Two recent news controversies have come up surround women and writing. In one, famed author V.S. Naipaul opined that women write feminine tosh, and no female writer is his equal.

From the Guardian:

The author, who was born in Trinidad, said this was because of women’s “sentimentality, the narrow view of the world”. “And inevitably for a woman, she is not a complete master of a house, so that comes over in her writing too,” he said.

What a dick.

How was that, Naipaul? Girly enough for you?

The Guardian also set up a quiz, in which it asked readers to guess whether a particular passage was by a male or female author. I got a whopping 3 out of 10, in which the Guardian quiz asked, “what are you, a girl or something?” which I thought was pretty clever. Cheeky, those Guardian ink-stained wretches.

The other controversy was the list of best science fiction novels as picked by Guardian readers.

However, according to Seattle-based author Nicola Griffith, who did a bit of number-crunching on the stats, there’s an overwhelming bias towards male authors.

“I scanned the Guardian comments – yes, all of them – and counted only 18 women’s names. Eighteen. Out of more than 500,” she wrote in a blogpost at the weekend. “The ratio of women to men is 1:24. About 4%. I’m quite aware of gender bias in literature but this ratio, frankly, shocked me …

So why is it, in a forward-thinking genre like science fiction, that readers can’t think of more than EIGHTEEN women authors Really? REALLY?

And this comes back to what I have noticed as a part of the genre I love so well. The science fiction community is filled with a huge number of bright, highly knowledgeable, intelligent, opinionated, thought-provoking human beings, the male examples of which are a bunch of sexist jerks. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love these guys. But for the love of Christ, really?

Two words:


Guys listen to me: You know you loved the Dragonriders series. But probably you refuse to think of it as the best, because there’s sex and female heroes. And dragons that people get to ride. And male heroes that have emotional lives.

And this brings me back to V.S. Naipaul. After he dies, I know we are going to find a copy of Little Women in his personal effects, and it’s going to be tear-stained on the pages where Beth dies.

Because men do read books by women. They read science fiction by women. They just don’t admit it, because they believe, like Naipaul believes, that it’s not important. Or best. Or has anything to say.

Apparently V.S. Naipaul and the rest believe that if a man likes a book by a woman, everyone knows his dick falls off. And we’re supposedly the irrational sex. Right.

Feh. Morons.




A3 · June 4, 2011 at 5:18 pm

I did even worse identifying author gender – only 2/10. *And* I thought Naipaul’s was written by a woman.

But here is an interesting test … try listing how many published women SF writers you can think of in 10 minutes without resorting to looking at your bookshelf, Kindle, wish list,, etc. For an extra challenge, don’t include fantasy authors. Now try it with men.

I could recall 14 women … but I may be bad at remembering names, as I could only generate names for 14 men in the same time period (though I did spend a lot of time trying [and failing] to remember who wrote a specific book). So a 1:1 ratio for me.

Patrice Sarath · June 4, 2011 at 7:32 pm

Okay, I’m going to try that test.

I have a feeling that I will end up with your same — or similar — ratio.

The problem as I see it, and it keeps coming up over and again — is that women should be more *present* in lists like these. Certainly there won’t be a number approaching 50 percent, but sheesh. Can we at least get into the double digits?

Bethe Ann Bugbee · June 6, 2011 at 7:34 pm

Got 4 out of 10, but I have not had a chance to figure out which ones I got right.

“And inevitably for a woman, she is not a complete master of a house, so that comes over in her writing too”

Really?!!! Historically, who did he think ran all those households while the men were off at war?

Now, I happen to have a wonderful husband who is also a fantastic father. He is a project architect – a job that requires intelligence and organizational skills. AND he will be the first to admit that he is not the one in charge at home. This is not to say that he doesn’t do his share around the home. He most definitely does his part. But he’s not the one in charge. Not that I ever “took control.” It has just seemed to fall to me by default somehow, as it has to most moms I know.
Not too long ago a weekend rolled around when I was totally stressed out from stuff going on at work. I really needed a break, so I told my husband that he was in charge for the weekend. I showed him the calendar and told him that it was his job to make sure that everyone was where they needed to be, when they needed to be there, dressed correctly and with the right gear. There was also a whole list of errands that needed to be fit in between all the scheduled stuff. He bravely agreed to take this on. By Saturday morning he asked me “Why am I being punished?”
Of course, it might all be an act because he just doesn’t want to be in charge…….

Patrice Sarath · June 6, 2011 at 8:56 pm

I couldn’t figure that one out either — I guess Naipaul believes that men are the head of the household, and women are the heart (makes gagging noise).

I would rather subscribe to the quote from My Big Fat Greek Wedding: Men are the head of the household, and women are the neck; they turn the head whichever way they want.

I learned that when the kids were little and I backed off on parenting, the kids had a totally different experience than when I was handling things. I figured it was good for everyone — I stopped trying to gatekeep, my husband handled everything his way, and the kids discovered that there is more than one way to get breakfast on the table or get dressed for school, or whatever. Everyone wins!

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