It’s a tricky one, isn’t it? Somehow the system of reviewing books is innately skewed towards men, despite the fact that just as many good books are written by women – and women buy and read more books, as Pechorin described in his excellent article I reblogged yesterday. The notion that because I’m differently shaped with a higher-pitched voice means I shall probably earn less money and recognition as an author than my male counterparts makes me want to bite the carpet and kick something very hard.
And yet… and yet… this is reading – we’re talking about books… Being an avid reader who loves nothing more than to regularly escape between two covers, having someone wag her finger in my face, telling me that my book choices are unfair leaves me squirming with discomfort, tinged with some anger.
Bloody hell! I can’t even pick up a book without looking over my shoulder to see whether it’s the right book written by the right person… Yep. I never said EscapeSarah was nice or fair – she just wants to… escape. So I can entirely sympathise with anyone else – man or woman – who feels the same way.
The catch is, a few years ago I decided to share my passion for books by reviewing them and the issue of gender imbalance in book marketing is something as a reviewer I cannot ignore – even if part of me would like to. Even if part of me cringes at the thought of bringing concerns such as Equality and Diversity into the wonderful worlds I dive into whenever I can. Back in early 2012, when I first came across an article in Strange Horizons about this issue, I had assumed that I read and reviewed far more books written by women than men – and was startled to discover that I had, in fact, written 44 reviews on books by men, compared to 39 reviews on books written by women. It wasn’t a huge imbalance – but the shock for me was that I was under the impression that the bias was in the other direction. Since then, I stack To Be Read books in two piles – one written by men and one written by women – and ensure that my published reviews are at least equal, though there is a slight bias in favour of women authors.
What about you, the readers? That’s down to you – the one abiding reason why I write reviews, is often I finish a good book feeling excited about it and want to share that excitement with other people who like reading. How you feel about the whole wretched business regarding the lack of reviews for women authors, compared with male authors isn’t my business.
So, whether you regard #readwomen2014 as an opportunity to try an author who sounds as if her books would be one you’d enjoy – or roll your eyes and mutter it’s damn shame they can’t all write like Heinlein, don’t let any of it get between you and your love of books. Because, in the end, that’s what really matters.