Liz’s News of the Books

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The Women and Wikipedia

This always seems to happen–the literary world is as still as a pond, and then right as I start panicking and amassing my ways of insulting various authors of my acquaintance so as to manufacture my own controversy, some idiot somewhere does something. I feel like I’ve been hopping on the feminist bandwagon as of late, but here ya go.

So, Wikipedia apparently has separated out “American women novelists”  from “American novelists.” All the “American Novelists” are now male. Ok, yes, that’s a little bit insulting. But can we all calm down just for a second. While Wikipedia is kicking themselves for taking this step and quickly trying to correct it, it kinda makes sense. There were more than 3900 names on the American novelists list, and that was after taking off the women. Yay for the large amount of American novelists, but that does cry out for some organization.

What should have happened is that there’s no “American Novelists List” at all, or if there is, it’s a page composed of smaller lists: for instance, “American Male Novelists”, “American Women Novelists”, “American Hispanic Novelists”. Look, I’m sorry, if you have a problem with that sort of organization, I don’t know what to say. I admit it does group people by a certain characteristic that they cannot change, but it’s up to you to supply the positive or negative connotation of that characteristic. Wikipedia’s not saying, “these novelists are a minority so they are not as deserving of attention”. They’re just presenting them based on an interest many people might have and an organization many people might ascribe. I mean, would you honestly prefer a list of names? Then sure, do them in alphabetical order. Maybe that’s the fairest, most inoffensive way.

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Liz’s News of the Books

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Wherefore art though, Juliet, in the New York Review of Books?

What kind of problem affects 50% of the writing population? I’ll tell you. It’s that women are criminally underpublished and/or reviewed in almost all the major literary and cultural magazines.

When I was at AWP last year I was intrigued by an organization called VIDA. In addition to advocating for women writers, they had charts and statistics showing the shocking lack of women being published from year to year. Sadly, I wasn’t surprised by this, and not just because I am a woman with eyes.

On my way into morphing a literary sage, I started and edited a literary magazine, The Toucan, for four years. (It’s still going, just not with me, and you should submit, especially if you’re a girl). Despite this fact that The Toucan was run by two liberated ladies, (and my co-editrice, now lead editrice, is a card-carrying feminist), we for some reason didn’t have a lot of ladies in our pages. This concerned us. We couldn’t figure out if women weren’t submitting, or if we too fell prey to patriarchy’s silvery sentences, depriving our sisters of a place in literature.

And to be honest, I’m still not sure what’s going on. Among my friends, there’s no lack for female writers, and an informal survey of Facebook actually has them griping about the submission process more than the guys. (Refrain from sexist stereotype here.) Still, I could see a trend among female writers not submitting work. I’m not going to speculate as to why, but it’s possible.

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