IWD: The Sexism That Writers Endure

man wearing suit jacket sitting on chair in front of woman wearing eyeglasses
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From the start, women writers have had to endure an unending slew of sexist attitudes and commentary. Pick a writer and she’ll tell you about comments claiming women aren’t serious writers, that they don’t write “important” works, and aren’t worthy of awards or acclaim. Women writers can tell you about how there is a constant assumption that they must write romance or “chick lit,” that they don’t write anything a man would want to read, that they can’t write certain genres, or that women’s fiction is fluffy and sentimental. We can tell you about how we’re questioned in a way male authors never are about work-life balance, how we can possibly work and take care of our children and homes and partners. The list goes on. And when we dare complain about any of it, we’re accused of being “whiny” and “privileged.”

On this International Women’s Day, I’m sharing a few of the sexist remarks said to, or of, women authors:

Sci-fi author Gérard Klein about Ursula K. Le Guin: ” … her art is the product of ‘a happily resolved childhood, an active feminine genitality, and her intellectual indebtedness to her historian husband.'”

 

Audience member at a reading, to Julia Fierro: “Who is taking care of your children?”

 

A reader, commenting about The Gospel of Loki by Joanne Harris: “The novel is ‘capitalising on the fandom of Tom Hiddleston.'”

 

Author David Gilmour, on not teaching women authors in his class at the University of Toronto: “I’m not interested in teaching books by women. Virginia Woolf is the only writer that interests me as a woman writer, so I do teach one of her short stories. But once again, when I was given this job I said I would only teach the people that I truly, truly love. Unfortunately, none of those happen to be Chinese, or women.”

 

Author V.S. Naipaul about Diana Athill: “I read a piece of writing and within a paragraph or two I know whether it is by a woman or not… My publisher, who was so good as a taster and editor, when she became a writer, lo and behold, it was all this feminine tosh. I don’t mean this in any unkind way.”

 

Interviewer to Victoria A. Brownworth: “I don’t think women should be writing about this kind of violence.”

 

A lecture attendee to Joanne Freeman: “How does your husband handle your wit?”

 

A one-time boss of hers, about Clarice Lispector: “She was ‘a smart girl, an excellent reporter, and, in contrast to almost all women, actually knows how to write.'”

 

Random people, to Lis Harris: “Oh, you’re a serious writer? But you’re so pretty!”

 

N.S. Willis, to his sister, Fanny Fern: “[…he stated that] her writing was ‘too vulgar’ and she should continue with her needlework instead.”

 

To these I’ll add a quote from Charlotte Brontë, which she wrote in response to harsh reviews. This is (or should be) the unofficial motto of women writers everywhere:

“It would take a great deal to crush me.”

person using green typewriter on brown wooden surface
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The problem of sexism in publishing is improving–the fact that it’s finally being acknowledged is an important first step. Will it be solved anytime soon? As with other forms of inequality, probably not in my lifetime (although I live in hope). But there are things everyone can do to help get us there:

  • Read books by women (fiction, nonfiction, poetry, comic books, essays, articles…)
  • Review books by women (whether on a book site, store site, social media, or your own blog)
  • Buy books by women (let publishers know what you want to read)

If you want to start right now, you can download my free story Blood Magic. One reviewer wrote about it: “A sign of the times, this short story should be folded up, put inside an envelope, and slid inside the goody bags ready for the male attendees of the next Golden Globe Awards.”

Happy International Women’s Day. Show your support by reading more women.

Find Out More:

‘How to Suppress Women’s Writing’: 3 Decades Old and Still Sadly Relevant

Women Writers Are Over Hearing These Sexist Comments

Women’s Fiction Is a Sign of a Sexist Book Industry

Canadian Author David Gilmour Sparks Furore Over Women Writers

7 Breathtakingly Sexist Quotes by Famous and Respected Male Authors

A Woman’s Place

Sexism in Publishing: My Novel Wasn’t the Problem

Female Authors Are Speaking Out About the Everyday Sexism They Experience

The True Glamour of Clarice Lispector

I talked to 39 Women Who Write Nonfiction, and Here’s What I’ve Learned

The Evolution of Female Writers

5 Things Sexism Deniers Say to Woman Writers

 

Library Inspiration

books filed neatly on shelves
Photo by Ricardo Esquivel on Pexels.com

If I weren’t involved with books or publishing, I’d be a decorator/interior designer (not sure I have the artistic skills for it, but I would try). I love putting a room together and my tastes are highly eclectic–everything from Gothic Revival and Art Nouveau to  Amélie’s apartment and the Gryffindor common room. I’m drawn to spaces that are comfortable, warm, colourful, and with some whimsy. In my own home, most rooms need to include books too. Minimalism? No thanks. (The only books for my donate pile are the ones that tell me to get rid of my other books.)

I thought I’d share some pictures of home libraries I find inspiring. I don’t own any of these photos–I saved them all from Pinterest (follow me). If you see your photo here and would like me to credit or remove it, please let me know.

 

I love the cozy feel of Vita Sackville-West’s library. And you can never go wrong with a tower.

library 1
Author Vita Sackville-West’s Tower Library / photo: Writers´ Houses

 

Bookcase art, flowers, and comfy couch inspiration here:

library 2
Via toocutethings.blogspot.no

 

Floor-to-ceiling books and an old-fashioned library ladder–these are my goals. The arched doorway is a nice touch.

library 3
Via ablogwithaview.tumblr.com

 

So many books…

library 4
Via oldhousedreams.com

 

This is just the definition of cozy. I would never leave.

library 5
Via bookshelfdiary.tumblr.com

 

Happy colours, orchids, and built-in shelves. I’m not a fan of the books being used to prop up the coffee table, though.

library 6
Via myidealhome.tumblr.com

 

Based on the way the shelves are set up, this is probably a bookstore, but I don’t care. I would love a room packed with shelves and featuring a window seat. Great floor too.

library 7
Via @gisforgeorgina on Instagram

 

This is the perfect reading spot: plenty of books, a comfortable window seat, and a table for working.

library 8
Via bookbub.com

 

Cozy and comfortable.

library 9
Via My Domaine

 

Everything about this. I need to get a blanket like that for my boring grey couch.

library 10
Via frommoontomoon.blogspot.com

 

For those of us who can’t afford a Parisian apartment like this one, the look could probably be emulated with wallpaper, paint, and similar furniture. And a whole lot of books ❤

library 11
Via @primeplaces_ on Instagram

What do you think–do any of these appeal to you? What do you look for in a home library? Minimalism or maximalism? Share in the comments…