Wednesday’s Blog

GENDER DISPARITY

Written by SHELLY BELL

In 2010, authors Jennifer Weiner and Jodi Picoult spoke out about the gender disparity between male and female authors in the New York Times Reviews. Keeping track for two years, Jennifer Weiner calculated that sixty percent of the reviews were for books authored by men. According to her blog,

“In 2011, the Times reviewed 254 works of fiction. 104, or 40.9 percent, were by women, and 150, or 59.1 percent, were by men.

Of the works of fiction that got two full reviews, 21 were by women, 22 were by men.

Of the works that received one full review plus a mention in a round-up, 5 were by women, 11 were by men.

Finally, of the works of fiction whose authors were reviewed twice (either with two full reviews, or review plus roundup) and profiled, one was a woman and ten were men.”

When we look at the numbers alone, we can assume that there is a disparity between the genders. However, there are other factors to take into consideration before relying on that assumption.

Several studies have been conducted to determine the cause for the gender disparity. Some theorize women are published less than men. Others speculate the reason is that women send less query letters. Another guess is that there are more male than female reviewers.

Historically, books written by women haven’t received the same respect as those written by their male counterparts. In the nineteenth century, women used male pen names in order to publish and market their books. Here are a few examples:

  • “A Lady” – Jane Austen
  • George Sand – Aurore Dudevant
  • Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell – Charlotte, Emily and Anne Bronte
  • A.M. Barnard – Louisa May Alcott
  • George Eliot – Mary Ann Evans

Authors still use male or ambiguous pen names for their books. When J.K. Rowling began publishing Harry Potter, her publishers asked her to use the initials because they didn’t believe boys would read it if it was written by a woman.

The fact is we’ve come a long way over the last two hundred years, but prejudice against women remains, regardless of our progressive thinking. While book critics primarily ignore the romance genre, they apparently make exceptions for male authors of romance. Author David Nicholls received critical acclaim for his romance “One Day.” It’s been theorized that the same book written by a woman would not have garnered as much attention. The same has been said about the books written by Nicholas Sparks.

Last week, Jonathan Franzen once again made headlines. He criticized digital books, citing their lack of “permanence” in comparison to printed books stating “…when I take the book off the shelf it still says the same thing — that’s reassuring…”  Maybe he lives in an alternate universe because as far as I can tell, computer files will outlast a piece of paper and the words in e-books will say the same thing fifty years from now, just like printed books.

Author Ewan Morrison believes that companies are taking advantage of authors because of their interest in the success of the internet. He ignores the fact that traditional publishing companies (such as the one he publishes with) have a vested interest in the printed book prevailing over digital.

I have several opinions on Franzen and Morrison’s positions on digital books, most which I’ll save for another blog. Let’s face it. More books available means more competition against Franzen and Morrison. More importantly, digital publishers catering to women are succeeding in this new market. Perhaps Franzen and Morrison prefer to keep the female authors from breaking the glass ceiling.

Equality is something that takes time. It’s important for authors, publishing industry members, and readers to continue pushing against the glass ceiling. Hopefully, someday soon, it will shatter into a million tiny pieces and gender will become irrelevant to literature. Until that day, I’m glad I have Jennifer Weiner and Jodi Picoult on my side of the battle for equality.

About Shelly

Shelly started reading at three years old. In elementary school, the librarian gave her books to test out for the school library. As a teenager, she spent her allowance each week on romance novels, enjoying both young adult category romance, young adult paranormal and single title books, and adult romance.

She received her Bachelors of Arts in Social Work and a Certificate in Women Studies from Michigan State University in 1990, where she interned at both the Michigan State Sexual Assault Crisis Center as a counselor and the Michigan Women’s Historical Museum as a docent.
Wanting to leave the cold Michigan winters behind, she moved to Florida to attend law school at Nova Southeastern University, Shepard Broad Law Center where she received her Juris Doctor degree. Practicing law since 1997, she specializes in corporate, environmental and employment law as In-House Legal Counsel for a scrap metal company in Detroit. On the side, she dabbles in horseracing and crematory law.
Married to Jason in 2003, they have two children and reside in the metro-Detroit area, where she reads on her Kindle each night when her family falls asleep.

A recovering compulsive overeater, she wrote A Year to Remember to share her strength and hope with compulsive overeaters and food addicts everywhere.  A member of Romance Writers of America, she writes both women’s fiction and paranormal romance.

I’d like to thank Shelly for taking time to appear on my blog, and welcome her back at any time. You can find her book on Amazon – http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00741E47I/ref=as_li_tf_il?ie=UTF8&tag=shell0a-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B00741E47I

Also catch up with Shelly via these links:

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11 thoughts on “Wednesday’s Blog

  1. Shelly, what a thoughtful and intelligent post. I appreciate all the research you do to pull your thoughts together.

    It is interesting to think about the disparity in the publishing world of men vs. women. Hopefully we are moving in a direction of more equality. It took us awhile to reach it in other ways–I suppose writing and publishing are no different.

    Thanks for the interesting post! And good luck with the book!

  2. Very interesting points. Women are still in the majority for buying the most books, right? And romance is the most popular genre for ebooks, so I’ll let those antiquated male writers continue to publish on paper and we’ll see where they are with that opinion in 5 years!

  3. Great post interesting topic and sad that things are still this way in the 21st century. I don’t have a regular Kindle I have it on my pc and truth be told I’m just old fashioned enough to enjoy a book in my hands. I’m not sligting e-books just old fashioned. I enjoyed the article and funny thing is most of the books I read are SUPRISE written by women.

  4. Shelly, I really enjoyed your post and have read Jennifer Weiner’s comments on the subject with great interest, too. Here’s hoping equity is coming… 😉

    And, Veronica, I like your blog!

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