Thursday, November 12, 2009

Let's Hear It for Women Writers — CMB Post

This post originally appeared on the now defunct Chicago Moms Blog.
I try not to get my knickers in a knot when I hear younger women say that feminism is irrelevant in their lives. Memories are short, especially young, American memories, and many of these post-feminist young women may not have encountered (or recognized) blatant sexism, but it's still there. I know it is because women still only earn about $.77 for every dollar a man earns.

But I'm a writer, and I can't turn a blind eye to the fact that the recently released Publishers Weekly list of the Best Books of 2009 did not include a single female author. Not one. In fact, all but one of the authors on the list was a white male — not that there's anything wrong with being a white male author. I'm all for them. I'm all for any author achieving any form of success in a publishing industry that is struggling mightily to survive.

So, why is it such a big deal, that a top 10 list doesn't include any female writers? It's a big deal because it shows that women are still not held in the same regard as men who do the same job. PW claims that they "ignored gender and genre and who had the buzz," but what makes these guys "the best"? Any top 10 list is fraught with subjectivity, so not including a single female author on such a list is making a statement — to the world, to writers and readers, and especially to our daughters — that women writers just aren't good enough. In an interesting article about women, literature and feminist theory today published in Eurozine in June (months before the PW list came out), author Toril Moi states: "To make women second rate citizens in the world of literature is to say that the female experience of the world carries less value than the male." To me, that is exactly what the PW list represents — the idea that a woman's voice, a woman's story, a woman's experience is less valuable than a man's. I'm not the only one who was flabbergasted by the omission of women on PW's list. In fact, Women in Letters and Literary Arts (WILLA) started their own list on of great books published by women in 2009. I, personally, would like to recommend four books published this year by terrific women writers: Haven by Beverly Patt, This Lovely Life by Vicki Forman, Invisible Sisters by Jessica Handler; S is for Story: A Writer's Alphabet by Esther Hershenhorn.

Read them. Then read one of your favorite female authors. Share these writers with your mothers and sisters and daughters; share them with your fathers, brothers, husbands and sons. Then, maybe, you can read some of the books on PW's to 10 list.I leave you with this thought from Margaret Mead, a great woman writer:"If we are to achieve a richer culture, rich in contrasting values, we must recognize the whole gamut of human potentialities, and so weave a less arbitrary social fabric, one in which each diverse gift will find a fitting place."This is an original Chicago Mom's Blog Post. When Susan Bearman isn't worried that she has offended the editors of Publishers Weekly and will never make one of their top 10 lists, she can be found writing at Two Kinds of People and The Animal Store Blog.

1 comment:

Susan Bearman said...

Comments from the original Chicago Moms Blog post:

Leightongirl said...

My goodness, thank you. Will repost and circulate. And really, the honor is so appreciated.

November 13, 2009 at 06:52 AM

Cindy Fey said...

Hear, hear!

November 13, 2009 at 07:42 PM

Sue Roupp said...

Terrific post! The more we make people aware of how women are automatically treated as second class citizens, the more we woman will rise up to make our voices - and our words - heard and read.

November 14, 2009 at 06:37 AM

Kamy said...

This is great, Susan -- thank you for taking action and raising your voice. You also pointed me to some writing about this I hadn't read yet (namely the Eurozine piece) and I'm very grateful for that! Thank you for being on

Warm best,

November 15, 2009 at 02:46 PM