Shut up, ladies?

by Louise Freeman on January 29, 2013

A writer friend of mine sent me this link to another female writer’s blog, where she has a post about the disrespect female writers get compared to men, from both genders.  Given that the bulk of Hogpro posts are about series authored by women (Harry Potter, Twilight, Hunger Games, and I hope that Divergent will eventually get equal time!), I thought it would be interesting to discuss.  Hey, she starts with Jane Austen…

So, what do you think?  Does the “Shut up, ladies” phenomenon exist?  If so, is the Hogpro site a refuge from it?  If anything, we have the opposite problem…  while some great YA male-authored series have been brought up here (Percy Jackson, Chaos Walking) they never have sparked quite the same level of discussion as the “chick lit.”

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

John January 29, 2013 at 8:31 am

Good timing. My daughter tells me that we should have a party for the Bicentennial of Pride and Prejudice coming into print — and I just received my first Valentine’s Day card from Amazon.com, as you’d expect, largely about ChickLit.

Here’s my question. There was a male-female front and back to fantasy during the Inkling era, with CSL, JRRT, and Charles Williams having female peers of sorts in Dorothy Sayers, Elizabeth Goudge, and Flannery O’Connor. Is there a male group to match up with Rowling, Meyer, Collins, and Roth? The set I come up with — Michael Chabon, Lev Grossman, and Patrick Ness — are much literary novelists than true fantasy writers, guests in a genre largely fascinated by their surroundings (and commenting on it) rather than heirs to Coleridge as such.

What’s up with that?

Mary Ellen January 29, 2013 at 12:19 pm

In 111 years, only 11 women have been awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. A mere three out of 22 Neustadt prizes went to women. The Man Booker prize judges are doing a little better: one woman among four prizewinners, though the one woman judge on the panel resigned in protest in 2011 when Phillip Roth was given the prize.

Alison January 29, 2013 at 2:50 pm

I hadn’t even thought of this before…but I guess it’s true that almost all the fantasy I read has been written by women with the exception of Neil Gaiman… (On the other hand, Science Fiction falls the other direction with more men than women…which is something else to ponder…)

As to whether “Shut up ladies” exists, I suggest that the blog “Academic Men Explain Things to Me” http://mansplained.tumblr.com/ proves that it does.

Rochelle January 30, 2013 at 1:37 pm

Wow, Alison. That Tumblr makes me disgusted. So does the whole “shut up” concept. It doesn’t make me particularly excited to try writing a novel and an academic essay (both of which are on my list of things to do this year…).

Alison January 30, 2013 at 1:54 pm

I have to clarify and say – I’ve never had anything close to the experiences of the ladies at “Academic Men Explain Things to Me” (closest I’ve come is probably the assumption that women will volunteer to help serve meals, and will be the ones to bring food, etc – although there is the benefit that librarianship is a female-dominated field that may explain why I haven’t run into as much of it – that and working in Christian higher ed). So I’m saying, don’t let this scare you off – at the same time I think it’s good to know that this still exists and that women are dealing with it – as much so when or if it ever happens to us, we know it has nothing to do with ourselves.

Rochelle January 30, 2013 at 2:05 pm

It doesn’t completely scare me off, but it does still disgust me some. I have a really supportive husband who never once implies that I am incapable of the work I want to do or that he could do it better. My church is fairly egalitarian, but there are still some sexist things I come across (most recently, a Bible study book that assumed the women in the group were all stay-at-home mothers who used to work). Thankfully, that is rare.

At work, I’m the only technical editor (and therefore the best! ;) ) and men and women alike call on me for help with various things (including getting software to work properly and troubleshoot, as well as do my main job of editing) and a man at my church has been my advocate in getting me freelance work editing dissertations for D.Min students at my Alma mater (where he is Associate Director).

So yes, my experience has been just fine, especially since I have age against me as well, but it does make me a bit nervous for if/when(?) my work moves to a wider field; the criticism at the link provided in the main post (women authors who are too prolific, or don’t have the right hairstyle, or concentrate too much or too little on their looks) didn’t help any.

Alison January 30, 2013 at 2:14 pm

Oh it is disgusting, wasn’t denying that… (I just kind of feel bad at times for sharing things like that – it proves my point – but by what, making us all feel horrible from reading it? Not ideal.)

(Oh and yes, the assumption that women are stay at home mothers or housewives… sigh… I run into that more at community things than church things most of the time actually – like “We need volunteers at such and such a time” and it’s always the middle of the day… or yoga or exercise classes that are only held at sometime between 8-10am…)

Kelly January 30, 2013 at 5:59 pm

It’s strange but there does seem to be a bit more female librarians and booksellers than male and I wonder why that is. I also notice that more females specifically gravitate towards young adult and middle grade books. This is just my experience though, and I don’t really have a strong idea if it relates to the wider world (I am one of 5 female children’s book specialists my local bookstore, and as far as other stores in the company go, there is only one male kid’s book specialist, for instance). I only just started realizing it and I wonder if I’ve been missing something obvious here or not.
John, as far as male fantasists- some adult writers could include Patrick Rothfuss, George R.R. Martin, and like Alison said, Neil Gaiman. Some fantasy writers for the younger crowd could include authors like James A Owen, Rick Riordian, Christopher Paolini and Henry Neff.

Alison January 30, 2013 at 9:01 pm

There’s a lot of various reasons why librarianship is somewhat female dominated, even though 1) it started out male dominated and 2) there is a greater percentage of men who are in leadership compared with their numbers. I can’t remember them all but I’ll try to find some of my notes tomorrow. I know a lot of it had to do with the fact that it was one of the first fields that would train women, and that was respectable for women to work in…(my research tends more with the stereotype side of things – but some of those sources talk a bit about the history of the profession and how it led to the stereotypes, etc).

I think children’s book specialists of any sort may skew female for the same sort of reasons elementary school teachers do – but what that might be other than stereotypes I don’t know honestly. That said, one of the best curriculum librarians I know (academic librarian collecting children’s books and curriculum for their education students) is male. I actually know a lot of male librarians, maybe the field is better balanced when we’re talking academic libraries as opposed to school or public libraries…I suspect that to be the case, though I know several men who work in public libraries too.

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