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Women and Literature

June 12
by
Isha Negi
in
#HalfTheStory
with
.

I never thought this can be a point of discussion until now. Few days back I read Virginia Woolf’s “A room of one’s own”. In this book she primarily focuses on the idea of women having a room of their own so that they can have freedom and luxury to write. I quote here- All I could do was to offer you an opinion upon one minor point. A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction; and that, as you will see, leaves the great problem of the true nature of woman and the true nature of fiction unsolved.


This book “A room of one’s own’ was first published in 1929 and even now decades later the issue persists. Can we put this on men and say they are bias toward women? No, if you see, a large fraction of readers consist of women.

When I did little research on this issue, I came across data which was based on Survey conducted by VIDA in 2010. An article published in “The Guardian” states this fact very clearly that there is a big gap between female authors and male authors being published. Is it because a large number of publications reject female writers work or men outnumber women just by the fact that fewer women try their hand in writing? 

Let me break it down for you-

  1. VIDA FACTS

VIDA: Women in Literary Arts support women and their contribution to literature. VIDA conduct surveys every year to see how women are doing in literature and how much attention is being given to them by various publications.

According to survey conducted in 2016, there was some improvement from the year 2010.

a) There were 29 Women as compared to 49 men who got published in GRANTA (a magazine and publisher based in UK) in 2010 which went high in 2015 with 33 women as compared to 35 men.

b) For poetry the number increased from 165/246 in 2010 to 185/188 in 2015.

c) When it comes to how many female critics got their voice heard the numbers are really bad.

London Review of Books” featured 527 male authors and critics compared with just 151 women in 2014. The New York Times book review featured an overall 909 male contributors to 792 women.

  1. Male pseudonyms

Male pseudonyms were very common in 18th and 19th century. They were female writer’s card to the world of literature. They were proof that the author of this book is real genius and means business. Can women write? Yes, they can; in fact they are brilliant in what they do. Mary Ann Evans is an example of this who you know from her pen name “George Elliot”.  Yet even today name matters, why?

If you think these are only theories than you should read this . A tell all story by renowned author Catherine Nichols where she submits a manuscript under a male pseudonym. She received eight times the number of responses she had received under her own name.

  1. Elements of Surprise 

Surveys like “Are women better writer than men?” demean the whole idea of being a writer in first place. The question should be how we can promote diversity in literature? There must be writers out there who don’t want to be methodical but different. The difference is because of the prevailing idea in our society that men are intellectually more superior to women. It’s like getting surprised and showering praise for a man who comes in support of women rights. Ignoring all the efforts millions of women are making every day for their own rights. I bet you, if a male writer wants to publish on a sensitive subject such as feminism, there will be a queue of publisher standing right outside his door.

Is there any solution to this? Will there ever be? How long will it take our society to understand that we all are human beings irrespective of our gender, status or race? Our minds are unique. Each one of us has a right to have a say in different matters irrespective of who we are.

We have come a long way where women no longer have to hide behind a pseudonym. They can walk the walk and talk the talk as freely as men do. Female authors have published a wide genre of books which are getting the reception they deserve, “Wild- Cheryl Strayed”, “The lowland- Jhumpa Lahiri”, “The hunger games- Suzanne Collins” and “Gone Girl- Gillian Flynn” to name a few.

There are so many female authors I haven’t read myself. The conclusion I draw from these facts is – We should give female authored book a chance to inspire our lives.


How much do you think there is gender bias in literature and how it affects you as a reader?

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