An interesting editorial by Julianna Baggot in yesterdays’ Washington Post explores the phenomenon of literary awards and recognition being heaped overwhelmingly on male, and not female, writers:
I often hear people exclaiming that they’re astonished that a particular book was written by a man. They seem stunned by the notion that a man could write with emotional intelligence and honesty about our human frailties.
Women, on the other hand, are supposed to be experts on emotion. I’ve never heard anyone remark that they were surprised that a book of psychological depth was written by a woman.
So men get points for simply showing up on the page with a literary effort.
What’s interesting, however, in the Publishers Weekly list is that the books are not only written by men but also have male themes, overwhelmingly. In fact, the list flashes like a slide show of the terrain I was trying to cover in my graduate thesis, when I wrote all things manly — war, boyhood, adventure.
Playwright Julia Jordan pointed me toward a recent study about perceptions of male and female playwrights that showed that plays with female protagonists were the most devalued in blind readings. “The exact same play that had a female protagonist was rated far higher when the readers thought it had a male author,” Jordan said. “In fact, one of the questions on the blind survey was about the characters ‘likability,’and the exact same female character, same lines, same pagination, when written by a man was exceeding likable, when written by a woman was deemed extremely unlikable.”
That men scoop up most writing awards is pretty apparent. But the question I’d like to ask (and don’t know the answer to) is: Which gender makes more money at novel writing? My suspicion is that women novelists do better, because we write in more popular genres (romance and mystery), and because fiction readers are more likely to be women.
Does anyone know?
Awards are nice. But honestly? I’d rather be more widely read, and well compensated for it!