Women's Efforts Are Rarely Noted As They Should Be
Written by
Miriam Peskowitz
November 2009
Written by
Miriam Peskowitz
November 2009
Best Books of the Year lists, Inventions, Politics: you name it, and though it's hard to admit, our efforts as women, our creativity and labor and gumption are rarely acknowledged publicly they way they should be. This year's Nobel Prizes, which included a nearly unimaginable number of awards to women, are the recent exception that makes us notice how blatantly bad the status quo is. I can't help but count numbers--when I read the Op-Ed pages, when I glance at the Table of Contents in The New Yorker or any of our magazines and book reviews, in the business and entrepreneurial world. I don't like counting numbers, mostly because it's depressing, and I had stopped several years ago, and then began again when I couldn't help but notice how few women were being published in the venues that create public knowledge and public opinion. Most of the time we go about our daily life. Not noticing the exclusions. Quite frankly, it's easier not to notice, or to notice and not say anything, or even, to notice and not say anything and then come up with a round-about way of making things better in the future. Most of the time, a blatantly feminist argument doesn't seem to count for much, and is so easily dismissed. When we're alone, noticing something that just plain feels wrong, we tend to stay quiet about it. Or talk sotto voce about it with other women. Rarely do we speak out loudly and in a clear voice about the problems we see. That's why I love what Kamy and SheWrites are doing with the Day of Action: THANK YOU for daring to take notice, and for being loud about it. So much changes when we have allies, when we speak out together. It matters here a great deal. It's about creating the possibilities of our own livelihood as writers, which more and more depends on being noticed as writing some kind of a Best Book. It's about improving the chances that we can write the kind of published work that grabs attention and makes waves and gains notice---the kind of work that makes a difference in our society. It's about making sure that writing by women doesn't get closeted in the pink ghetto, that women writers don't get swept under the carpet, and making sure that all the various genres that women write--and that women love to read--are allowed to matter, in public. Miriam Peskowitz Author, The Daring Book for Girls and The Double-Daring Book for Girls

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  • Kamy Wicoff Brainstorming

    Miriam -- what a thoughtful and lovely post -- your words of encouragement mean so much to me, and I agree that shouting it out loud and clear is really important. I also feel so hopeful about the possibilities of our community here, and for offering organized support for writing by women. I do that counting thing too, btw, did it just the other day while reading the NY Times "best of" lists (best of just about everything), and the numbers were really grim. Are there really so many fewer women making art? Painting, making films, etc.? Because I just can't believe the art they make is so inferior to the art we are constantly paying attention to that is created by men.

  • Martha White

    I wonder whether part of the difference here is economic -- that many women are reading books from their libraries, while men are reading books from the bookstores? It's just a thought, but women are certainly more economically challenged than men. Library users tend to be female (more than male -- though not exclusively.) Also women are more likely to trade books among themselves. Even in our book clubs, how many of us actually buy the books? I do -- but I may be the only one, in my group. Inter-library loan rules. So, are we by our frugality, skewing the numbers of women authors purchased?

  • Marilyn Krysl

    A follow up to my remarks yesterday about how man male reviewers review women: I looked at all the reviews of my work over my lifetime, and discovered that two thirds were reviewed by women, one third by men.

  • Hope Edelman

    This week's LA Times hardcover bestsellers list: fifteen novels, two on the list by women. FIfteen nonfiction books, two by women--both celebrities. That's 13 percent total. And it's not even a subjective critics' list--it's ostensibly what residents of LA are buying. In my 15 years as a book author and my 12 years in LA, it feels as if there's never been a more challenging time to be a writer who's a woman. Thank you, Miriam, and thanks to Kamy and all of SheWrites for calling attention to this, and mobilizing and motivating writers and readers to take notice and call attention.