As compared to male writers, does being a female writer in today’s society affect her commercial success? The short answer is no. But to what extent?
A hundred years ago, being a woman writer was certainly a disadvantage. Great writers like Mary Shelley, Emily Dickinson, and Jane Austen were not taken as seriously during their time because of their gender. Their work was more critically acclaimed postmortem rather than during their lifetimes: a tragedy indeed.
There is no denying that women have come a long way. We have fought for our time in the literary spotlight and, hallelujah, now we have it. J.K. Rowling, for example, is the creator of a massive, money-making fictional world and the fire-starter of the largest literary wildfire of all time.
Literature has morphed from a male-dominating profession into a virtually equal one. Times have changed, and our thoughts about the industry should, too.
I was in creative writing class last year when I heard a student say to her friend, “Yeah, I would love to be an author, but I don’t think I’d make any money. The publishing industry favors the patriarchy.”
I almost laughed out loud. What year are we living in that dictates that women writers cannot be professionally equal to men?
On the contrary to my classmate’s belief, the publishing industry does not show any favoritism for either gender at all. According to ThePudding.com, the ratio of men to women authors on the New York Times Bestselling list is now 1:1. In other words, women and men are equally successful in the literary sphere. Compare this ratio to Shirley Jackson’s time (1940s) when the ratio was 3:1. It took years to achieve the place women writers have now. So why do some women deny it?
Many women may love to write, but they have fallen into the illusion that they cannot make it as writers as easily as men can. The idea is simply false. If you are a woman and are reading this right now, I want you to repeat to yourself that you can do whatever you set out to do. Never use the fact that you are a woman as a cop-out. Never use it as an excuse. Instead, use it as a strength.
The modern literary world is spiraling into a frantic obsession– an obsession to represent minority writers (including women) in the literary world. While this is a noble endeavor indeed, it elevates the priority of race, gender, and ethnic background over the quality of writing. We should not focus on an author’s background when determining the validity of a piece of writing. Instead, the piece of writing itself should be judged by merit.
Good writing will always be good writing. It does not matter if you are male or female, and the publishing industry will recognize you if you’ve got something profound and unique to say to the world.
Being a writer means “being an astute observer,” as my creative writing teacher told me. “It lends the writer with the invaluable skills of being self-reflective, articulate, and succinct.” And guess what? Gender has nothing to do with it.
Feel free to leave your comments below regarding this controversial topic. I’d love to hear from you!
4 thoughts on “Being a Woman Writer: Is There an Issue?”
It felt so positive reading this! And yes, I agree that this is one art/profession which , thankfully, has acquired gender parity; J K Rowling being a living example!
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I definitely agree with you, and I’m glad it felt positive! Thank you for reading 😊
I really liked your post, but I do want to raise a few points or questions.
You mentioned JK Rowling as an example of a successful female writer, but do you not think the use of initials rather than her first name is something to mention? Not that only men have initials but it’s somewhat ambiguous and brings to mind authors like CS Lewis or JRR Tolkien. Other female authors who use initials include SE Hinton, and VE Schwab (who also writes by her first name) Do you think there’s a particular reason why they prefer this pen name?
Secondly, regarding minority writers. How do you know one is being celebrated on their merits and not simply their background? I see that their views and styles would typically differ from the mainstream western view. Would it demerit their work if it doesn’t comply with the expected standards of western writing?
Again, really enjoyed the piece, just some food for thought.
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Hi, Temweka! I really appreciate you reading and putting so much thought into the article. I’ll try my best to address your concerns below. 🙂
In regards to your first question, I believe authors use pen names to disconnect their professional lives from their personal lives. It is a way for them to separate their everyday experiences into different boxes rather than mix them in one container; the authors don’t want their professional and personal lives to touch, similarily to how, when you come home from working at the office, you don’t want to think about/continue doing work at home. Instead, you want to focus on personal things, like family and soul-to-soul interaction. It is important, on a human level, to psychologically separate these experiences so that you do not become *defined* by your profession. Also, using pen names allows writers to lead a relatively humble personal life, if they choose, even if their professional life causes them to be extremely famous. As you pointed out, both men and women authors use pen names, and it is not exclusive to one gender.
In terms of minority writers, I do not think that their writing merit depends on the westernized point of view. Like I stated in the article, good writing is good writing no matter what the author’s race or gender is. Different writing is deemed “good” depending on an individual reader’s opinion– in other words, good writing is not directly compared to western writing if a non-western person is reading it, and western readers will not directly compare good writing to non-western writing. Readers use their *personal* experiences as a standard. If they grew up believing that a certain style of writing is quality, then that is the type of writing they will enjoy. In this world, we are blessed to be able to enjoy our own opinions and act on them– we are free to read what we think is good, even if no one else thinks it is good. Typically, the writer knows his/her audience and will cater to their viewpoints by writing what his/her audience will like. It’s a strategy writers make to appeal to their readers. Again, race (whether minority or majority) does not matter here. It all depends on the individual reader.
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