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 so heavily.”
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?
I’ve come to the conclusion that the only way being a woman writer affects her success is that if the idea gets to her head. 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!