Wednesday, February 9, 2011

On the Gender Disparity in Literature

The latest publishing indignation is that someone has discovered that it's 2011 and there are still more men getting published than women.

1) Duh.
2) The particular article I linked to is claiming that while women read books written by both men and women, most men only read books written by men.  And the initial response is that this is due to sexism on the part of the men.
     However, it's equally likely that it's due to sexism on the part of women--outside of the world of literature.  Our culture has not made this a place where men can be interested in women's issues without forfeiting their own sexual identity and gender roles.  We also live in a culture where fiction is split into "literary fiction" and "women's fiction."  Nobody likes men who read p*ssy literature.  Not even women.
      This is absolutely no justification for the disparity here.  It bothers the sh*t out of me, and as a writer I've seriously considered going by an androgynous pseudonym just so I won't lose my male audience.  I like men and want their approval.  I want them to read my work.  And apparently, the fact that the spermatozoa that fertilized my mother's ovule happened to have an X chromosome in it means my work is less likely to get published.  The whole thing blows.
      However.  Maybe we all should try not dismissing a man as less than a man if he happens to be holding a book whose cover is pink.  Or maybe we shouldn't give only women's books pink covers. When was the last time somebody put out a new edition of a Hemingway book with a neon pink cover?  Can we please do that?  Instead of insisting that women's issues get acknowledged, maybe we should think about the fact that women's issues are human issues, and so are men's.  Let's talk about the way we have managed to begin to redefine women's roles in our culture, and then talk about the way that as a culture we haven't addressed the male role and whether it's healthy or allows men to be complete and actualized human beings.  If we want men to be interested in women's issues, maybe we should be interested in their issues, and the gender stereotypes we inflict on them.
3) Everyone, including women, should really read bell hooks' book, The Will To Change, in which she  (a postmodern feminist who for reasons I don't understand won't capitalize her name) talks about the harm our culture does to men.


  1. I've been following the reactions to that VIDA article the last couple days and my overriding sense is that the world of literature is missing out on a whole lot of terrific work by propping up the gender disparity that allows mediocre men's work to get published over less visible women's work. And I do think that editors need to accept the responsibility to solicit work from talented women in an effort to shrink that disparity.

    You're totally right, though, that our culture should be more accepting of men who embrace roles outside traditional masculinity because, as you said, that benefits everybody.

  2. Who is going to buy neon-pink-bound Hemingway?