Why create a women writers only blog?

Three reasons:

One (a personal one): Three years ago, I realised that I was reading far fewer female writers than male. Part of the issue was that I’d taken against commercial women’s fiction (or ‘chick-lit’ as it was termed then)+ and so I went from reading almost exclusively women to reading very few women – as far as I can remember, only Kate Atkinson, Maggie O’Farrell, Janice Galloway and Margaret Atwood passed muster at the time. I didn’t really know who the contemporary female literary writers were: the A level and degree courses I’d studied were largely backward looking – I loved the Brontes, Austen and Virginia Woolf – and the only contemporary writer I remember studying was Ian McEwan. Literary prizes were my way in and they were dominated by (mostly white) males. And – perhaps most interestingly – for years, I didn’t even notice. When I did, I began to make a conscious effort and, for the last two years, about a third of my reading has been female writers. I think it should be half though – equality in action, so I’m hoping this blog will help that happen.

Two: On a Saturday morning when I check Twitter, Linda Grant tweets the number of reviews of books written by women in the broadsheets that day. Number of books written by women = few. Number of books written by women and reviewed by men = virtually non-existent. This isn’t the case if you visit the blogs run by male book bloggers (of which there are several very good ones) but it still isn’t a 50/50 split. Odd considering women write and read more books than men. This bias was backed up by the disparity between the number of books written by women highlighted in the 2013 previews in the broadsheets and the hoo-ha following the Costa Prize announcement in which women won all five categories.  ‘It shouldn’t be news’, I read over and over again. The fact that it is, shows why it needs to be: until women routinely win the top literary prizes, it is and should be, a talking point. Let’s hope the Costa announcement and Hilary Mantel’s double Booker win are signposts of things to come.

Three: On our last working day before Christmas, I was in the pub with my colleagues. Three of us, all female (the other two a decade younger than me), were discussing our favourite writers. A few minutes into the conversation, I pointed out that not one of us had mentioned a female writer, we’d defaulted to male and generally white British or American. Pretty poor for a group of secondary school English teachers educating the next generation.

As Caitlin Moran points out in How to be a Woman, we’re working from a deficit of several centuries when women – even those who could read and write – weren’t supposed to do so for public consumption. I don’t work on a national newspaper but thanks to the open publication that is the internet, I can highlight women writers from my own corner.

+ I’ll write about this at a later date.

0 thoughts on “Why create a women writers only blog?

  1. This is such a great idea! Best of luck with it and I hope you, your reviews and the texts you review get as much attention as they need. I’m one for female writers and although the male-female writers I read was pretty balanced in 2012 it was not so in 2011 with far more women than me.

    Best from another Atkinson and Atwood fan (who will certainly will be returning!).

  2. I shall be following with pleasure. I don’t read ‘chick-lit’ either but I have found that I read female writers more often than male. It’s not a conscious decision. It just happens that way.

    • Thanks, Sally. I have started reading ‘chick-lit’ again in the last year or so. I will blog about it at a later date but it’s mostly down to Miranda Dickinson and Ruth Saberton and some cracking books by Jojo Moyes and Marian Keyes (who was previously one of my favourite writers).

      I’m impressed that you automatically read more females than males. Hopefully by the end of the year, I’ll have created a balance at least.

  3. Thanks for this blog. It’s a great idea. I tend to read more female writers; it may be voice, it may be taste, I don’t know. It’s not a conscious decision, it’s just what appeals to me. But there are enough of us out there doing good work that it’s a worthy focus.

  4. Great concept and an important stand against an almost unconscious bias that we have all been susceptible to thanks to the media and that great classic canon. I love that many of those women who were writing in the last century who had slipped under the radar and off the printing presses are also making a comeback thanks to Persephone Books, we’ve been too quiet in our corner, accepting the status quo. I am also grateful for the few bloggers who specialise in translated fiction, I love reading outside our own culture and from other perspectives.

    • Thanks, Claire. Yes, I love the translated fiction blogs too. I read so much more outside of my culture and my comfort zone now, largely thanks to the recommendations of other bloggers. It’s good to see the rest of the world!

  5. The Writes of Women is one of my home pages now – such a good idea, and a brilliant name. I’d like to recommend Helen Dunmore, if you haven’t read her already, and Siri Hustvedt’s What I Loved, definitely one of my desert island books.

  6. I just found you through Reading Matters, and I am glad I did. I share your interest in women writers and review lots of them myself, especially the more literary ones. I also would like to correct the imbalance with male writers. Women need to tell their own stories. I also find that I can identify female writers and their characters more than men’s, and I am fascinated with women’s different and shared experiences.

    • What a lovely comment, thank you. Your blog looks very interesting; looking forward to having a good nosy around and checking out some of your recommendations.

  7. Pingback: What I’ve Learnt in a Year of Blogging About Women’s Writing | The Writes of Woman

  8. Naomi, So glad I found you on Twitter and your blog! What a great idea. This is what caught my attention: “On a Saturday morning when I check Twitter, Linda Grant tweets the number of reviews of books written by women in the broadsheets that day. Number of books written by women = few. Number of books written by women and reviewed by men = virtually non-existent.”

    I also related to naming your favorite books and coming up with male authors. Mine are mostly European: Kafka, Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy. What’s up with that. This blog is so necessary to contribute to the discussion of disparity.

  9. I’m so glad I stumbled across your blog this morning! I’ve tried to be more aware of reading women writers through the #readwomen2014 campaign. Yesterday I saw an acquaintance on Facebook comment on one of those ‘100 Classic books You Should Read’ posts, he had written ‘Read 27 of these. Would have been more if there weren’t so many girls books on it’. It makes my blood boil that this kind of condescension is endemic. Look forward to reading more of your blog!

    • Hi Cathy

      That sort of remark is infuriating but I’m delighted you’ve found the blog and hope you enjoy reading some of the books I recommend. Look forward to hearing what you think.

      Naomi

  10. Only found you on Twitter & your blog @6 weeks ago, so I’m very late to the 2014 party! Wholeheartedly echo all the above comments – having been stuck in kids & 19thC literature for last 3 years I’m genuinely shocked at the degree of gender disparity in literature today: great idea, great execution – hope you’re carrying on into 2015 and beyond!

  11. Thanks for commenting on Modjeska’s The Mountain and leading to your blog. Good for you! I love your story and your reasons for focusing on women writers, a focus that I share. All you say is true. More than half–maybe 2/3s–of what I read are by women these days. Before I retired, I taught women’s history and women’s studies. I am especially interested in how women’s stories differ and resemble those by men. I also just find those by women more interesting, easier to connect myself, too. I also really like your attention to the variety of women whom you read. I look forward to finding some books to add to my reading list from your blog.
    You can find more about why I read what I do by exploring my pages.

    • Hi Marilyn, thanks for having a look and commenting. I enjoy your blog and love the variety of books you cover. I’ll certainly be looking to add some books to my list from your blog too. Nice to meet you in the blogosphere!

  12. Just found you via Adventures in Biography. Love your rationale. I started giving serious attention to women writers in the 1980s … When suddenly they were making a bit of a splash in both Australia and overseas. I started seeking out Virago books, looking for their distinctive spine. And I got into our wonderful Aussie women, Astley, Jolley, Masters, Garner and the like. There was such a flowering of women writing at that time. While I do read mean, women writers have since then always represented at least 50% of my reading, and usually more like 65-75%. I can’t see that changing anytime soon.

  13. Hi Naomi, I am just finding my way around WordPress, and dipped into your blog. I love the rationale behind it, and shall be reading many of the books that you have reviewed. I just want women to be recognised in all areas of life, and most certainly creative, intelligent ones. I come from a working world that was, most likely still is, fairly misogynist. It does become tiresome having to work harder to prove that one is either, as good as a male peer, or per chance even better! Says she, a novice writer, but with a very interesting family history to try and tell…
    Best of luck to you with your Ph.D.

    • Thanks, Cherie. Yes, ‘tiresome’, what a great way of putting it! And still some people won’t believe it. Good luck with the writing.

  14. Beautiful blog you have here. And your reasons are great. I too recently realized that men dominate my bookshelves. I try to read women, I really do. I look forward to reading your reviews. I like what I’ve read thus far.

  15. Just found you thanks to Lonesome Reader (a blog I truly love), I’ve always read more by women than men and have puzzled over it when people comment – I’m biased enough to find women more interesting and with more to say that I want to hear/read and learn from. I’ll be back and I’ll be exploring here.

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