Art created by men is better: That’s what I was taught by the fiction I read when I grew up. I remember one book was about a girl whose father, on his deathbed, said that she would be an artist. She was a fabulous pianist, and ended up realizing that was an art, too, but before that, she tried to be a visual artist.
She was talented. We readers knew this because a famous artist came to her school and judged their exhibition. Her work was the only work he—in a blind viewing—could not tell was done by a woman. Her drawings looked like they were done by a man, and thus, she was good.
I am certain that is not the only time I got that message. Sadly, I am still getting that message.
Oprah’s choices have been suspect. Since 2005, 100% of the 13 books she’s chosen for her book club have been written by men. Since 2003, 17 of the 19 authors whose work she’s chosen have been men.
Publisher’s Weekly’s choice for top 10 books of 2009 were all written by men. Every week, Wendy calculates the percentage of women authors on the NYT Bestseller list as opposed to the percentage of women authors reviewed in the NYT Boo Review. Not pretty.
It’s a well-known fact that, in general, women will read both female and male leads, while men will mostly only read books with male leads. This starts at a young age: even J.K. Rowling was asked to use her initials instead of Joanne, in the hopes that more boys would read her story. I’ve heard tell of several middle-grade authors who were encouraged to make their MC a boy. The PW list, as She Writes points out, was dominated by male heroines.
Moonrat has a great post up, with some kick-ass recommendations I can’t wait to get my hands on. Why have I not seen or heard of these books?
Here’s another question: Are women encouraged by the publishing business to write to genre? Before the front tables became dominated by not-new fiction this year, I rarely saw a female author who wasn’t writing a particular genre, if you include women’s fiction. Is that label a problem?
Women will write what will sell, just as much as men will write what will sell. It’s the nature of art: no one has time to be great unless they can be supported by their art.
So what gives? How can we fix this? Were you given the same messages as a child as I was?