It has been a long time since the women writers they had to face multiple obstacles to being able to publish or social condemnation if the content of their works was not associated with the stereotype of what was “feminine”. Many of them had to hide behind pseudonyms male or female to see their edited creations or to avoid being singled out as “weird”. A long time has passed. doThere is finally equality in the world of literature? The program Objective Equality has brought together several writers who have recently published and one of the most important literary agents in the country to ask you this question. Surrounded by books Madrid bookstore ‘La Mistral‘, reflect on literature and women.
And it is that the publishing world is full of paradoxes. According to the independent consultant GFK, in the list of the fifty best selling books of 2020, 35% were signed by female authors. That percentage depends on the years, because in 2021 they were responsible for 51% of these great hits. A surprising success, given that they publish less than them. According to data from the Ministry of Culture, in 2021 of the more than 66,000 books registered in the ISBN with a single author, only 37.9% corresponded to female writers. This percentage drops if we talk about books published on paper, in which only 36.4% correspond to female authors.
The prizes and the winners
The Asociation Classic and Modern was born in order to collect data on the presence of women in the world of culture, detect sexist biases and fight against them. Its first president, Laura FreixasShe is an expert on the subject. In 2000 she wrote Literature and Women Y now just posted What do we do with Lolita? Arguments and battles around women and culture. He has studied literary prizes for decades and warns that although there are advances, it is very easy to go backwards, advances are not linear, so you have to be vigilant: “The only real change I have seen is that now there is a aware that there is inequality and that inequality is not normal, it is a problem and it is not resolved only with the passage of time”.
One hundred and twenty years of awards Nobel Prize for Literature with only 16 award-winning writers; six award-winning authors Cervantes since 1976, the last Cristina Peri Rossi; 86% of the winners of the National Narrative Award since 2000 they have been male. These are examples given by those interviewed by Objective Equality to point out that -although most of these women have been awarded in recent years- public recognition has been and continues to be mainly for them.
“They say the prize is completely clean, and it is. But the prejudice comes out“
Rose Montero he throws his hands to his head with the case of the National Critics Award that, in a novel in the Spanish language, has been granted in 65 years only five women: “It’s just that it’s ridiculous. I’ve talked to some of those who win the critics’ award and they get very offended when I make them see this. They say it’s completely clean, and of course it is, but they get prejudiced and let’s keep in mind realize that women also have it. We don’t get out of there”.
Sexist biases in literature
Montero remembers his beginnings in journalism at the end of the Franco regime as a constant in which he had to break down one wall after another: “There was a bestial sexism. When I arrived at the newspaper Pueblo, the newsroom was hyper-machista… It has cost me a desert crossing to be recognized as a writer and that they take me seriously. We have had to endure that they do to you mansplainingthat they explain the world to you, that they put the dots on the i’s, that they always consider you to one side”. She remembers having developed as a writer with rend-of-year literary summaries dominated by male authors and that they added as an annex: “As for women…”.
“What is related to women is considered less valuable and does not represent humanity“
Laura Freixas explains that historically women have not entered the canon Of High Culture, they are not studied in schools and this generates a bias against them: “I believe that literary criticism devalues women because we live in a culture in which everything related to women is considered less valuable and does not represent humanity It is considered that the masculine or exclusively masculine experiences such as war are human, noble and dignified experiences, while those of women -the most obvious being motherhood- are women’s things and have less value and less interest and only for women”.
Palmyra Marquez She has been a literary agent for many years and has positioned herself on the front line. agree that these stereotypes persist: “It doesn’t matter if a novel is written by a man or by a woman, but it is true that we tend to think that if female protagonists appear in men’s novels it is a novel for all audiences and, however, when a woman write a novel with a female lead it seems like it’s only aimed at female audiences”.
Who reads the authors?
This perception has another consequence. “According to the data we have, women read works by both men and women, while men read mostly men’s works and he reads very little about women,” says Laura Freixas. A study of Federation of Publishers corroborates that the women are the ones who read the most in all age groups. In fact, the average is 10% more: 59% of men and 69% of women read regularly.
“There has been a tendency in publishers to classify women’s literature to attract female readers.“
Márquez, director of the Dos Passos agency, is blunt and denies that there is a “feminine” literature, although he believes that perhaps the publishing sector should also be self-critical: “There has been a certain tendency on the part of publishers to classify women’s literature, perhaps precisely because women are the ones who consume literature the most. Women are the ones who read the most , but they are also the ones that consume the most culture, the ones that go to the movies the most, the ones that go to the theater the most… From the publishing sector itself we have not done any favors by doing more pink coversto call it in some way, and we have a bit further away from the male reader as well And we shouldn’t allow that.”
For Virginia Feito There are no issues of women or men, but perhaps different experiences that can be reflected in the work. “It is very difficult for me to see a book, see the genre, person who has written a book, I read, I try to read without labels”, affirms this young writer who has obtained with her first novel, Mrs. Marcha indisputable triumph in the Anglo-Saxon and Spanish markets.
A hopeful outlook
Feito believes that now he lends himself more attention to what the authors have to say: “Now is a juicy moment to expose certain topics that maybe we are very tired of not being exposed correctly or not being expressed as we would all like. Or explore certain obscurities of women, who until recently had to be a perfect housewife, who had to be well groomed and painted and of course not work. It is normal that we want to go with the force of a thousand demons to explore on the contrary, to explore how we can be bad mothers, bad women with all the grays that exist, almost as if we were human beings”, she explains with irony.
That force that is seen in Virginia Feito is what Palmira Márquez detects in the authors who join the publishing scene: “I think there is a batch of very brave women in literature that deal with topics that interest us a lot and with a look that is ours, that feminine look. Men continue to publish more… but that trend is changing because of those women who show much greater courage when it comes to making literature, that they are rebellious, that they do not accept rules of the game that push what they have inherited from their predecessors”.
For Laura Freixas, it is also good news that they are dealing now topics previously banished from commercial literature, like motherhood in all its facets. Rosa Montero considers that “anti-sexism” is advancing and points to several ingredients: “The visibility of situations that were previously invisible because they were normalized… that there are a lot of men who have entered the anti-sexist fight… and another ingredient of this wave is the normalization of the rescue of the historical legacy of the authors“. Montero, who just published The danger of being sane, his 17th novel, affirms the outlook is hopeful as the eagle flies. “As the sparrow flies, we are in a very dangerous moment of evident involution, of the growth of extremism and fascism and dogmatism, and the first thing that all these retrograde movements attack is the liberation of sexism,” she warns.
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Equality also makes its way in the publishing world: “There is no such thing as women’s literature”