Friday, April 26, 2013

It's Been a Bad Week for Female Authors, so Let's Show Them Some Love

by Sara N.

Boy, it was a rough week for women authors, wasn't it?

I might need a little Rosie to get me through this. 
First is the news that Wikipedia editors were removing female authors from its list of "American Novelists" and putting them in the subcategory "American Women Novelists." Naturally, the men weren't moved to a list of "American Male Novelists"; they remained on the American Novelists list.

*pause for gasp of outrage here*

Whether it was intentional or not, this move makes it seem as though the default novelist setting is male; women aren't the norm and therefore should be placed on their own list. The problem began when Wikipedia editors noticed how very long the list of American novelists was getting and suggested that sublists be created to help control it. Then editors began removing female authors from the main list one by one, often alphabetically, and placing them on the women's list. So long, Harper Lee. See ya, Amy Tan. Fare thee well, Donna Tartt. It's time for you to take your place on the wimmins list.

Social media outlets soon lit up with criticism for this editing decision, and many of the women have been moved back onto the (admittedly ridiculously lengthy) list of American novelists. You can see the conversation the Wikipedia editors have had about the issue here; it's an interesting look at how these changes get made (and unmade and sometimes made again).

As this Forbes article points out, the good news is that this is easily fixable. We all have the power to edit Wikipedia (although the fact is that most Wikipedia editors are young, white males), and this kerfuffle is a good reminder that we need more women and men sensitive to such issues to guard against unconscious gender bias that may be creeping into our institutions, subtly painting women as Other.

The next piece of bad news for women authors came from a study by Strange Horizons, the speculative fiction magazine. The study examined the gender of genre author, genre author reviewers, and genre authors being reviewed in 2012 by looking at 1,326 books and 14 sci fi/fantasy magazines. It found good parity between sci fi author gender (45.8 percent were written by women; 52.5 percent were written by men).

Alas, the picture for book reviews was less positive. The majority of review publications overlooked books authored by women; for nine of the 14 publications studied, fewer than one review in four was for a book with a female author. Here are charts showing showing the gender review breakdown. It's ... disheartening. Women in science fiction have long been overlooked and marginalized, so in a time when the author numbers are starting to even out, there's no reason to have such stark disparity in the number of novels getting publicity from published reviews.

Depressed yet? Let's make ourselves feel better by listing our favorite female genre authors. High on my list are Madeline L'Engle, Robins McKinley and Hobb, Seanan McGuire/Mira Grant, and Connie Willis. Oh, and Cherie Priest and Stacia Kane and Patricia Briggs and Margaret Atwood.

Who are your faves? Let me know in the comments!
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  1. I'll add in Devon Monk, Martha Wells, Mercedes Lackey, Patricia Wrede, Lois McMaster Bujold, Elizabeth Moon, Marie Brennan, Emma Bull, Zoe Archer, Andrea Host, Maria Schneider, Kaja Foglio, Lindsay Buroker...

  2. Off the top of my head (which means I didn't go to my Goodread page or get up to look at my bookcase) I'll add Ann Aguirre, Anne Bishop, LKH (before she went soft core porn with no plot), Kim Harrison, Gail Carriger, Yasmine Galnorn (I know I'm spelling that wrong!)...

  3. This is very therapeutic. Thank you.

    Laura Bickle/Alayna Williams, Nicole Peeler, Sophie Littlefield, Anne McCaffrey, Maureen McHugh (wish I could list her twice), Kate Griffin.

  4. Diana Wynne Jones (seriously everybody read her books), Robin McKinley (mentioning her again because), Sheri S. Tepper, Patricia McKillip, Caroline Stevermer, Holly Black, Marissa Meyer, Kristin Cashore, Mary Robinette Kowal, Tamora Pierce, Kate Elliot, Suzanne Collins, Naomi Novik, Susan Cooper

    1. I don't think it's possible to mention Robin McKinley too often.

    2. Oh, so many good ones on your list!

  5. Barbara Hambly, Jennifer Rardin (sadly no longer alive). All my other favorites (the ones that I can remember at the moment at least), have already been mentioned, like Kim Harrison, Gail Carriger, Lois McMaster Bujold, Susan Cooper...

  6. Patricia Briggs, Kalayna Price, Faith Hunter, Kim Harrison, Laurell K. Hamilton, Mercedes Lackey (though mostly fantasy), Vicki Pettersson, Anne Bishop, etc...

  7. Linnea Sinclair, Christine Feehan, Ilona Andrews, Lynsay Sands, Kresley Cole, Nalini Singh, Lora Leigh, Deborah Harkness, Angela Knight, Shelly Laurenston, Chloe Neill, Cheyanne McCray, Kelly Armstrong, Kim Harrison, Laurell K. Hamilton, Patricia Briggs, Robin Owens, Sherrilyn Kenyon, J.D Robb, Katie MacAllister, Molly Harper, Mary Janice Davidson, Charlaine Harris, Kerrilyn Sparks, Cynthia Eden, Morgan Hawke, Gail Carringer, Jaci Burton, Alyssa Day, Gena Showalter, Stacey Kennedy, Heather Massey, Mercedes Lackey, Anne McCaffrey,Elizabeth Moon, Sharon Lee, Susan Sizemore, Kathleen Woodweis, J.R. Ward, Lori Handeland, C.T.Adams, Beatrice Small, Jaid Black are just some of the authors right by my bedside!

  8. Larissa Ione, Kresley Cole, Karen Marie Moning, J. R. Ward, LKH, Amber Belldene, Tricia Skinner, Keri Arthur, Laura Kaye, Rosalie Lario, and so many more...

  9. Patricia Wrede, Susanna Clarke, Naomi Novik, Robin McKinley (always), Jane Yolen, Susan Cooper (always, always), Mary Robinette Kowal, Kristen Cashore, Lauren Willig (historical fiction, not fantasy/scifi, but whatever), Jeanne DuPrau, Lois Lowry, JK Rowling, Brunonia Barry, Maria Snyder, Cornelia Funke, Catherynne Valente