2014 is the year of reading women, however the bigger percentage of authors are male! Should we really just be encouraging reading or encouraging women to fight the good fight of becoming a writer and making their dreams a reality?
This year the Guardian wrote an article that explored the issue that “female authors are marginalised by newspapers and literary journals, and their books are given ‘girly’ covers.” Their plea was was “Take action against this inequality by making sure the next book you read is by a woman” I think that this is fantastic. Of course it is, I’m a woman and I’m also a writer that hopes to become a published author someday and I would like to believe that my books are not just successful but read by a range of people. But, here comes the obligatory but, I’m not sure if it is enough. Of course it is a benchmark, a start place however, but is it enough? Or is it a completely different fight altogether?
Since I was about eight years old I wanted to be one of two things (or both if I could swindle it), an author or a singer and by being a singer it means that I would have wanted to write my own songs; I distinctly remember singing Norah Jones “I don’t know why” on a rainy Saturday afternoon and wishing I could be a singer, just like her. For the past 12 years I have written song lyrics, poetry and stories. I absolutely love writing. Sometimes I thank the advancement of mobile phones that have a “notes” app that I can go into when I’m on the bus or in a queue and a idea pops into my head, because I don’t have to carry round a notepad all the time. It’s great that I can do it anywhere, wherever creativity decides to drop an idea bomb and log it somewhere.
Very gradually I began writing more than I did sing and the hunger to become a writer/published author became (in the words of Stephen Fry on the Twinging’s ad) gruelling and it still is. But the one thing aside dream, hope and determination I have are people that encourage me and tell me that I can do it!I am fortunate to be surrounded by family, friends and colleagues that believe in me and my talents and the ambition that I have to become something that many dream of but very often are not able to achieve.
I run a Birmingham based project called The Book Club that encapsulates strong female characters and female voices, written by both men and women but we are guilty (however not sorry) of inviting more female authors and poets than male to our events to read, perform and excite our audience each month. The purpose of this is to encourage more people to read the word created by women and the word of the woman. This month we had Sci-Fi and Fantasy author Carmen Cupuano. Her genre of writing is one not often found in the female gender of authors which is interestingly pointed out in this article on XXFactor, asking why there aren’t more female Sci-Fi writers, so having Carmen at The Book Club was almost like hitting a gold mine, she is a rare breed of author. However, one of the things that spoke out to me when Carmen was telling us about her background what that she did not have the support of someone extremely close to her when she chose to down tools and pick up a pen and begin writing her series “The Owners”. Personally I would hope that any of my close ones would be on board if I chose to pursue a writing career later in life. Luckily, Carmen ignored the lack of support and did it anyway and if last week’s edition of The Book Club was anything to go by, we were all glad that she did.
So what am I trying to say? I have taken a very personal and opinionated route to explain this but in a very roundabout way, my point is that whilst urging people to read more books written by women is fantastic, sexism exists in every art industry, in every industry, somewhere and it does need to stop but, the bigger picture is that more male authors are being published than female, although most of the worlds readers are – FEMALE. Yes, funny isn’t it? Here come the numbers, this is part a research compiled by Vida, featured by the Guardian in 2010:
“In the US, The New York Review of Books shows a stronger bias. Among authors reviewed, 83% are men (306 compared to 59 women and 306 men), and the same statistic is true of reviewers (200 men, 39 women). The New York Times Book Review fares better, with only 60% of reviewers men (438 compared to 295 women). Of the authors with books reviewed, 65% were by men (524 compared to 283 by women).”
Number are boggling for me, but I got it and they aren’t blurred lines. It is loud and clear that men dominate the literary industry and, without sounding too frustrated, I want that to change! But it isn’t just the literary industry, the songwriters of the music industry is pretty daunting too in it’s numbers.
Last night I listened to a talk by Charlotte Church about Women in Music and I almost swallowed my own tongue when I heard this, “PRS claims that only 13 percent of writers (songwriters) registered are female” You can listen to the whole talk here and I recommend that anybody does. But what an outstandingly harrowing number and just shows what influence female writers have in the music industry. And I must question, what are the un-registered writers? Are they too afraid to make their stamp on the industry or have they been shunned? Where are they? Can we encourage them to come forward, raise their hands and say “I did this. I am great, I am talented, you don’t have to like me, but believe in me and my work.”
The work that I do inspires girls and women to write, to me it is imperative that women follow their dreams because who shouldn’t be allowed to follow their dreams? Of course as a writer my focus is on boosting writers and storytellers. Hell, women are the best storytellers – if you’ve heard women gossip then you will know that they are great at telling stories just generally. But it shouldn’t be the radical female authors such as Austen, the Brontë sisters, Maya Angelou or Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie that gain the most praise and attention, every female writer deserves to be up there with their work which is my The Book Club is so important for me. There are masses of girls and young women like me in the world with a dream to become an author who need support, guidance and at least just one person out there who believes in them.
Reading the work of female authors to beat the sexism in the industry is important of course it is, especially if we want them to stand out. However, what about the up and coming authors, to beat the stereotypes and prejudice for them would be fantastic, but the fact that men are published more than women supports a sexist issue, it’s not a conspiracy theory or a blame by pointing fingers, it’s just simply a fact. I believe the two plights go hand in hand and should be tackled to support one another.
So can we begin to support those up and coming female authors who are talented, who have a story to be told, who write Sci-Fi and Fantasy novels and especially the ones who have no one that believe in them? Surely if there are more female authors being published, there are more female authors to be read, heard from and loved.