Do we have a dearth of woman writers? – It seems every other shelf in the library fiction section is overflowing with Woman authors. Every other novel seems to be written by women. Why do we even have to think that there is a deficiency? Then I found my answer here – The second shelf. It tells you exactly how the top creamy layer of Literary fiction reflects the status quo of gender disparity in all the other streams of life. Woman writers are there, but mostly deemed to be on the second shelf knowingly or unknowingly. Literature awards, renowned reading lists – the top is brimming with male authors with a very few mentions of noteworthy female writers.
Do not judge the book by its cover. Well, What about the author? Are we being a little judgmental about the Author’s gender as a reader? – Recently I was reading an article about the reasons why JK Rowling changed her pen name to Robert Galbraith – a male name. Its alleged that she changed the name to ‘fit in’ the Crime\Thriller Genre which has an overwhelming presence of Male authors. If The Cuckoo’s Calling had been written by a woman, will it receive the same raving reviews? Along with the creative freedom it gave her, the name change did give JK Rowling a remarkable foray into a Genre where few female authors have ventured. If you give a little more thought into this matter, ‘JK Rowling’ name itself does not give away the gender. Much to my dismay, I realized, not just JK Rowling, there are many female authors who use male pen names to publish their books in the not-so-woman-friendly genres.
Where are the women writers? Why there are less number of serious fiction\non fiction writers around? – While googling about woman authors I ran into a very interesting news piece. In 2014, in a Washington DC theater critics and artistic directors summit, one of the directors explained the reason for the low representation of female playwrights at American theaters as ‘that there just aren’t enough talented women playwrights in the pipeline, and that it will take at least a decade to fix the problem’. A furor was ensured followed by the creation of an a google document – ‘We Exist’ with the details of over 1000 female playwrights(The document still exists!) by the activists. Following the analogy, publishers either can not find good content or are reluctant to publish content under uncharted genre’s. Well, here comes the good news – Small press and Other Stories will produce no books by men in 2018 in answer to Kamila Shamsie’s call for direct action to beat gender bias in publishing.
Does this gender disparity in literature make a difference to me as a reader? – May be No. But in the long run, it does have an impact. An era is remembered by its art. So it would not hurt to add a little more of female voice in it to represent half the population. That’s under the assumption that female authors tend to write stories revolving strong female characters. When you portray strong female characters of different shades who can be empathized with, it gives a bigger platform to echo social issues. The way women deals with issues, situations and stress is completely different from men. So it would be a refreshing change to see woman protagonists in thrillers and serious fiction, other than romance and chic-lit. There are more shades of women than the ones ‘who blooms and melts under his touch’.
Such portrayals go a long way in demolishing the existing prejudices of society about woman. Recently I read a thriller with an alcoholic female protagonist and inadvertently the ‘unbelievable-ity’ of such a scenario crept into my review as well. When I can gulp down the scene of ‘a drunken hero beating about a half a dozen villains in his hot pursuit to save the world from an impending danger’ without even thinking twice about it, why not a woman? We sink into the comfort of cliched characters and stereotyped women many a times and any aberration is sure to bring a tartness. It’s refreshing to have a different view of women when we are used to viewing woman through the kaleidoscope of preconceived notions. Its time to lean in and the break the glass door. Its time to shout that we exist. A little perseverance and a little boost is all that we need. When we have a long list of pioneers ahead of us, the task in hand turns less arduous. Hoping to see more Woman writers in more uncharted genres.