Repeating Myself, But Not Being Redundant

It’s time once again for a flurry of reminders that women writers don’t get no respect.

There were the clueless editors on Wikipedia who had the bright idea of trimming the list of American novelists by carving out a separate list of American women novelists. That nonsense stopped after an American (woman) novelist complained in The New York Times and social media raised an uproar. However, some trolls then screwed with her Wikipedia page.

How to Suppress Women's WritingThis isn’t the first time there have been complaints about sexism on Wikipedia. So far their response to every criticism is to tell people to become editors rather than publicizing their howlers, but it appears publicity gets action, while editing just mires the volunteers in pointless edit wars with people who don’t understand feminism 101.

I’m in the process of re-reading Joanna Russ’s How to Suppress Women’s Writing for a panel at WisCon, so this nonsense makes me grumpier than usual.

According to a piece on Women’s eNews about Sarah Stierch — whom they described as the “go-to” person on gender issues for Wikipedia — the editor who came up with “American Women Novelists” has done this before. It seems to me that Wikipedia could keep an eye on his edits and block some of his clueless activity. Perhaps Stierch will come up with a way to rein in the problem people. Encouraging more women to edit Wikipedia is good, but the systemic problem needs to be aaddressed.

Wikipedia does have an entry for Russ’s book, but it’s a “stub.” Expanding the entry for this important book would be a more useful undertaking than fighting rampant sexism among other editors. Though I also notice that Wikipedia has an entry for “hipster sexism.” Perhaps some of the editors assume it’s OK for them to be sexist, since they’re hipsters.

The Wikipedia nonsense actually followed close on the annual surveys of book reviews, which — as usual — show that books by men get more notice than books by women. Strange Horizons has one on science fiction reviews, while VIDA does its usual summary of the major literary publications. You’d think the editors of those publications would find this embarrassing and do something about it. But given that the numbers are about the same as last year, they apparently haven’t.

Then there’s Maureen Johnson’s challenge on book covers, which made the rounds on Facebook last week. The one that really hit me was the girlie cover of Franny and Zooey — one of my favorite books. It will make you think.

I’ve done a lot of reading over the last few years on research into sex differences in the human brain. Those who conclude — based, I might add, on very shaky science — that there are “huge” differences between the brains of men and women also contend that women are significantly more verbal than men.

If that’s the case — or rather, if people believe that’s the case — why aren’t books by women considered much more important than books by men? Based on that logic, we should conclude that it’s a wonder a man can write a book at all, much less write a good one.

But somehow when the guardians of literary pomposity make their pronouncements, logic goes out the window and men are still accorded the bulk of the accolades for writing, even though it’s not supposed to be something they’re good at.

I submit that the sexists of the world can’t have it both ways. Though I suppose they’ll continue to try.

Really, it’s very glotologgish* of them.

*Glotologgish: “ridiculous self-deception bolstered by wide-spread and elaborate social fictions leading to the massive distortion of information.” See Russ, Joanna, How to Suppress Women’s Writing, p. 4, University of Texas Press, Austin, 1983 (and still damn relevant today).

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Repeating Myself, But Not Being Redundant — 7 Comments

    • Brenda, I’ll take you up on this after WisCon. I’m moderating a panel there on the book. I’d like to have that discussion in my head before tackling this.

  1. I hope the panel makes it to the WisCon Chronicles, as unfortunately I’m located on the wrong side of the ocean…

    • I don’t know who’s editing the WisCon Chronicles this year, but I would certainly like to see this covered there if the editor wants it. There are some people at WisCon who take copious notes on panels and post them on blogs and it is likely that one or more of those people will attend this panel, given the topic. I can’t take notes and moderate at the same time, so I really appreciate those who post such things.

      And it’s a shame that international travel is hard and expensive. I want a transporter. If I’ve got to get in a little box and have some kind of waves shot through me every time I travel anyway, it would be nice if that was the actual ride instead of the cramped airplane.

      • That’d be something worth looking at, no doubt! If they can already do it with laser beams, surely human flesh won’t be such a challenge in some year’s time…

        I’ll keep my eyes peeled for post-con blogging and see if there’s any luck. Hope you have a smashing time over there.

  2. Inquiring minds wonder if blogging will slowly change that unfortunate cultural tendency to assume that women talk too much about nothing important (scribbling women, indeed). Or is there the same tendency to privilege male bloggers as “important?”

    On the good news front: some ultra conservative Jews in Israel intent on harrassing women in prayer shawls at the wall were chased away by police for causing a ruckus (after decades of the *women* being chased away for causing a ruckus).

    • I don’t know. Social media might be used to reinforce the stereotypes, though it seems to me that both male and female friends of mine on Facebook have a tendency to talk about nothing important (as well as about the very important) there.