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Stories from the man cave

November 1, 2015

Over the past year, there has been lots chat about male bias in the literary world. Author Catherine Nichols queried literary agents under Canadian literary prizesher own name and queried the same agents as “George”. George, she found, was “eight and a half times better than me at writing the same book.”

VIDA, a voluntary research group, has been tallying the rates of publication for men and women in magazines like Harpers, The New Yorker, The New Republic and The Atlantic since 2010. These counts show that literary journals are skewed towards male authors. Books written by female authors are less likely to be reviewed in prominent publications. No surprise. The good news is that VIDA made an impact. The project inspired a number of leading publications to review their own editorial processes and to increase publications by women. (VIDA, by the way, is now examining publications by women of colour).

But it’s not just that male authors are more likely to be published. Nicola Griffith reviewed literary prizes over 15 years and found that a novel is more likely to land a prize if the focus on the narrative is male, regardless of the gender of the author. The nine men who won the Man Booker since 2000 wrote about men. Of the six female winners, three wrote about men, one wrote from multiple points of view and two wrote from a female perspective.

A Maclean’s survey of winners of the Scotiabank Giller, Governor General’s, Rogers/Writers’ Trust Brian Bethune found that 26 prizes went to men and 20 to women – not a bad ratio. Of the female winners, 13 out of 20 wrote from a male or multiple point of view. The most surprising result was that nine of the 26 male prize-winners wrote from a female POV.  (Note that two of the winners –  Michael Ondaatje for Anil’s Ghost and Richard Wright for Clara Callan won several prizes). Are Canadian men more sensitive?

Intrigued (and somewhat angered and frustrated) by these results, The Bathurst Muses decided to explore the male point of view in this year’s Anthology….

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