Kamila Shamsie, author and judge of this year’s Bailey’s prize for women’s fiction, came out with one of those things that is supposed to be controversial yesterday but isn’t really. I’ll let you read the article if you want but in short, she asked for a year of only publishing women writers as an idea to combat the imbalance in the publishing industry.
I have a problem with quotas to address an historical imbalance in general but I rather like this as an experiment. Why the hell not? No-one is questioning the quality of male writing but nevertheless, the statistics suggest the system is weighted in their favour. The latest issue of Mslexia contains a study looking at the increasingly male presence in publishing positions of power. When you also look at the recent study that found books about women are less likely to win literary prizes, not forgetting that one of the reasons the Bailey’s prize was established in the first place was because female writers themselves won fewer awards, and the campaign to get the London Review of Books to occasionally think about using a woman to review something, you do wonder what a different system might look like. It’s only for a year, after all.
The idea behind initiatives such the Year of Reading Women was partly to discover books that you might not otherwise have read – because they weren’t reviewed in the LRB, for example. All this idea is asking is an extension of the same. It’s not knocking male writers, it’s just asking that we all look around a bit more.
And, if they decide to go ahead (hahahahahaha) then I have a new manuscript that I can send through for consideration…