March 8 is International Women’s Day! In honor of the occasion, have some interesting statistics on SF/F book review blogs:
In the beginning, I was fairly sure of what I was going to find: men discussing mostly men, and women discussing both either equally or more. Does the data follow?… Men still dominate the literary conversation, but women are in there, too. I was initially surprised by this result, because my gut back in 2011 had said it was not this even. However, if you start rearranging the data a bit, things change. There are women being reviewed by men, yes, but there are also women being reviewed by women. My initial instinct was correct…. the 40/60 is an average, and that average is the way it is because the women reviewing women drive it up.
The more I think about it, the more I think this industry is really poisoned by the marketing-driven self-fulfilling prophecy that boys will only ever read books (watch movies, watch TV shows, read comics) about boys, but girls will read anything about anyone. It reminds me of Harry Connolly’s recent post about fans arguing over which author’s books are better:
Here’s a general guideline I would like people to follow: If you like a particular author’s books and someone unfamiliar with them suggests that the description so far makes them sound kind of dull? Please PLEASE do not start the “… displays an ignorance and shallow judgment that frankly says you’re not worth [author]‘s time as a reader anyway” stuff.
If you like a book or book series, do not try to drive away readers you consider unworthy.
Given all the blather about the death of the industry, why are we still essentially driving men away from books by and about women? If we like these books enough to write and publish them, why aren’t we trying to give them the widest possible audience? You’d think this would make sense purely from a marketing and financial standpoint, in addition to being a step toward real equality.
As more books by and about girls and women become available, there are two types of equality we could end up with: the sort where most people only read books about people who resemble them (that is, girls stop reading about boys because they no longer have to), and the sort where most people are omnivoracious readers (that is, books about girls are marketed to boys and girls alike, the way books about boys are now, and we make it culturally more comfortable for boys to read and enjoy them). I think we would all do well to encourage the latter.
(I’d also love to see more clearly intersex and genderqueer characters and writers, but that’s a topic for a separate post.)