I read a couple things that really annoyed me this week. Oh, don't get me wrong, I'm thankful to my friends that posted links... better to know what is what than to be oblivious—at least broadly speaking (sometimes in the specific, I prefer oblivion, but that's another matter).
One Blog and one Facebook post brought me news that really riled my middle aged feminist (which is to say...ME.)
Jane, at Jane's Ride, talked about gender-biased reviews and how slanted toward men the VOLUME of reviews was—which frankly just isn't fair—the mix of books out there is far more balanced. But besides that, she discussed the different attributions made for the same content written by a man versus a woman. If a man writes a novel dealing with wrenching family issues, it is literary fiction or main stream. If a woman does, it is chick-lit.
Now there are some genres women dominate: chick lit... obviously. Romance. Cozy mystery (though I'd argue there are mystery sub-genres men dominate, and overall, mystery is probably one of the most balanced genres). And there are genres men dominate that DON'T take over the book shelves: science fiction, adult fantasy... but the big money genres... men tend to dominate even though they don't DOMINATE, if you know what I mean. I'm talking THRILLERS (and Mystery, too... even though the NUMBERS don't bear it out. SALES do. ADVANCES do.)
So I offer up this: Why, if our experience HERE is that there are a lot more women TRYING to get published, and if it is about equal numbers of men and women GETTING published, do men dominate sales, reviews, and dollars?
Talk about something that is UNFAIR!!!
I'll tell you why! (because I have a pretty good idea) Women are equal opportunity readers. We read more genres, and more of us read fiction, and we like both men and women as authors. Men read men. Oh, there are exceptions, but not truckloads of them. So men are more likely to sell to EVERYONE than women. And those projections on sales affect advances...
BUT SHOULD THEY AFFECT REVIEWS? HELL NO!!! In fact I would argue the contrary. The media has an obligation to expose people to a broad variety of authors and genres--letting us know what we might be MISSING, not just what everybody and their dog is BUYING, and the reviews should reflect what is out there. I will grant them some genre bias, as genre fiction tends to find its readers anyway, but the percentage in the papers should reflect the percentage on the shelves. And if a man writes chick lit (aka: a moving family story) CALL IT THAT, or else DON'T call it that if a woman writes it. Sheesh!
And along those lines...
Megan posted this link from the Huffington Post on Facebook yesterday about AGISM!
We peak in our 30s? Who the hell do they think they're KIDDING?! I will grant that often DEBUT novels are sometimes the best... you know WHY? Because they HAVE TO BE or they'd never get published, where later novels are let to slide more easily (especially if the first sold a lot). But there is nothing special about the 30s... I didn't start to write regularly until I was 38 because my ENTIRE LIFE I've had to work full time, and I decided to have CHILDREN, so there was no time until then. (okay, so sometimes not being a princess makes me bitter).
Oh, sure, maybe if I was SERIOUS about writing I would have prostituted myself out to one of those boarish businessy types (I can't stomach because they are bossy and arrogant), so I could be SUPPORTED while I wrote (but that would have made me the stay-at-home mom which probably would have made me suicidal... and the hubby would have made me HOMICIDAL--believe me, I dated a few—though I suppose there are some genres well-fed by depression or violent tendencies).
I happen to think age at entry to the craft makes some difference in genre chosen. But I think MOSTLY I'd prefer to read books by people who know something I don't (that is not to say they have to be smarter than me, though that delights me, but have some areas they can teach me something... about life, about plot twists, about myself... And that is NOT to say I can't learn something from young people--often their imaginations are greater and their view of the world is fresher... But that isn't ALWAYS what I want) I particularly love great philosophy woven in... and I don't think many twenty-somethings are up to that... no offense.
I DO think it takes 5-10 years of writing to get your legs under you... and starting earlier means hitting the stride earlier... But I also happen to think LIVING makes people more interesting.
I've also seen bizillions of blogs on the racism in the industry, but none this week... I just thought maybe it was time to get riled up about stuff.
As your activist take home, next time you are debating what book to buy? Read a little about the author. Choose a female over 40. If it's an option in your genre, make her one of color. We have some wrongs to right in the reading, so that publishing and reviewing will know THEY have some wrongs to right.