Are women authors held to different standards than men?



Dear Literary Ladies,
Not one of the top ten books of 2009 according to Publishers Weekly was by a female writer, and only about a third of the books on their extended best book lists were by women. Do you think women writers are (or should be) judged by different standards than men?


To value praise or stand in awe of blame we must respect the source whence the praise and blame proceed, and I do not respect an inconsistent critic. He says, “if Jane Eyre be the production of a woman, she must be a woman unsexed.’

In that case the book is an unredeemed error and should be unreservedly condemned. Jane Eyre is a woman’s autobiography, by a woman it is professedly written. If it is written as no woman would write, condemn it with spirit and decision—say it is bad, but do not eulogise and then detract. I am reminded of The Economist. The literary critic of that paper praised the book if written by a man, and pronounced it ‘odious’ if the work of a woman.

To such critics I would say, ‘To you I am neither man nor woman—I come before you as an author only. It is the sole standard by which you have a right to judge me—the sole ground on which I accept your judgment.’

—Charlotte Brönte, from a letter, August 16, 1849

1 comments:

Cheri Sicard December 12, 2009 at 8:24 AM  

I once got a rejection letter on a magazine article that the magazine had already published and paid for.

Also I find the book ideas that I think are sure things never sell. The ones I have been lukewarm on have gotten the most interest and sometimes published (and for the record I still think I am right on this and the NYC powers that be in the publishing world are wrong). My last "sure thing" that got rejected I will probably self publish. Evidence surrounds us every day that this particular book would sell, but nobody in publishing liked it. Every lay person I've ever mentioned it to thinks it's brilliant. It's extremely frustrating.

Post a Comment

Wouldn't you love to get advice from  classic women authors on writing and the writer's life? Here I fancifully pose the questions, and the Literary Ladies answer in their own words.

Contact: navaatlas (at) gmail.com

Make sure to click the little "o" at the very bottom left of the blog to see older posts!