Women’s fiction is a sign of a sexist book industry

by Rachel Baker on May 17, 2014

This is a really interesting article on sexism in the book industry. There’s some pretty valid points, great subsequent links and the bottom line is “women’s fiction is not a genre”.

This is the year of reading women, people, remember? We’re all reading female writers and helping address the literary gender imbalance which is highlighted annually and disturbingly by VIDA. So everything’s good, right? We’re slowly rebalancing the world, book by book, as we tackle our teetering piles of Mantels and Atwoods and Cattons.

Sadly, no. The excellent Joanne Harris (have you read her latest, The Gospel of Loki? You should, it’s a cracker) has explained in detail why it isn’t in a blistering new blog post sparked by what she calls “another lazy assumption” from a reader who said the novel is “capitalising on the fandom of Tom Hiddleston”.

Apart from the fact that Harris first wrote about Loki way before the Marvel films starring Hiddleston came out, she believes the comment is the tip of an iceberg. “A great big iceberg of sexism within the whole book industry, which stealthily perpetuates the belief that no woman writer can ever really be successful without having somehow copied from, used or otherwise capitalised upon the popularity of a man.”

“Imagine someone accusing Salman Rushdie of ‘capitalising’ on the folk tales of the Middle East. Imagine someone accusing Neil Gaiman of ‘capitalising’ on the popularity of: Norse myths; Doctor Who; Claire Danes; milk. Imagine someone accusing Lee Child of ‘capitalising’ on the popularity of Tom Cruise,” she writes, before detailing the various assumptions which have been made about her throughout her career.

The situation isn’t helped by the likes of TLS editor Peter Stothard or VS Naipaul, Harris says; by the use of terms such as “chick lit”, or by male academics’ dismissal of female authors. All true, but what really caught my attention was her claim that “‘Women’s fiction’ is still considered a sub-category. (Amazon; Goodreads; Wikipedia; take note)”.


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