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New Report Reveals Gender Gap for Authors

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Award-winning investigative journalist Danuta Kean published a report showing “marked bias” towards male writers when it comes to broadsheet coverage, only a couple of weeks after ‘International Women’s Day’ was celebrated across the globe.

Image credit: Nicholas Hilliard via Wikipedia

The so-called "Emilia Report" is named after Emilia Bassano, an early 17th-century author who managed to ‘play the system’ and publish a collection of poetry to sell despite strict censorship that limited women. She is said to be the muse for some of Shakespeare's work and yet, outside academic circles, her name and work remain largely unknown and much of it is assumed lost.

The author of the report, Danuta Kean, explains why this report is so important. She says:

“It may seem that the struggles of a 17th Century woman to be taken seriously as a poet are incomparable to modern women who have benefitted from three waves of feminism, 40 years of equality legislation, universal suffrage and advances in science that have freed them from the tyranny of their bodies, but, though the landscape of their lives may be different, the structures that inhibit their path to recognition and success are not.”

The report itself was an in-depth investigation into the situation faced by woman novelists today and was commissioned by Malcolm Lloyd’s play of the same name, which aims to represent the lost voices of women. The methods chosen for this was a comparative study of ten novelists, five female and five male, published in the same genre and period of time.

What it found was that women not only are much more in danger of sexism or harassment during interviews - with many stating that they have been asked for kisses or dates - but that on average male writers received more reviews than women. This all despite writing comparable fiction and the general number of female reviewers increasing. One of the women questioned was author Joanne Harris. She says:

“In general, when you compare the coverage of my work to that of men writing in similar areas, the emphasis in my case has been on the domestic, and in theirs on the academic. I think this generally happens with women's writing.”

Irish writer Niamh Boyce took to Twitter to add to the report's findings. She says: “'The housewife who wrote a bestseller' = headline of one article about me, I'm a writer, and gave no indication of being anything else besides having boobs.”

Rowan Coleman, who has been a bestselling female author for the past twenty years, and has yet to be reviewed in a broadsheet newspaper, says: "For a man, writing is a career. For a woman, so often her writing is treated like it's a hobby, it is a nice thing to do on the side. That attitude is deeply embedded in our culture.”

An additional issue according to Coleman is not only the review of work but also the initial marketing process of the book and how much of it is gender-based, adding: “If they published Jane Eyre today, it would be published with a cute little cover in pink.”

And whilst it would be easy to assume that after almost a century of women fighting for equal representation in society things would get better, Susan Hill, author of the gothic thriller ‘The Woman in Black’, actually explains how this is a wrong assumption to make. She says:

“When I had my first novel published, in 1961, it came out on the same day as a Graham Greene’s ‘A Burnt-out Case’ and three papers reviewed me above him. Which was quite wrong but goes to show I got a lot of publicity because I wrote the book when I was at school, but not because I was a schoolgirl."

The report's results have since its publication been shared in broadsheet papers such as The Guardian and the hashtag ‘#TheEmiliaReport’ has been used by authors and general supporters alike.

‘Emilia’ the play can be seen at Vaudeville Theatre in London until the 15th of June 2019, and more details can be found here.




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