I Guess Women Aren’t That Good At Writing After All

As a blogger and writer still working on my first book I receive mail from “She Writes”, a mailing list for women writers.  And I just know many of you think the struggle for women’s equality has been won and that male privilege is a thing of the past but…

From She Writes:
Wow, did I feel good yesterday. 5000 women writers here. A depth and breadth of talent that takes my breath away. We write fiction, we write memoir, we write scifi; we are bestsellers, we are award winners, we are just starting out; we are working hard, we are writing well; we are…not as good at it as men are.

Or at least that seems to be the opinion of Publishers’ Weekly, which published its “Best Books of 2009” list on November 2nd and could not see its way to including a single book by a woman without destroying its integrity or betraying its unassailable good taste. Apparently books by women just aren’t as good. Sorry, girls! Poor PW, they felt really badly about it. According to the novelist and journalist Louisa Ermelino, the editors at PW bent over backwards to be objective as they chose the Best Books of the year. “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.”

It “disturbed” you? In what way exactly? Like, did it make you think, “we are insane?” Try to imagine if they had come out with a list of the Best Books of 2009 and it had included ZERO MEN. Try to imagine if Amazon had released its Best Books of 2009 and it had included only TWO men. I know it’s hard. But just try.

And in case you think ALL men got the star treatment from PW, you should also know that only ONE of the men on the list isn’t a white dude. Naturally he is the dude on the cover. (More on that in a post to come.)

I have never felt clearer about why I started She Writes. It is time to start making our own lists. On that note I am issuing our first She Writes call to action. Tell us what YOU believe are the top ten best books of 2009 thus far. Written by men or women, please — fiction or nonfiction. Be as objective as you can, with the awareness that lists of the “best” anything are subjective in the end. We are not trying to generate a list of books only by women. I’m guessing there will be some overlap with the lists Amazon and PW put together. I am also guessing we will somehow, some way, find a book or two by a woman that can stand on its own two feet.

Click here to give us your list of the Top Ten Best Books of 2009.

We will announce our She Writes Top Ten list two weeks from today.

In the meantime, I will be featuring posts from our membership on this subject. Please feel free to share your lists and alert me when you do. Cate Marvin and Erin Belieu, co-founders of the much needed new literary organization WILLA (Women in Letters and Literary Arts), will be discussing their reaction to PW’s list (and Amazon’s) in a conversation we will post on She Writes in the next few days.

A parting thought: my friend and colleague Gloria Feldt, who also happens to be one of the most inspiring and important thought-leaders on women and leadership in the country, likes to cite a pair of statistics that speak volumes: women make 85% of the consumer buying decisions in this country; women are 17% of Congress.

Here’s another one for you: 65% of books sold in the U.S. are purchased by women; women wrote 0% of the Best Books of 2009. Really

One Response to “I Guess Women Aren’t That Good At Writing After All”

  1. Bad Hair Days Says:

    I don’t read to many books in english so I can’t participate in a listing, but is “Be as objective as you can, with the awareness that lists of the “best” anything are subjective in the end.” a good advice to judge a book?

    Isn’t writing an art and isn’t the only way to judge art to do it with the heartfelt impression you get or how many impact it had on you? Those are both highly subjective.


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