The Real Literary Gender Gap?

VANISHING MEN IN LITERATURE AND PUBLISHING

Penguin_Random_House_Tower_New_York_2005

Much noise is made by organizations like VIDA about the gender gap in today’s publishing world. When you examine the actual data, however, you find a different tale.  According to this story from 2016 in The Guardian, the U.S. publishing industry is not only predominately white, but 78% women. (At the executive level, with hangers-on from past male dominance, the industry is 60% women.)

Doing swift calculations of the figures, we can further say that the single largest demographic group in the industry is white women, at more than 60%. By contrast, Latino men make up 1.2% of the industry– hardly registering, which makes the dilemma of Junot Diaz more eye-opening.

Another striking article is this one which appeared in The Atlantic in 2017, which describes how many male authors pretend to be women in order to be published– a turnaround from the days of George Sand. According to this article, 80% of fiction readers are women.

Do you want more statistics? Per the Humanities Indicators site, approximately two-out-of-three English graduates– bachelors, masters, and Phd– are women. Per Data USA, 62% of “writers and authors” are women.

documents

We’re beginning to see these ratios reflected in literary awards. For the most recent National Book Foundation awards, 15 of 20 finalists were women. All five of the “5 Under 35” award winners were women.

As I pointed out in an earlier post about the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, the few male authors in some writers organizations are so outnumbered by women they feel like kids in a candy store– some of them getting into trouble for too many affairs, too many hook-ups while partaking in the book industry’s “meet and greet” soirees.
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WHAT does it all mean? For starters, an industry or art form catering to the public gets into trouble when it disregards half of its potential audience. For example look at what happened to the Western movie when it began focusing almost exclusively on men characters (many Spaghetti Westerns did not have a single woman in the cast)– writing out the women who played a large part in the historic West, to present instead sociopathic narratives of obsessive bloodletting, often starring squinty-eyed and emotionless Clint Eastwood. A far cry from the days of the torridly romantic Selznick spectacular “Duel in the Sun.”

duelinthesunb - Edited

Today, the Western movie has all but vanished.
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IF figures pertaining to class were available, we’d find the narrowness of viewpoint further skewed. Examine the mastheads of Manhattan magazines which cover arts and letters and you’ll find the staffers from the top down are graduates overwhelmingly of Ivy League universities, with a few Stanford grads and Brits from Oxford thrown in. The same holds true, from what I’ve examined, for the Big 5 New York City-based publishers. Those who decide which authors and books are published and reviewed are, in the main, upper-class women. Not by any measure the best way to create a representative literature for a very large and complex civilization like ours.
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With an array of male authors and editors being purged from the book industry after “MeToo” revelations, the trend toward an all-female business and audience doesn’t look to turn around any time soon.

MORE TO SAY on this matter. . . .
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-Karl Wenclas, New Pop Lit News

How to Create Media Frenzy

THE JAY ASHER STORY

worldnewscollage

DID THE MEDIA MOB CONSUME ANOTHER PROMINENT AUTHOR?

A few months before the Junot Diaz accusation story broke across the globe, there occurred another media meltdown over an author accused of misbehavior– this one generated by a statement made to two media outlets which did little-to-nothing to investigate the story the statement was about. The person who made the statement, director of a writers organization, was at the time herself being pressured from an online mob to “do something” about the issue of sexual harassment. She did. An author’s career was all-but-destroyed as a result.

The writer? Jay Asher, author of the #1 best-selling novel 13 Reasons Why, which was the basis for the popular Netflix TV series.

Thirteen-Reasons-Why

New Pop Lit NEWS first covered the story in a general way last February, in an article we titled, “Publishing Industry Feeding Frenzy.”

(NOTE THAT the key part of the matter, an article at School Library Journal which received 199 comments, has been taken down. This is a story in itself, which we may or may not address in a separate report.)

The January 3 SLJ article can be considered THE CRUX OF THE MATTER, because this was where, for all intents and purposes, the story about Jay Asher’s behavior originated– via anonymous comments to the article. As our NPL NEWS post indicates, SCBWI Executive Director Lin Oliver felt herself under pressure from those comments.

Lin_Oliver_-_2015_National_Book_Festival_(2)

( Lin Oliver)

Indications are that Oliver and her staff were, at the time, unable to investigate the matter. She reacted regardless, making statements to Buzzfeed News, then to Associated Press, that Asher and another writer had been removed from her organization. (Jay Asher denied he’d been removed, and denied the harassment allegations themselves.)

That was it. A face-saving response to two media outlets. The result? A media feeding frenzy.

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How bad was it?

Here’s an incomplete list of media stories run on the matter in a three-day period, from February 12th through the 14th. (Many of the outlets reprinted the Associated Press article verbatim, with-or-without attribution. Others modestly reworded it while saying the same thing.)

buzzfeednews.com
apnews.com
people.com

vanityfair.com
businessinsider.com

indiewire.com
ew.com
teenvogue.com
theguardian.com
publishersweekly.com
usatoday.com
thoughtcatalog.com

nme.com
mashable.com
nylon.com
independent.co.uk
narcity.com
popbuzz.com
slate.com
bustle.com
seventeen.com
fortune.com
jezebel.com
nydailynews.com
hollywoodreporter.com

vulture.com
hellogiggles.com
foxnews.com
globalnews.com
clevver.com
billboard.com
mynorthwest.com
sltrib.com
wtnh.com
perezhilton.com
wionews.com
popculture.com
thewrap.com
country105.com
kare11.com
tvweek.com
mtv.com
9news.com
canoe.com
enstarz.com
lifezette.com
triblive.com
complex.com
ksby.com
wpxi.com
wtop.com

cosmopolitan.com
ibtimes.com
wftv.com
post-gazette.com
zimbio.com
chron.com
bookstr.com
wbal.com
refinery29.com
deadline.com

videtteonline.com
fox23.com
tristatehomepage.com
tvguide.com
betches.com
thebookseller.com
popcrush.com
girlfriend.com

cbc.ca
popstaronline.com
booksandpublishing.com/au
breitbart.com
yalovemag.com
sanluisobispo.com
cuestonian.com

Talk about destroying a career! All of these sites prominently displayed a photo of Jay Asher, with properly hyberbolic headlines: variations of “13 Reasons Why Author Jay Asher was booted from a writing organization over sexual harassment claims.” One of them picked that up a notch, with: “13 Reasons Why author becomes literature world’s Harvey Weinstein.”

THIS, over a disputed dismissal from a writers organization because of anonymous comments on a blog!

AS A RESULT, Asher’s Philippines tour was called off, numerous other speaking appearances and book signings were quickly canceled, his literary agent dropped him, and at least two bookstores stopped carrying his books. (See Westbrook bookstore dumps books by author.”)

Jay Asher’s somewhat-less-widely-circulated defense can be found at his blog.
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-Karl Wenclas for New Pop Lit NEWS

 

Publishing Industry Feeding Frenzy

scbwiconference

THE LATEST big news in publishing are the charges of sexual harassment taking place at writers conferences put on by the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). This must-read post at School Library Journal is revealing on several levels– particularly if you read the comments, of which there are many. It reminds me of a fish tank in which the fish have begun feeding on themselves.

There are as many dramatic moments within the comments, in fact, as in a novel. One is when author and diversity advocate Tristina Wright is herself accused of harassment. Another is when the son of SCBWI‘s founder Lin Oliver jumps in to defend his mother against charges of inaction.

Tristina

(Tristina Wright.)
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Before making any kind of judgement about this matter, one should understand what writers conferences are about. Aside from making money off wannabe authors, they’re about networking, schmoozing, and socializing– often accompanied afterward by ample amounts of booze. Introvert writers away from home, brushing up against– and no doubt lavishly complimenting– well-known writers. Stuff will happen.

alexieatweinsteinbooksparty

(Well-known author Sherman Alexie, one of the accused, at a Weinstein Books party.)
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The situation with SCBWI is especially pronounced. According to photos, women outnumber men at their conferences ten-to-one. Put a wandering male in that situation– especially one with a too-healthy ego– and he’s going to feel like a kid in a candy store. An environment designed for a stray predator.

scbwi2

(Photo from recent SCBWI conference.)
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Might the problem be with the conferences themselves? Beyond this, with the way the entire industry is set up, putting writers– the talent– in a position of marked inferiority?Making them face from Day One a series of barriers to leap over and hoops to jump through: instructors, agents, editors, publishers; each one holding the carrot, the desired book contract, at arm’s length. Does anyone believe that with this situation, a ton of machinations, ass-kissing, and real abuse would not take place, human nature being what it is?

There has to be a better way. At New Pop Lit, we’re devoted to finding and constructing that better way.