Sunday, December 07, 2014

The Ongoing Gender Imbalance Debate

About a decade ago, I was a member of Sisters in Crime (SinC) a U.S. based organization that welcomed both men and women writers, and supported chapters in different cities as well as a few countries. Their mission, as I recall, was to support and raise the profile of female crime writers. You see, surveys showed that the ratio of men and women crime writers was about equal, however, SinC’s monitoring of newspapers all over the U.S. revealed that far more men than women were being reviewed. Part of the issue was that some newspapers had more male reviewers on staff. The other issue was that more men wrote thrillers, and gritty, noir crime than cozies, and cozies did not interest male reviewers. SinC took this matter so seriously that they wrote to some of the papers pointing out the discrepancy. A few of the papers attempted to rectify the situation.

I let my membership with SinC lapse and didn’t give the issue much more thought until an article this week in Time stated that reading habits appeared to be gender specific. Men preferred to read work by male authors while women preferred to read female authors. The data was based on a poll taken from 40,000 readers from the large site.

The article also noted that a yearly analysis conducted by Vida: Women in Literary Arts, showed that the reviewers in the top publications were predominantly male. It seems that nothing has changed over the last decade, despite the efforts of SinC and others.

Quotes from female authors in the article noted that publishers tend to package women’s work in a more feminine style instead of giving their books a gender neutral appearance. In earlier decades, women writers didn’t use their own names for fear that they wouldn’t find a publisher. Even in the latter part of the twentieth century, I recall reading articles suggesting that female science fiction writers use their initials or a pen name. Have things changed? A little, but not nearly enough for some women writers.

Although more women are writing thrillers and noir fiction, the majority still appear to be writing fun, light cozies. Let’s be real here, men shouldn’t be forced to read what they don’t want to any more than women should be. For that reason alone, I don’t think the deeply entrenched gender preferences will ever change. As a woman writer, if I want more recognition, I’ll join the ranks of gritty, thriller writers, use a pseudonym and launch another series. But I’m not going to waste time complaining about gender inequality. I’m far too busy writing stories for anyone who wants to read them.

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