Are women authors held to different standards than men?

A reprise of an earlier post—in conjunction with sharing this great YouTube video portraying the Brontë Sisters Power Dolls!

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


Vintage Reading May 16, 2010 at 1:28 PM  

Charlotte Bronte was as eloquent in her letters as she is in her fiction. Excellent post. That picture of Bronte looks as though it has been glamourised or softened - I've seen it on a book cover lately.

Nava Atlas May 19, 2010 at 6:05 PM  

Yes, Charlotte was definitely given a "makeover" in this print. There is actually one existent photo of her, I think from just before her death. She looks very sweet, but certainly not glamorous.

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