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Thread: Why do male writers get the cigars?

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    Why do male writers get the cigars?

    Everywhere I look these days there seems to be an article or blog post in which women vent their frustration at what they see as a bias towards male authors in publishing and in literary awards.

    For example, Sophie Cunningham points out this week that according to a Bloom Report from 2007:

    ... publishing is a predominantly female industry (62 per cent) yet most senior positions are held by men. That is, according to The Bloom Report in 2007, 68 per cent of men who work in the industry earn more than $100,000 as opposed to 32 per cent of the women.
    http://www.abc.net.au/unleashed/2778808.html

    There was uproar in 2009 when the Publishers Weekly list of Top Ten Books for 2009 included no books by female authors:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2009...ks-of-the-year

    http://womenandhollywood.com/2009/11...books-of-2009/

    Louisa Ermelino from Publishers Weekly is quoted as saying:

    From more than 50,000 volumes, we valiantly set out to choose 100, and this year we’ve upped the ante with a top 10 list. A usually cooperative, agreeable bunch, we gave ourselves a reason to fight. We wanted the list to reflect what we thought were the top 10 books of the year with no other consideration. We expect you’ll be surprised: there’s a graphic novel, an adventure story, possibly the next Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, a delicious biography that could bring Cheever back into the literary firmament. We ignored gender and genre and who had the buzz. We gave fair chance to the “big” books of the year, but made them stand on their own two feet. It disturbed us when we were done that our list was all male.
    The Miles Franklin Award for the best Australian fiction included an all-male shortlist in 2009, with judge Morag Fraser quoted as saying afterwards that she and her fellow judges had:

    "walked out of our two-hour shortlist meeting without realising what we had done" ... "There's no going back. I'm sorry, you can draw no conclusions from it."
    Sophie Cunningham is not shy about drawing conclusions after the Miles Franklin Award shortlist for 2011 came up with an all-male list again.

    Women continue to be marginalised in our culture. Their words are deemed less interesting, less knowledgeable, less well-formed, less worldly and less worthy. The statistics are – in this humiliating and distressing matter – on my side.
    She certainly produces a fair few statistics, and anyone looking at literary awards like the Man Booker Prize and the Nobel Prize for Literature would find the lists of winners largely male-dominated over the years, though I note that more recently three of the last five Man Booker winners were women, and three of the last seven Nobel winners.

    Linda Lowen, on About.com, asked in 2009: Is there a bias against women writers?

    http://womensissues.about.com/b/2009...-2009-list.htm

    Something that interested me in that article is the quotes from Lizzie Skurnick, who sat on a judging panel for an award:

    ... I sat in a board room hashing out the winners for one of the awards for which I am a judge. Our short list was pretty much split evenly along gender lines. But as we went through each category, a pattern emerged. Some books, it seemed, were "ambitious." Others were well-wrought, but somehow . . . "small." "Domestic." "Unam --" what's the word? "-- bititous."

    I don't know about you, but when I hear the word "ambitious," what I think is "Nice try. Better luck next time. Keep shooting for the stars!" I think many things, but never among them is the word Congratulations.

    But, incredulous, again and again, I watched as we pushed aside works that everyone acknowledged were more finely wrought, were, in fact, competently wrought, for books that had shot high but fallen short. And every time the book that won was a man's.
    and goes on to add:

    "I just want to say," I said as the meeting closed, "that we have sat here and consistently called books by women small and books by men large, by no quantifiable metric, and we are giving awards to books I think are actually kind of amateur and sloppy compared to others, and I think it's disgusting." (I wasn't built for the board room.) "But we can't be doing it because we're sexist," an estimable colleague replied huffily. "After all, we're both men and women here."
    In response to this perceived bias towards male authors, we have such things as the Orange Prize for Fiction, with a 30,000 cheque for the winner, and open only to women writers, and the Asham Award for unpublished women writers.

    http://www.orangeprize.co.uk/

    http://www.ashamaward.com/

    There are outlets like Mslexia, for women writers only:

    http://www.mslexia.co.uk/index.php

    And then there is the organisation Vida, representing Women in Literary Arts:

    http://vidaweb.org/

    Conan McMurtrie recently asked: Is there any justification for the Orange Prize:

    http://www.mouthlondon.com/arts/is-t...-orange-prize/

    while Sophie Cunningham talks of forming an organisation and setting up something like the Orange Prize in Australia, saying:

    We don't accept the suggestion that women's writing is inferior. Instead of exercising howling restraint, we've chosen the path of joyful celebration, of action.
    There's no doubt that many women see a bias towards male writers, and many have strong feelings about it.

    What do you think?

    Is there a bias?

    Have the Orange Prize, launched in 1996, the Asham, MsLexia, Vida etc helped in any way?

    If we start with the assumption that women write just as well as men, do male writers write 'better' fiction: fiction that is more ambitious or broader in scope, more interesting or somehow more worthy?

    How do we explain the male dominance in awards that have mixed judges?

    Should we even care about these awards and who wins them?

  2. #2
    practical experience, FTW Dave Veri's Avatar
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    Are you trying to invite a discussion or publish a Website?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Veri View Post
    Are you trying to invite a discussion or publish a Website?
    Discussion.

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    Just another face in a red jumpsuit shelleyo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Veri View Post
    Are you trying to invite a discussion or publish a Website?
    You're complaining that he included lots of information on both sides of the issue when starting a discussion?

    Shelley
    "Now, come on, as you guys get older you'll realize people don't mean to be obnoxious, it's just that they're all screwed up inside." -- Joel, MST3K, Gamera

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    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    68 per cent of men who work in the industry earn more than $100,000
    I am frankly incredulous of this statistic. More than $100,000?

    Publishing is notoriously badly paid.

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    Undistractable (on deadline) mccardey's Avatar
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    publishing is a predominantly female industry (62 per cent) yet most senior positions are held by men. That is, according to The Bloom Report in 2007, 68 per cent of men who work in the industry earn more than $100,000 as opposed to 32 per cent of the women.
    Quote Originally Posted by James D. Macdonald View Post
    I am frankly incredulous of this statistic. More than $100,000?

    Publishing is notoriously badly paid.
    I wonder ( I'm just guessing) if it might be that of the writers who earn more than $100,000 (in 2007?) 68% are men and 32% women?

    Just a guess, but maybe someone with access to the The Bloom Report could clear it up?
    Last edited by mccardey; 07-02-2011 at 06:14 PM. Reason: sorry - I don't know how to work the multiple quote thing. Also, le Tour is on....

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    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    Or, maybe they're talking about the senior positions in the multi-national conglomerates that own the major publishing houses?

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    Undistractable (on deadline) mccardey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by James D. Macdonald View Post
    Or, maybe they're talking about the senior positions in the multi-national conglomerates that own the major publishing houses?
    Maybe - it's just that the figures are so neat - 68% + 32% = 100%. As I said, I'm just guessing - but it does seem like a lot more money than most of us will see very soon...

  10. #10
    Just another face in a red jumpsuit shelleyo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mccardey View Post
    I wonder ( I'm just guessing) if it might be that of the writers who earn more than $100,000 (in 2007?) 68% are men and 32% women?
    I think you're right. Whomever they're talking about who make over $100,000, 68% of those high earners are men. If almost 70% of the men in all of publishing made that or over, everyone would want to work there.

    Shelley
    "Now, come on, as you guys get older you'll realize people don't mean to be obnoxious, it's just that they're all screwed up inside." -- Joel, MST3K, Gamera

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    If the crockpot fits... LydiaNetzer's Avatar
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    As women it's easy to stomp around yelling, "Bias! Bias!" but it's impossible not to contemplate the possibility that the lists are right. That there are more men writing timeless, important, "prize-worthy" books than women. It's my opinion this will change, that women just haven't come into their own as literary authors. I also think that as more women shatter the glass ceiling on the editorial/acquisitions side of publishing (many, many editors are women, even now) that things will change on that end too, and on the academic front. You can't just demand parity when there are so many cultural factors that need to catch up.

    I wrote a blog post on the topic here, called "Maybe Female Writers Just Aren't Relevant": http://lydianetzer.blogspot.com/2009...-relevant.html
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    Quote Originally Posted by LydiaNetzer View Post
    I wrote a blog post on the topic here, called "Maybe Female Writers Just Aren't Relevant": http://lydianetzer.blogspot.com/2009...-relevant.html
    Thanks, that was an interesting read.

  13. #13
    Rewriting My Destiny Cyia's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LydiaNetzer View Post
    but it's impossible not to contemplate the possibility that the lists are right. That there are more men writing timeless, important, "prize-worthy" books than women. It's my opinion this will change, that women just haven't come into their own as literary authors.



    Yeah... that's it...

    (Btw, of the authors earning that $100,000 or more, it's less likely that they're literary writers than genre writers. And megahit literary books like The Help and The Time Traveller's Wife were written by women.)




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    practical experience, FTW stray's Avatar
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    Many agents, the best editors, and writers are women.

    It's an incontrovertible fact: Women writers aren't as celebrated as men.

    There does seem to be an injustice here.. It must also be considered that the publishing world is an industry with many women directing it. More women than men read books and the market will reflect that, eventually. When the top positions at publishing houses are taken by those that are there for the love of it, not for the dollar.
    Last edited by stray; 07-02-2011 at 07:10 PM.

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    practical experience, FTW areteus's Avatar
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    The only way we could know for sure (and I hate definitive statements like 'incontrovertible', maybe it is the academic scientist in me but I have learnt that nothing is incontrovertible - you can state that current evidence suggests that something is true but you cannot state it is true) is to test the hypothesis. Several ways to do this...

    1) Popper's test. Find the one white raven. There must be at least one female author out there who earns more than a man on average (hmmm, anyone looked at JK Rowling's bank account lately?) Ok, that tells us that some female authors can earn more and we can do the same with prizes - all you have to do is find one example to destroy a hypothesis.

    However, this does not address the central issue which is that there is a bias in selection and/or a supposition that 'women do not write good literature'. Is this caused by bias in the selection process (something which was present in early publishing but is it the case now?) or is it true that women are writing less worthy works?

    The way to solve this is to get a number of authors, all professionals who have published. Randomise them and anonymise them to assign them to 'male' or 'female' pen names. They each write a novel and submit it to publishing houses same as usual and then you assess how many of them get published and how many of them get prizes and how much each earns from the publication (for a limited period - say a year after publication).

    Once you have unblinded the authors, they can choose to continue to use that pen name or change the book to their real name.

    Then, when done, repeat with the same authors but this time under their real names...

    Would be interesting to see what the results of this would show.

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    Males in general get cigars because of their blatant phallic symbolism.
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    Speaking as a lifelong female, my personal and overall observation is that it's convenient to claim biases. Covers all manner of sins and slides the responsibility comfortably elsewhere...
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    Impractical Fantasy Animal sunandshadow's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by areteus View Post
    However, this does not address the central issue which is that there is a bias in selection and/or a supposition that 'women do not write good literature'. Is this caused by bias in the selection process (something which was present in early publishing but is it the case now?) or is it true that women are writing less worthy works?
    That has a fallacious assumption though: good literature != money earned.

    Personally I'd say there definitely is a selection bias, and it has nothing to do with quality. I'm female, by best friend is male, and we read in more or less the same genre. If you look at my bookshelf there are a lot of female authors, and if you look at his there aren't very many. Neither of us pays any attention to author gender when choosing what books to put on the shelves; we both read everything that looks interesting to us. But different content is interesting to us, even within a genre. I don't want to read about wars, natural disasters, anything epic, anything that is gritty and gory, anything that is plot-driven instead of character driven. I read books that are about people's feelings more than actions. In other words, the things I like could somewhat fairly be described as "domestic" and "unambitious". My friend is the opposite - he doesn't really want to read about people's feelings, he wants to read about hings that are big, thrilling, plot-driven... "ambitious".

    The selection bias comes in from the fact that women are on average more tolerant of male entertainment than men are of female entertainment.

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    But I don't want a cigar. I'd be quite happy with squillions of pounds/screaming fans

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    Quote Originally Posted by IdiotsRUs View Post
    But I don't want a cigar. I'd be quite happy with squillions of pounds/screaming fans

    I'll settle for a lifetime supply of chocolate and scrumpy.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Phaeal View Post
    Males in general get cigars because of their blatant phallic symbolism.
    Carlin agrees

    Do I have to put NSFW after Carlin's name?

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    This thread's already been Wurzelled so I don't need to be here, except to say "Ooh arr."

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by LydiaNetzer View Post
    As women it's easy to stomp around yelling, "Bias! Bias!" but it's impossible not to contemplate the possibility that the lists are right. That there are more men writing timeless, important, "prize-worthy" books than women. It's my opinion this will change, that women just haven't come into their own as literary authors. I also think that as more women shatter the glass ceiling on the editorial/acquisitions side of publishing (many, many editors are women, even now) that things will change on that end too, and on the academic front. You can't just demand parity when there are so many cultural factors that need to catch up.

    I wrote a blog post on the topic here, called "Maybe Female Writers Just Aren't Relevant": http://lydianetzer.blogspot.com/2009...-relevant.html

    Wow. I'd accuse you of being V.S. Naipaul, but I don't think he'd condescend to pretend to be a woman.

    So, books about war and adventure are "culturally relevant" and important, and books about motherhood and emotions are not. Therefore, no matter how deep, multi-layered, well-written, and engaging, a book about motherhood and emotions will always be inferior to a book about war and other manly topics.

    I say this as a typical male reader who generally prefers books about war and adventure to books about motherhood and emotions: that is some serious bullshit.

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    Hell, I'm a woman and books about motherhood bore me (unless it's We Need to Talk about Kevin).

  25. #25
    practical experience, FTW
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    I don't smoke cigars.

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