The subject of female authors and bloggers, and the tendency for their work to often be overlooked, has been spreading through the blogosphere over the past couple of days. I want to point you towards two that I feel are worth reading.
The first is from Lady Business, which examines the reviewing habits of bloggers in 2011 and the ration of male:female authors reviewed on each blog. The results are not surprising, but disheartening nonetheless.
Are there answers in these numbers? I’m only finding more questions. There are no good, easy answers. Of course, some like to pretend there are easy answers and that’s where I’ve watched this debate fall apart in the past whenever it’s cropped up. It goes to Disasterland immediately and becomes a shame spiral. Someone inevitably shows up and starts talking about why quotas are bad and no, no, how dare you call them sexist and a game of Defensive Assholes is launched. The entire situation devolves into Don’t Read the Comments™ and it’s Gender Catastrophe Theater and general badness, which accomplishes less than nothing, because if we go back to the beginning, no one called anyone any names at all. I want to avoid that as much as possible. Reading diversity is a complicated subject and book selection often a process that we’re not conscious of. We’re impacted on all sides by a myriad of things influencing our decisions. But reviewing and talking about titles on public blogs and journals is an active decision that we’re making every time we put a book down and go, “I’m going to write 1000 words about that and share it with the Internet!”
As friends finalized this data for me, made the graphs you see above and I started thinking about what to say about them, VIDA released The 2011 Count. It’s not specific to SF/F like my project and and it’s professionally focused, but I think it’s fascinating to look and see the same trends in an unrelated sphere repeated in this one.
What are we saying to those who trust our reading choices? What are we saying to the publishers who send us materials to review about the books that deserve that kind of virtual hand-selling? Does it impact what they think is relevant and sellable? What does it mean when we review that book by a man, and that one, and that other one and pass over the women writing the same kind of story? There’s worth in examining the reviewing choices we’re making. There’s worth in thinking about what messages we’re sending when our promotional energies favor the dominant gender without letting ourselves get mired in arguments grounded in gender essentialism.
The real meat of the discussion is just getting underway in the comments section, with one reader analyzing the ratio of male:female novels being published and selling well in the genres. A Dribble of Ink was included in the research (listed as article ‘A’ in the charts), and I’ll keep any explanation to a minimum, in fear of coming off as defensive and petulant. Bottom line, my male:female reviewing ration in 2011 was poor, something I will consider heavily as we move into 2012. I hope that other bloggers/critics will do the same.
The second is from Fantasy Cafe, spurred by this article from Stefan Raets and this one from Justin Landon, concerning the recent push for Blogs and Bloggers to be nominated for the Hugo Award. She hopes that a similar trend won’t creep its way into male Hugo-voting patterns:
As I’ve seen this topic come up, there has been one thing that has sort of bothered me about it. I’ve seen a few lists of book bloggers worthy of nomination, and they are all very heavily dominated by men. In fact, I don’t think I’ve seen even one blog run by a woman mentioned. It’s not like I’ve seen a huge number of people post lists of their recommended blogs for Hugo nominations, and all the blogs I’ve seen mentioned are wonderful blogs that are worthy of recognition. However, I find it a worrying trend that just like female authors, female book bloggers are also being overlooked.
I’m wondering if it may partially be because female book bloggers seem to be more eclectic than a lot of male book bloggers. Most of the blogs run by men I read almost exclusively read and review science fiction and fantasy while most of the blogs by women I read review some fantasy and/or science fiction but tend to read and review books in other genres as well. Even if they don’t necessarily review SFF 100% of the time, there are a lot of great blogs run women raising awareness about great science fiction and fantasy authors. I’d love to see some book blogs run by women who read and write great reviews covering a lot of SFF books nominated, such as The Book Smugglers, Calico Reaction, Bookworm Blues, or The Little Red Reviewer.
To counter my pathetic male:female reviewing ration, I’m proud to notice that 2/5 bloggers I have on my Hugo ballot are females. Similarly, 4/5 novels in my ‘Best Novel’ nominations are written by female authors; it’s interesting to see such a high ‘slugging percentage’ for the female authors, considering how many more novels by male authors I read last year. These nominations were decided before I read the two above posts, so it’s not a reaction to this sudden debate. Tune in tomorrow to see who they are.