All Over The Map (jemck) wrote,
All Over The Map
jemck

Equality of Opportunity and Visibility

I've been thinking a bit about this lately. I've been on panels at a few conventions when the question of bias against women in publishing has come up and hand on heart, I cannot say I've seen or experienced anything leading me to suspect that men have an easier time of getting a book into print. Swapping notes with other female writers, they have concurred.

However, in a major Waterstones last week, I noted that all the fantasy novels featured on displays were by men - great books, all of them - so that was certainly going to perpetuate this pernicious and persistent notion that the fantasy worth noticing is the fantasy written by the chaps.

I don't ascribe this to any malice. Far from it. Just this past week, I've seen male fantasy fans and writers as appalled as anyone else at David Willetts saying women's entry into the workplace has reduced opportunities for working class men, and just as quick to see the lies and perverted logic there in service of Tory ideology and avoiding blame for its policy consequences.

But our genre still suffers from that Default/Lazy Sexism which results in, for instance, the British Fantasy Society publishing a book about horror without a single female contributor and an anthology I contributed to, which when I got my contributor's copy, turned out to have one woman writer - me. When I mentioned this to the editors, a woman among them, they were genuinely shocked and contrite.

The most compelling evidence of this of late has been Niall Harrison's 'The SF Count' over at Strange Horizons Niall used the 'Books Received' from Locus to get a baseline, finding
55% of books written by men, 43% written by women and 2% as gender-anonymous
across the UK and US. Then he went looking to see how the percentages of books reviewed compared with those numbers. The detail is very interesting and I urge you to go and look when you have time. For the moment, his overall conclusion was
"Across all venues, 29.6% of books reviewed were by women, compared to 70.4% by men; and 27.6% of reviewers were women, compared to 72.4% men."
Given that research I cited a while ago, on the importance of reviews, good or bad, for driving sales I find that profoundly depressing.

We must do better.

In common, I sincerely hope, with other reviewers, I hastily drew up some numbers of my own. Not of all my reviews but focusing on my regular column in Albedo One since that data was most readily to hand. I found 55% of my own reviews there are of male writers, 45% by women. Yes, my sigh of relief rattled the study windows. No, I'm not about to claim that's anything more than the sheerest luck so I don't claim any credit there.

I will be keeping tabs on those numbers in future though.
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