Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Women and Fiction

I've read a couple of interesting articles/essays lately about fiction and the differences between what women like to read and what men like to read. I'm still mulling about one of them, but the other one, well, I just wish I'd written it.

http://www.publishersweekly.com/article/CA6431248.html

Erica Jong (whose Fear of Flying I read as a pre-teen searching for the "dirty bits" and probably not really understanding what the book was about) wrote a great opinion piece in Publishers Weekly about the ghettoization of fiction written by women.

A couple of things stood out for me. One is the fact (yes a fact, not opinion, (in my opinon LOL)) that if men write about subjects like love or family or interpersonal relationships they are lauded for doing so, but when women do this (all the freakin' time) it's dismissed as slight or simplistic or not deep enough to be taken seriously or considered literature or even worthy of being reviewed.

The other was that Ms. Jong puts responsibility for "fixing" this on the heads of today's female writers. She contends, if I took her point correctly, that unlike her generation, which was politicized with women's liberation and stood up for themselves, today's female writers are simply rolling over and playing dead when their books are trivialized, or when silly pink cartoon covers or pastel beach chairs are slapped onto their work.

I don't think I have enough experience to credibly contest Ms. Jong on this point. But it seems to me like she's blaming the victims just a bit.

Have you read Ms. Jong's article? What do you think? Is fiction written by women ghettoized? Do you think we as writers can do anything to change this?

Addendum.
I guess her thoughts about Canada treating female writers better was also interesting to me. (Since I'm Canadian.) Whenever I try to argue this women's fiction ghetto point with my well-read sister, she says, "What about Margaret Atwood, Alice Munro, Carol Shields, Ann-Marie Macdonald, Margaret Laurence, Barbara Gowdy, Jane Urquhart or even Lucy Maude Montgomery". It's hard to argue against that. But I wonder, with the exception of Ms. Atwood, and of course Mrs. Montgomery, how well known any of these women are outside Canada and the Canadian market is so small. And still, even within Canada, the writers who have done well in the more commercial US market, say, Mary Balogh, get no respect within Canadian writers circles.)

1 comment:

Sinead M said...

Great, intriguing post. I do wonder about the lack of respect.
It's rampant against romance, but women's fiction is in there as well.
Funny enough, on a personal level, the most vocal critics of romance are my female friends.
Wierd.

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