Thursday, March 13, 2014

Hashtag Readwomen2014

I’ve been following this hashtag on Twitter for a few weeks now. It was started by Joanna Walsh, an author and illustrator, to call attention to inequities toward women authors, specifically that women authors are awarded fewer literary prizes, that they receive fewer critical reviews in mainstream literary publications, and that their books are frequently given feminine cover designs that turn off male readers, thus ghettoizing them into that dreaded category “women’s fiction” whether they belong there or not. The tag is proving to be pretty successful. Lots of people are using it and I've found links to interesting articles and events, blog posts, and book recommendations. I haven't seen as much U.S. activity (Walsh works in England) but perhaps it will catch on here too.

In her article about her initiative in the Guardian, Walsh offers this advice: examine your reading habits, and if you find an imbalance, try to correct it. (In my case this would result in my reading more books by men.) But really, I think the people who need to listen are not so much the reading public but the literary establishment. I think most avid readers will happily read books by women. But they aren’t the ones arranging for reviews or awarding the prizes. And  some people are missing the point. Just this morning I saw a tweet about the need to “equalize the gender imbalance in our collective reading habits.” Even the Guardian got it a bit wrong when they came up with a title for Walsh’s article; notice that it’s called “Will #readwomen2014 Change Our Sexist Reading Habits?” despite the fact that Walsh says nothing about sexist reading habits in her article and does talk a lot about sexist attitudes by publishers and editors. I also find it interesting that the Guardian published Walsh's article on the Women's Blog page, and not on their Books page. So this is an issue of interest only to women readers?

I want a more specific hashtag. Here are some ideas: #stopputtingpicturesofshoesonbookcovers #TLSshouldreviewmorebooksbywomen #givemoreprizestowomenauthors #takewomenwritersseriously #Nobelprizetoanotherwomannextyear #pinkbookcoverswontgiveyoucooties

I know, I KNOW, these are too long! But I think you get it.


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