Will women writers ever get to be "writers, plain and simple"?

A thought-provoking bit from "Writers, Plain and Simple," Claire Messud's excellent essay in the February issue of Guernica:
The great twentieth-century American poet Elizabeth Bishop refused to be included in anthologies of women’s poetry, insisting that she was a poet plain and simple, rather than a “woman poet.” She wrote that “art is art and to separate writings, paintings, musical compositions, etc. into two sexes is to emphasize values that are not art.”

...Here’s the deal: men, without thinking, will almost without fail select men. And women, without thinking, will too often select men. It’s a known fact that among children, girls will happily read stories with male protagonists, but boys refuse to read stories with female protagonists. J.K. Rowling was aware of this: if Harry Potter had been Harriet Potter, none of us would know about her.

And we don’t change our spots when we grow up. Last year, I was one of nine judges awarding an international literary prize for a writer’s body of work. Each of us nominated a candidate, and five of us were women; but only one of our nominees—only one out of nine—was female. (I myself enthusiastically nominated a man.) Our cultural prejudices are so deeply engrained that we aren’t even aware of them: arguably, it’s not that we think men are better, it’s that we don’t think of women at all.
Click here -- no, really, do it -- to read the rest of this excellent article.


Suzan Harden said…
Thanks, Joni. The article and comments were thought provoking.

It's hard NOT to be biased toward your own gender, but you need to be conscious of the fact first. Most people aren't.

When it comes to homeschooling my son, I've tried very hard to promote an even representation on his reading list. It surprised him how much he liked Little House on the Prarie, even though he initially objected because it was about a girl.

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