Friday, April 23, 2010

It's a Man's World

Anyone who thinks that there is no need for the Orange Prize or any form of such positive discrimination for women, should read Bidisha's witty and excoriating assessment of the gender imbalance in the arts in today's Guardian. She presents an irrefutable list of instances (including review pages, arts events, festivals, theatre, literary prizes) which are overwhelmingly balanced in favour of men. She notes that
in 41 years of the Booker prize the jury has been male dominated 30 times. There have been 28 male winners and 15 female winners. That said, the one time there were four women and one man on the jury, in 1986, they chose Kingsley Amis's The Old Devils over Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale. God. Why do women love misogynists so much? Is it Stockholm syndrome? [Yes, I'd say: women are always bending over backwards not to be thought feminists or even female.]
She comments that
it's all the more galling given that women equal or outnumber men as attendees of arts festivals, concerts, readings, discussions and debates, and as arts and humanities students at university. Women write, read, edit and publicise more fiction than men Women make up the majority of executive, PR and organisational staff in arts and cultural institutions. Women's ticket revenue, licence fees, book purchases and entrance fees are being used to fund events at which women artists and thinkers are marginalised with breathtaking obviousness.
She points out too how the perception of this situation is skewed - even for those with the truth most closely under their noses:
When I was judging the Orange prize last year we all noticed how major bookshops consistently stacked 10 men's books to every one woman's book on its "recommended read" tables – in whatever genre. In one bookshop, fellow judge Martha Lane Fox was told barefacedly by the sales guy that this was because men published 10 times as much fiction as women.
She's sick, she says, of being the token woman on panels, and she's no longer prepared 'to give my time and attention – and implicitly, my support – to any event, such as the debates at How The Light Gets In, that gives space to five times as many men as women.'

I suppose this means that she'll no longer light up the discussions on Newsnight Review, or whatever it's called since it dumbed itself down, and on which, I've always noted, the men panelists outnumber the women. Shame.
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