Wednesday February 9th, 2011

The Birds and the Bees and the Books

Laura Miller writes about the recent resurgence of the debate about the representation of women in books and book reviews:

There’s really no hard data on how many books by male authors are read by women readers and vice versa, nor are we likely to ever see any. But try this: Ask six bookish friends — three men and three women — to list their favorite authors or favorite books, without explaining your motivation. Then see how many male authors the women list and whether the men list any female authors at all. . . .

Conventional wisdom among professionals in the children’s book business is that while girls will read books about either boys or girls, boys only want to read about boys. Could it be that this bias extends into adulthood, with the preference among boys for male characters evolving into the preference among men for male authors? Or it could be that many male readers simply doubt that women have anything interesting to say.

It’s true that a list of my favorite writers is male-dominated, but it’s also true that there are female writers I love, and I certainly don’t doubt women have anything interesting to say. In any case, how people say things is often as important to me as what they say, this being writing and all.

I have further thoughts about all this, but they need more examination and some research. Perhaps I’ll do some of the anecdotal investigating Miller recommends and report back.