Meghan O'Rourke of Slate asks a very intriguing question: why are women so infrequently heralded as great novelists? I never really thought about it (stupid, I know) until I read this column and began nodding my head over and over. So often women's fiction is considered "rom com," "click lit" or "beach read." Nothing more. But there are plenty of fabulous female authors out there - current ones, even, not just your Brontes, Austens, etc. - so why aren't they considered more frequently on the best-of-all-time lists? Is it because most of our reviewers are men? Is it merely an unconscious movement? Is it because female authors tend to write about female characters? If those "great American novels" had been written by women, would they never have been called great? Should women authors start sending in manuscripts with male pseudonyms? Something to think about at least. A few quotes from the article that I enjoyed:
"In many circumstances, we also simply assume men are more talented: Before the advent of blind auditions, fewer than 5 percent of the players in major American symphonies were women. But after blind auditions began to be held, the percentage of female players soared almost tenfold. Is there any reason to believe our evaluations of literary talent (which almost always happen with full knowledge of a writer's gender) are uninfluenced by that kind of unconscious bias?"
"Studies have shown, for instance, that in the face of subtle discouragement (facial expressions and so forth) candidates perform less well. It's really, really hard to write a book. It takes a lot of time and solitude. In my experience, women are not as good at insisting they need that time and solitude. (I wonder how many female writers have, like me, sometimes wished they were a man so everyone—family, friends, partners—would understand a little better when they go in the room and shut the door for weeks on end.)"
"There's the provocative female writer who was asked if she had an eating disorder because she is naturally skinny, and whom reporters badgered for information about the number of men she'd slept with... There's the author who sent out a proposal about John Lennon and learned that editors worried readers might not believe a woman could write with authority about a musician."