying that across the publications surveyed, the percentage of women reviewed has dropped from 48% to 46% since 2016 but I don’t believe fewer women are writing.