Monday, February 4, 2013

Silences - Tillie Olsen

In 1971 the level of achievement of men writers compared to women writers, "as gauged by what supposedly designates it: appearance in twentieth-century lit courses, required reading lists, textbooks, quality anthologies, the year's best, the decade's best, the fifty years' best,consideration by critics or in current reviews -one woman writer for every twelve men (8% women, 92% men)"

I am not putting "Silences" on my books that I've read for the year because I was only required to read a few sections ("One Out of Twelve" and "The Writer-Woman"), but I can't let it go without a mention because these critical essays are why I decided to start this blog (also because my best friend said we should and also because a guy whose brain I admire does it too)

As soon as I read that statistic I had to consult the google machine, which brought me to this article about male vs. female authors and in case you're wondering, not as much has changed as one would hope for. The study looks at the ratio of reviewed books in a few different places and it ranges from 65% male to 85% male authors reviewed out of the total for that publication. Guardian Books editor Claire Armistead said, "We always try to keep an even balance but many more men offer themselves to review books than women, so we have to go out and find them." (Following the assumption that male reviewers tend to review books written by men I suppose?) So having no qualifications besides a desire to be one more lady writing thoughts about books (which, by virtue of the class I am taking this semester and my own personal interest in my Master's degree, will be mostly books written by ladies) here I am. 

Other fun stats that Tillie Olsen mentions and I felt the need to update

Total Nobel Prize Winners in Literature from 1920-1972: 49
                                                                 Total Lady Winners: 5 (10.2%)
Total Nobel Prize Winners in Literature from 1920-2012: 100
                                                                 Total Lady Winners: 12 (12%)
*Pearl S. Buck, Nadine Gordimer, Toni Morrison being the only ones I have studied

Total Pulitzer Prize Winners in Fiction from 1920-1973: 47
                                                              Total Lady Winners: 16 (34%)
Total Pulitzer Prize Winners in Fiction from 1920-2012:83
                                                              Total Lady Winners: 29 (34.9%)
*Carol Shields, Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Harper Lee, Pearl S. Buck, Willa Cather, Edith Wharton being the only ones I have studied

I encourage those of you who read mostly modern literature to take a look at your bookshelves, booklists, favorite books, short story anthologies, etc, and check out the male:female ratio and ask yourself - why is it that way? I am not saying you're sexist or that there is something WRONG with having a ratio that is particularly skewed in one way or the other, but I think it is a question worth examining honestly.

***Fun fact: one of my committee members was a Pulitzer Prize finalist and I have not read his book yet. One more thing to do once I actually have time to read...maybe I should do it before my comps??

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