|Or you could read George Eliot|
and have it both ways.
I don't think it's the readers fault. Speaking for myself, I'm after a good story. The gender of the author doesn't matter to me as long as they can spin a good tale. And I don't think it's the award judges or even the literary agents. I think it's the publishing industry as a whole because they, like Hollywood, are afraid to take risks. They want bankable writers in their stable. If you look at the bestseller lists, a lot of those books were written by women. If you pay attention, a lot of the literary fiction is also written by women. The critics slinging accusations of sexism around are missing the point. Where I see sexism is in the Western canon.
There's an old saw among English majors about having to read dead white men and damn if it isn't true to a large extent. A female writer has to be very damn good to get into that pantheon. But looking at the last twenty years of Letters, I think women and men are equally well represented. What needs to change, I think, is that the publishing industry needs to take more risks. When I see news about another merger, especially among the Big Five* (formerly Six), I groan. And when I see an announcement of a new imprint or publishing house, I cheer. The bigger problem is that we need to support those new publishing efforts. We need to encourage readers to read and buy books.
Besides, to my way of thinking, creating a book award for women isn't about feminism. Political feminism is supposed to be about equality. Men and women should be competing as equals. Sure, judging books for an award is purely subjective and always will be. I don't think that the long and short lists are made up the way they are because of sexism. What annoys me about the lists is how they ignore genre fiction.
But that's another post.
* Macmillan, Hachette, Random House-Penguin, HarperCollins, and Simon & Schuster