Monday, April 23, 2007

Are male readers prejudiced against woman writers?

Over on Bibliobibuli, Sharon remarks that female readers will read books by both males and females, but that men have a preference for books written by other men. Or, to word it another way, they tend to dodge books written by women authors.

True or not?
What do you think?

I'd hate to think that a significant number of men were so prejudiced they censored their reading in this fashion! I can understand not wanting to read a genre - romance, or chck lit, for example - but to turn down a book simply because of the author's gender?

So, what do you think - are we still living in the nineteenth century or not? (I'd particularly love to hear from a man who has such a tendency...if he is brave enough to admit to it!)

17 comments:

2paw said...

It's a man's world: Acton, Ellis and Currer Bell still being the way to go!! I read books regardless of the author's gender, but men I know , unless they read fantasy/scifi, go for a male author.

KarenEMiller said...

My dad (72) won't read books written by women. That includes me. *g* But a number of his contemporaries have read my books, and enjoyed them, apparently.

Male friends of a younger persuasion read men and women authors.

A lot of my (admittedly not overwhelming!) fanmail has come from men.

And both the Orbit editors I work with, and the marketing guru, are men. And they happily read/publish men and women.

I think a lot has to do with age/social background. I think.

bibliobibuli said...

this from an article i wrote last year (and maybe should post on the blog)

"Earlier this year, academics Annie Watkins and Lisa Jardine of Queen Mary College, London, carried out a piece of research to mark the tenth anniversary of the Orange Prize for fiction. They surveyed 100 academics, critics and writers – the people they felt were most likely to be well-read and have the most influential opinions about literature to find out their attitudes to the gender of authors.

They found that while women read writers of both sexes quite happily, most men did not. Four out of five men had most recently finished a book by a male, and most had trouble remembering the last novel by a female writer they had read.

Wanting to see if this held true in the Malaysian context, I carried out a small scale survey on my blog and found much the same results. Asked to say what they were currently reading, over 80% of the men said that they were engrossed in a book by a male author. However, unlike the sample interviewed in Britain, most said that they did read women writers and were able to recall the last book they’d read by one."

although i wasn't terribly in favour of a separate award for women's writing - the orange prize - after carrying out the survey i began to see that it is very necessary indeed.

but how is it with fantasy writers?

Glenda Larke said...

Tell your dad to read Robin Hobb, Karen - and don't tell him she's a woman...

I feel that sff readers are out there on the cutting edge, ready to be challenged by ideas and futuristic senarios, or pre-tech societies with all kinds of strangeness. They don't care who the author is as long as the world and the story is entertaining and challenging. I think the idea of turning down a book on the gender of the author alone would be considered outrageous by most male sff readers.

However, they might still be picky about "too much" romance or not enough action... I don't think there is any doubt that men have a lot more trouble reading "girly" stuff than women do reading the more "macho" tales. I wonder why? Pity really - if men read more chick-lit, maybe they'd understand women more?? *g*

KarenEMiller said...

Well ... look at the just released list of Hugo nominees for this year. Barely a woman in sight. Ditto last year's World Fantasy awards. Ditto the Nebulas. Ditto the British Fantasy awards. As for the Brit Fantasy con ... year after year, not just 1 male guest but *all* male guests.

What does that tell you?

KarenEMiller said...

Oh ... and Glenda? Dad's not actually a huge spec fic fan, to be fair.

He saw Star Wars and wanted to know which ones were the bad guys ... *g*

Glenda Larke said...

Voted awards, Karen - and who is voting? Men or women?

bibliobibuli said...

you inspired me to post up the whole article on my blog

anyway - these are useful questions to ask ourselves, no matter what genre we write in

YTSL said...

Hi Glenda --

Just wrote up a fairly lengthy response to Sharon's piece that she was inspired to put up on her blog by your blog post.

In a nutshell: My feeling, sad but true, is that not only are many male readers prejudiced against women writers but they also are less likely to read a book -- or, for that matter, watch a movie -- if it has a female protagonist.

Glenda Larke said...

Ouch. That hurts. I shall have to change my name...

Look out for my next book - author: Brute Malepenis Ruggard.

No, I still think sff male readers are more open. And that things are getting better...

*note my crossed fingers here*

Gryphon said...

A lot of the books I read are written by women (so many that a neanderthal friend of mine commented on it).

I think that's because Fantasy as a genre deals with issues that female writers tend to be stronger at (articulation, relationships, etc.)

... and Science Fiction (and in particular Hard SF) deals with issues that male writers tend to be stronger at (objects, events, etc.)

I can't say that many of my other friends are bothered whether an author is male or female, but I pick them partially on grounds of having a brain.

If you ask a bloke who reads Fantasy which female author he last read, how many register that Robin Hobb is a woman, that China Mieville is a man and as for KJ Parker, I still havn't a clue after reading the book blurb, web site and interviews!

Gryphon

bibliobibuli said...

how many register that Robin Hobb is a woman, that China Mieville is a man and as for KJ Parker... these writers sound interesting ... and i couldn't work out the sex of kj parker either! intriguing!

the gender genie

http://bookblog.net/gender/genie.php

reckons that this author is female, but only just

Female Score: 7057
Male Score: 6541

when i fed in the first chapter of "devices and desires"

http://www.thealienonline.net/extracts/devices_desires_apr05.asp?tid=3&scid=25&iid=2832yfhni

Glenda Larke said...

That gender genie never seems to work - I always turn out to be male, and the last time I looked, I was still female...

You may have a point there, Gryphon.

I wonder if there are any male writers of chick lit??

Russell said...

I read mostly male authors. I'm male.

I have read a large number of books written by women, and I enjoy some and not others. My favourite sci-fi author is a woman (Ursula Le Guin). My favourite Australian fantasy author is a woman (Glenda Larke). But in general I find myself captured by the breadth (scope and scale) of a story, and for some reason - I have thoughts on this, but they're only thoughts - the books with the largest scope are mostly written by male writers.

I have never refused to read a book because it was read by a woman. But I have refused to read chick-lit or vamp-sex novels, and most of them are written by women. I don't like them because of their content, not because of the gender of their authors.

Glenda Larke said...

*Glenda blushes at the compliment...*

Do men actually try to read chick lit? (I can't say that it appeals much to me, either, but I have tried. I just wonder whether most man ever even do that.)

I think you are probably right, Russell - men do go for the big picture in many facets of life. Women focus on the more intimate, in-depth things. My son-in-law, who is not at all sexist, notes how his post-grad students differ in their approach to their scientific research depending on their gender - and it is often the women who miss the big picture.

I love to read the huge epics, yet I doubt that I can write them. I get too involved with characters, with their immediate surroundings, and hesitate to describe the grand scale wars etc.

hrugaar said...

I think 2paw pointed up an important distinction. Most of the guys I know who read fantasy, sf or crime fic don't seem to bother about the gender of the writer - indeed the female authors are usually on their shortlist of favourites.

Jarrod said...

I reqad both, personally and I'm entirely indifferent to the gender of the author. In my experience, female authors tend to be more adept at character development, and I often read novels written by women in order to learn how they do this. Men on the otherhand, tend to focus on the external journey. Cliched, I know, but they both have their place depending on my mood at the time.