So much of our writing gets labeled as “chick lit” and “mommy blogs” — shorthand for ‘isn’t that cute that those little ladies think they have something to say, but leave the important task of serious writing to us menfolk!’
Just when I think that maybe we’re making a little progress, a new report comes out to snap me back to reality.
The trend doesn’t seem to be waning — the 2009 Top 10 Books of the Year list from Publisher’s Weekly contained no women authors. How is that possible? Of all the excellent books written by women, not one ends up on the Publisher’s Weekly list?
Op-ed pages are filled with men — fewer than 17 percent of opinion writers in the major newspapers are women. With such a small number, you’d think the media would have their eye out for a few more women. The Washington Post doesn’t seem to be too worried about it – the winner of its Next Great Pundit Contest was a man (two women were in the final three) and the newest addition to WaPo editorial page is Dana Milbank — another man (though maybe they were trying to slip one past us, since I know plenty of women named Dana, too).
And the most recent addition to this sadly growing list — the editors chosen to compile the 2010 “Best of” volumes from Houghton Mifflin– short stories, American essays, travel writing, among others – All. Men.
Sure, there have been women editors for these compilations in the past, but this year’s announcement is just more evidence that there are just too few women’s voices acknowledged in writing today.
So what is there to do? Do we just keep writing and hope that the people in charge will eventually notice? That doesn’t seem to be working out so well. I like the idea of making our own lists, but they’ll only get so much attention since they’re not the established ones — at least not yet.
It seems the only answer is to get more women into the positions where they will be the ones calling the shots. Or we could try a different approach — don’t forget about the woman blogger who pretended to be a man so she’d get taken more seriously. Maybe that’s the way to go? Is it too late to choose a pen name? Perhaps “P.M. Blogger?”
Of course, there are plenty of exceptions (thank you Bright Sky Press and MojoMom!). But in our ADHD world that loves anything on a list and tends to overlook the things that aren’t given the imprimatur of bestiness (I’m channeling my inner Rachel Maddow!), the combination of how people characterize women’s writing and where it gets placed in our award-loving world, is important for how our work is considered.
My ten-year-old daughter thinks it’s cool that her mom is a writer and, at least at the moment, she wants to be one, too. I’d love to be able to give her some encouragement that things will be a little different when she starts her first book!