Jun 13, 2011

No seriously, where *are* the women?

In this week’s Guardian books podcast, Sarah Crown asked Orange Prize winner Téa Obreht whether it felt “limiting not to be competing with men”. Because, you know, the competition wouldn’t have been as fierce among “just” women. Cause they’re like, worse writers, innit. Just ask VS Naipaul. No, to really prove one’s chops, one should strive to compete against men, without all this “positive discrimination” stuff.

Well, you know, it turns out that the majority of books reviewed in newspapers and magazines are written by men. And the vast majority of the reviewers are – you guessed it – men. But this men-writing-about-how-jolly-good-men-are business is not as “positive discrimination”. Nope, that little private club is all just handy dandy and above board. It’s only when women seek to circumnavigate the cosy unofficial “cultural femicide”, as Bidisha calls it, that we saunter into an ethical problem, or even just one of professional credibility.

It reminded me of Richard Dawkins writing in The Ancestor’s Tale (boring book, pretty pictures) about how spurious and wicked racism is. Really, brays Dawkins, any simpleton can see that discriminating on the grounds of race is evil; but surely we do not need to compound the harm by taking any steps to rectify it that are as radical as the original discrimination! By all means, condemn racism, object to it, look down you white-dude scientific nose at it, but whatever you do, don’t actually do anything about it, or God, sorry, Dawkins, knows where we’d end up!

To which I say: meh. Meh to the idea that I’m so stupid that I’ll accept Hilary Lawson’s feeble excuses for running a cultural festival with 26% female representation. Meh to Start the Week with Andrew Marr, who still only ever have one woman on their panel each week. Meh to the notion that women being excluded from competing against men in sports events is "proof" that they would fail if they tried. Meh to those who think I can’t do the maths and arrive at a number bigger than what it currently is – in the arts, on the radio, in academia, in government – when I know that more women graduate from university, more women write and publish books, more women work in the various arts & culture institutions; there seem to be more women everywhere these days, in fact, except at the top.

And, well, y’know what? That’s just bee oh are ay en gee boring at this stage. Enough with pretending that  old white men like Dawkins and Roth have anything left to say about the world that a thousand old white men haven’t said already. I am just not that into them anymore. This isn’t even really political, but a genuine lack of interest in the same old points of view, endlessly rehashed. Unlike Dawkins though, I do want something done about it, and fast (before I expire of ennui, frankly). So I’m going to the “Where Are The Women?” follow up event and planning meeting tonight, to talk to smart women about what we can do to improve the scenery in our cultural landscape. Be afraid, old white dudes; be very afraid. :)

Oh and hey, Sarah Crown? That was a really, really stupid question. Really.

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