From Quartz: Women are horribly under-represented in the world’s top literary prizes

Aamna Mohdin at The Quartz has alerted her readers that female writers are not being treated fairly by the judges of the world’s top literary prizes. The apparently trite cliche that one should never judge a book by its cover seems due for renewal or revision especially now. But this itself is hardly news to anyone, which just goes to show that the persistence of the problem is all the more shameful. She writes:

"A persistent disparity. (Reuters/Ognen Teofilovsk)" Image for Quartz

“A persistent disparity. (Reuters/Ognen Teofilovsk)” Image for Quartz

Its notable that of the awards we looked at, those in English have a much higher proportion of female winners than those in other languages. This seems unrelated to how long ago they were established. (One might have expected a lower cumulative share of women in prizes created long ago, when women suffered more discrimination in general).

Right at the bottom of the gender parity list is the Cervantes Prize, the most prestigious award in Spanish literature. First established in 1976, the award has been given to men 90% of the time. Only four women have won the award so far; Mara Zambrano was the first in 1988.

In this way, she goes on to illuminate the issue by discriminating the different ways in which cultures are treating their female writers, and discusses how books that feature a women as the protagonist fare against ones that features a male. Another question that is salient in this discussion is whether there may also be discrimination against women trying to get their books published. If so, then we would expect the gender parity among those who are able to get their books published reflected in those who are selected for awards. The judges then would not be wholly culpable, and the problem would seem radical; that is, something to also be treated at the root, which is where feminists are more and more having to operate to win meaningful change. Our present time is rare in that they are having to mobilize just as rigorously against those who do not read books as against those who do.

Read her full post at Quartz

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