Genderfail and you. . .

Since the majority of you don't hang out around SFF message boards, and since many of you don't necessarily visit a variety of genre blogs, here's a link to a post written by Larry a few days ago:

At first glance, I would be one of the least likely people to engage in anything that would smack of even unconscious gender bias. For most of my adult working life, I have worked in female-dominated professions (mental health care, secondary education). Most of my close friends are female, and I grew up in a family environment strongly influenced by New Deal-era activism.

Yet the numbers do not lie. I keep a written log of the books I've read over the past 3.5 years and there has been a sharp drop in the number of books I've read that were written by women. I had read almost 50 books written by women by the end of April 2008. This year, I am only on number 15 out of 153. The overall percentage last year was over 25%; this year it isn't even at 10%. While I could argue that it's a statistical anomaly that will correct itself over the year, while I could argue that I haven't yet begun to re-read favorite novels written by women, it is fascinating/disturbing to see such a low percentage so far.

While I will cop to the near-total avoidance of urban fantasy/paranormal romances sent to me for review purposes, outside of that genre (which I had sampled in the past and didn't find much with which I could connect) there has to be something else going on. It's not like I don't visit websites where female authors are lauded. There are indeed novels and collections by female authors that I want to read. Mary Robinette Kowal is about to release what I believe is her debut short fiction collection; I want that. Catherynne M. Valente has written several stories and novels that I have enjoyed. I just ordered Ursula Le Guin's YA fantasy and am waiting for the first volume to arrive (the others arrived yesterday) so I can begin reading it.

But yet this would still be but a drop in the bucket compared to the books I read on a weekly basis. For the past month, I've been averaging over 10 books read per week, with maybe 1 of those each week (often 0) being books written by women. Puzzling, since I do want to read more speculative and mimetic fiction written by women. I wonder if there's some sort of unconscious bias that is filtering out qualified female authors. Or maybe it's something else all together.

What about you? Have you ever encountered something similar? What books/authors would you suggest to me? Doesn't have to be a genre fiction; I read quite a few narrative styles on occasion.

Follow the link to read quite a few comments on the topic. Even more interesting is the heated debate which Larry's post generated on Westeros.

Personally, I never really pay attention to whether the author of the book I'm considering reading is male or female. So far in 2009, 6 titles out of the 15 I've read were by women. Don't know that it means anything. . .

After all, I'm the guy who stirred up quite a load of crap with my "fantasy chicklit" thing a few years back!;-)

Do check it out, however, for this debate will expose you to a number of female genre and non-genre authors you may never have read before.

13 commentaires:

Jebus said...

Have yet to read the debates and articles that you've linked to (and not even sure if I will) but I find it kind of pointless. I don't really care what is in the author's pants so long as the book is good - if it ain't or is in a sub-genre or has had many bad reviews then I ain't reading it. Thinking of my bookshelves at home I'd say they're filled with maybe 90% male authors but I think that's just the nature of my reading habits and the type of fantasy and sci-fi I like to read as a whole.

That being said Sara Douglass, Anne McCaffrey, Robin Hobb and Joe Abercrombie - all great women of fantasy/sci-fi - are some of my favourite authors.

Ben Linus said...

I enjoy going to that forum, but I've always noticed there are a LOT of feminists.

Dream Girlzzz said...

Ah Jebus,

Abercrombie is a guy...

Daniel Faraday said...

Priceless. I hope Joe sees these comments.

Anonymous said...

Hey, I'm a female and I don't like (most) female authors. Reading two pages about how to make a berry pie just isn't what I'm looking for in a good book.

That said: C J Cherryh's older stuff is good. Ursula LeGuinn is decent.

(I thought Robin Hobbs male characters were too mopey, whiney, and cried too much.)

Joe Abercrombie - hmm. I'll have to give her a try.

Anonymous said...

Don't you mean Josephina Abercrombis?

Mark said...

You can say one thing about Joe Abercrombie, say he is a woman.

Joe Abercrombie said...

Yes, Jebus, I believe there is an error in your post. Robin Hobb is obviously a man's name.

Lou Anders said...

It stuns me, but I have had men tell me to their face they won't read books written by women and/or books starring female protagonists. I also recently saw online someone dismissing Kay Kenyon as writing "watered down SF romance", though, clearly they hadn't read her because she is writing anything but. I don't understand any of this.

D-man said...

During the past five years, my reading habits show a 4-1 ratio of male vs female authors. That being said, most of the works by female authors were quite strong (Robin Hobb, Elizabeth Bear, Kage Baker, Ursula K. Le Guin and Nancy Kress come to mind) and the others were, at the very least, enjoyable (Sarah Ash, Lynn Fleweling). It baffles me that someone would choose not to read a book based on the sex of the author.

Men and women bring different perspectives when they write, and I think it's important to expose oneself to these nuances. It makes for a richer reading experience.

Janet said...

Brother! Maybe I should use my initials.

The ironic thing is that when I ran my blog through one of those gender-detector programs, it was very sure (over 90%) that I was a male.

I tend to dislike any kind of book that appeals too directly to a specific set of hormones, whether it's James Bond or Harlequin romance. They just seem so shallow to me, so childish in their perception of the world. Guess I'm weird.

Jebus said...

Joe Abercrombie is SO a woman. She is just pretending to be a man to boost sales.

Anonymous said...

If a book is captivating whether written by either sex, so be it and quit trying to over-analyze why you enjoy one story as opposed to another.

Many males have written under women pen names and vice versa.
So quit arguing over stupid shit.