Art And Culture

Gender Disparity in Major Literary Awards

Gender Disparity in Major Literary AwardsGender Disparity in Major Literary Awards

The result of an analysis by British-American author Nicola Griffith shows that women are more likely to win literary awards for fiction when their protagonist is a man. The more prestigious the award, the less likely the subject will be a woman.

Sometimes the winners of big literary prizes are female writers, but often their books center on the stories of men and boys. Stories solely about women and girls, written by either gender, rarely win prizes, and that reinforces a subtle but dangerous notion that the stories that should be told, written and rewarded are stories about men.

Griffith broke down the gender of the author and protagonist for 15 years worth of winners of six major fiction awards: Pulitzer Prize, Man Booker Prize, National Book Award, National Book Critics’ Circle Award, Hugo Award (given for science fiction and fantasy), and Newbery Medal (for children’s literature), reported.

At the top of the heap, the prestigious Pulitzer was not once bestowed on a book wholly from a woman’s perspective or about a woman. Things were different for the Newbery, awarded for children’s fiction - apparently girls are interesting, but adult women not so much.

Griffith hopes that this kind of data will spur a commitment to actually fix the skewed publishing landscape, instead of just calling it depressing and leaving it at that.

  VIDA Count

She’s not alone in her data gathering. Since 2010, a group of tenacious women manually count every byline in major book releases, book reviews, and literary journals and tally up the gender disparity. This whole process is called the VIDA count, and every year they release pages and pages of concrete data about where and how women are represented in the literary world.

What the VIDA count consistently finds is that stories and reviews written by women are far less than 50% in most reputable literary publications.

Based on Griffith’s findings, only 16 books about mainly women and girls have won one of the six major prizes since 2000. Of those 16, only three were written by men, and all of those won the Newbery Medal for Children’s Literature.

Prize winning stories about women, according to Griffith’s data, are entirely books written by women and/or books written for children.

“Literature matters,” she argues in her reflection. “Our novels are part of what makes us who we are. If more than half human perspective isn’t being heard, then we are half what we could be,” she said.