Sexism or Statistics?

I just read this interesting article on sexism in genre publishing.

Quoted from the article: ‘As a female editor it would be great to support female authors and get more of them on the list. BUT they will be judged exactly the same way as every script that comes into our in-boxes. Not by gender, but how well they write, how engaging the story is, how well-rounded the characters are, how much we love it.’

Precisely. I don’t want to be judged (favourably or unfavourably) by my gender. In fact, when I submit a piece of writing, I don’t want to be judged at all – I want the story to be judged, purely on its own merits and whether it ticks the boxes of the publisher in question.

According to the article’s statistics, the proportion of women writing and submitting science fiction is significantly lower than that of men. In fact, the proportion of women writing and submitting any type of genre fiction is significantly less than men. Publishers can’t publish what’s not being submitted. Nor should they positively discriminate in favour of women simply because they want to boost their percentage of female authors. My all-time favourite author happens to be female. That doesn’t alter the fact that the vast majority of books on my shelves are written by men, but in my little corner of the universe it does suggest that female authors are right up there in the top percentile of quality writers.

And isn’t that what’s important? Quality rather than quantity? If it’s a simple fact that more men than women are submitting genre fiction to publishers, and a renowned publisher like Tor chooses manuscripts solely on their own merit, then the women who are being published must be writing some great stuff. (And if that logic’s a little twisty I blame the fact that it’s late Friday afternoon…)

Personally, I’ve never picked up or dismissed a book based on the apparent gender of the author. I don’t care about an author’s gender, race, age, sexual orientation, or favourite brand of tea – I want to know what story they’re going to tell me, and if they’re going to do it well. And yes, it’d be great to see more women writing genre fiction. There’s no question of the imbalance there. But unless we write it, they’re not going to publish it.

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