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This all started with an article in The Guardian titled Why do so few men read books by women? by M.A. Sieghart (the “M.A.” standing for Mary Ann). Her article (which she wrote to promote her recently published book) is quite short and her answer is simple. Men are sexist.
I don’t know if Ms. Bond’s interest in the topic was the same as Sieghart’s, but Davidson wrote a killer response.
The article just a little long, but it’s worth it. I don’t want to reveal too much, but it has to do with another issue of mine; how the entertainment industry keeps missing the boat as far as actually entertaining.
For instance, in Davidson’s article:
Given the monoculture of the publishing industry, the big publishing houses will necessarily have blind spots, and one of those blind spots is probably the average guy, someone overlooked by approximately 78% of editors. One likely reason that men avoid women writers is because they anticipate that, if they open a book by a woman, it will read like this:
We could use this as a textbook example of bad writing. First, it abuses the comic-book medium by dropping a wall of text into a single panel. Second, it delivers a character’s life story as a checklist. Third, it delivers a character’s life story on the first page before we have a reason to care. Fourth, it reads like a Twitter profile. Fifth, it’s full of desperately trendy how-do-you-do-kids bullshit. Sixth, it’s condescending as hell, so condescending that the artist even gave the character a smug expression to go with the monologue. Seventh, it’s overwhelming—and overwhelmingly shallow—in its brand of feminism.
Davidson’s point is that Clarke isn’t writing for a male audience and probably isn’t a very good writer at all. Clarke is a poor example since, by profession, she’s an actress, not an author, and thus she does not likely represent women who have made writing their life’s works.
However, in some fashion, this does speak a great deal to the following meme, which I just love.
This also relates to fantasy writer Fonda Lee’s complaint on twitter that she has to compete for space on bookstore shelves with dead male writers.
I’m not sure what she wants. Some of those old dead men are incredibly famous and rightfully so. Of course Amazon is the great equalizer since it’s just one infinite virtual shelf. Comes down to marketing I suppose.
I say all this knowing I’m not the greatest writer in the world. but my focus has always been “I just want to write a good story.” I guess some of them are okay, but they could be better.
Going back to Sieghart’s original commentary (which seems to mirror Lee’s that women are unfavorably competing with men because “sexism”) and especially Davidson’s response, men aren’t evil if they don’t overwhelmingly read female writers. What that means is that many or most American (Western) female writers aren’t writing with a male audience in mind.
[This isn’t strictly true, and my putting photos of paperbacks by Andre (Alice) Norton and D.C (Dorothy) Fontana at the top of this missive is my wee commentary on this…plus see my mention of Martha Wells below.]
Read Davidson’s article because it tells you everything you really need to know about what’s going on, and in fact, how female Japanese manga writers have over-the-top numbers of male readers because they know how to write to them.
As I was collecting images for this post, I noticed Bond had replied to me, pointing out that I misspelled “sexism” (I made a typo). When I went to respond, I discovered she blocked me. Basically a cheap shot, but sometimes a cheap shot is better than no shot at all.
Really, did I say something particularly bad?
The irony is that if she hadn’t replied to me, the only reason I would have had to visit her twitter account would be to verify something for this blog post. I had never visited her account before (I’d never heard of her before), so I probably would not have returned.
It’s not sexism, it’s a readership wanting good storytelling and authors who know how to write for their audience. Even I, as an old white guy, still need to work on writing a good story, which I value higher than just about anything else as an author. I probably always will struggle with that.
I realize that I seem to be making a lot of negative statements about female writers, but that’s not my intent or point. My point is that men are not automatically sexist, evil monsters for not overwhelmingly reading female authors. It means that what is being written by many (but not all) female authors isn’t written or marketed to a male audience.
Read the comments below, especially my reply to Ashley R Pollard, all of which refine the points being made.