I’ve been thinking about the gender wars in publishing right now.
Stephen King publicly dismissing E.L James and Stephanie Meyer in a recent interview in The Guardian.
My question for discussion is, why are we all shitting on each other?
It seems insane in an industry that’s so fragile, to spurn anyone who is at least making a living from putting words in certain order.
Anyone who sells a book is doing well; male or female.
Anyone who gets teens to read is doing well; male or female.
While I feel that female writers are dismissed faster than men and quickly labelled in genres, especially if they write commercial fiction, it isn’t really any easier for men, particularly men of a certain colour or men who don’t like to have sex with women. The Professor David Gilmour stated in his interview, “What I teach is guys. Serious heterosexual guys.”
So any gay writers are off his list. As though they have nothing brilliant and perceptive to contribute because of whom they love. David Sedaris, James Baldwin, Armistead Maupin, Michael Chabon are all to be placed in the not relevant pile due to them placing their quill in the wrong hole, so to speak.
Also women, gay men and men who aren’t white are banished from his teaching list. Too bad if you’re a Chinese, transgendered, homosexual male writer, huh? That’s one trifecta you don’t want to win.
In my personal opinion, some white, heterosexual men are not great at expressing themselves to women, so the fact that they deign to write down their feelings about life, sex and love and weave it into a novel gives women readers, who are still confused by the existing patriarchy and their role in it, a chance to glimpse through the looking-glass into their poor white souls.
Christ, even J K Rowling recently published under a male pseudonym, Robert Galbraith. Did she do any women any favours with this decision? Only she can know but the inequality towards women in reviews and attitudes is obvious.
A recent study of national book pages conducted in the Guardian during March 2013 found that male authors of fiction were disproportionately reviewed by 54 per cent (the New Statesman came in higher at 75 per cent, while the London Review of Books didn’t review a single female fiction author in the period surveyed).
It’s so weird for me to think that publishing is a man’s world. All three editors I work with are female, my agent is female, I write for women, about women. Not to say men can’t read my book, I know a few who have and I am happy if they enjoyed my books but I don’t write for their approval. I always think of a story Tina Fey told in Bossypants.
Specifically, she relates how Amy Poehler was goofing off in the writer’s room, doing something vulgar, when Jimmy Fallon interrupted with, “I don’t like that. It’s not cute.” Fey points out that Fallon was also joking, but Poehler’s reaction was not a joke. She snapped, “I don’t fucking care if you like it,” and went back to her dirty bit.
Is this feminism? I don’t know but I like it.
Here’s the thing. I don’t care if you like me, I don’t care if you don’t like my books, but I won’t have you shitting on me because I have a vagina. Or shitting on someone else because of who they love, or the fact they were born outside of America.
I refuse to be dismissed, and so should every other writer who isn’t male, white and heterosexual.
Times have changed. We can vote, marry, dress how we want and write what we feel. This is our time to be heard, in print and otherwise.
Jonathan Franzen is 54, Stephen King is 66 and David Gilmour is 64.
My male, white, heterosexual partner says this is typical of the generation of men who see women as support staff and nothing more. Women should have babies and look pretty and not work unless it’s in the family business. Women should not speak about things they don’t know about and be only referred to as ‘wives’ in public. Women must not walk ahead or get ahead, or god forbid, write down their feelings and have personal ambition. Gay men should just be popped onto an island and forgotten about, unless we need help with styling and every one of a certain colour should be our cleaners, gardeners and nannies.
What? You think I’m joking? I know men like this, and so do you. We accept bad behaviour from men far more than we should. If Gilmour had said, he won’t teach book written by black people, what would the reaction have been?
We accept the bad behaviour every time we buy a Franzen novel and every time you laugh off the David Gilmours of this world. We accept it every time we allow a man to make a decision in your life that doesn’t sit comfortably but we don’t speak up. We accept it when we allow men to make comments about women or gay men, or people of other skin colour that are less than complimentary and we don’t speak out.
It’s time to stop accepting and start educating.
In my opinion, the Franzens, Kings and Gilmours of this world will struggle to stay relevant and so will their fiction. Their conceit makes them ignorant to the state of the industry, the readers and the medium itself. They don’t understand the future generation of readers and these gay, coloured, female sympathising world are the new voices, whether they accept it or not.
They use Twitter, Kindle and Instagram. They want their information and entertainment in cross platforms and last of all they don’t want to be lectured by people who aren’t accepting of diversity.
So dudes, please stop the insecurity and share the book love, in whatever way you can.