I think its fairly self-evident that I love reading; certainly anyone who follows me on twitter is bombarded daily with my witterings on my favourite books. I also love the Edinburgh International Book Festival but, every year, I am disappointed by how white male-centric the festival is. This year is no different. I complained here about the official catalogue which made it pretty self-evident how few women would be speaking at the Festival; and, of that small number of women, how many were children’s authors. I love children’s literature but women don’t just write books for toddlers and teenagers.
For a variety of reasons, yesterday was the first chance I’ve had to attend the Book Festival. I’d like to say I was surprised by the obvious display of cultural femicide but I wasn’t. The vast majority of pictures of authors on display were male. In the bookstores, the vast majority of books on the special displays and tables were by men; including the children’s bookstore.
Now, I’m sure that the staff didn’t consciously make the decision to prioritise men’s writing but that’s how insidious cultural femicide is. The privileging of men’s writing frequently happens at an unconscious level and is reinforced through the media and academia. The Book Festival’s choice to hang mostly photos of male authors may seem a small point but it’s the accumulation of such small decisions which harms women’s writing. It is just as problematic as literature departments in universities only using one or two novels by women a course so as not to alienate male students. It’s obviously not a problem to alienate the women students who, frequently, make up the majority of literature students in all languages.
The Festival’s continuing privileging of male writers just reinforces the notion that women’s writing is gender-specific and that fucks me off no end. As ever, I will fill in the comments box at the Festival [and the subsequent surveys] pointing out the erasure of women’s writing but I don’t expect things to change any time soon. After all, it would take someone seriously brave and radical to overhaul the Edinburgh Book Festival so it includes more than white men. I’m doing my part by only buying tickets to women writers and only buying books written by women.
These are the books I bought yesterday:
- Lisa O’Donnell’s The Death of Bees
- Monique Roffey’s With the Kisses of His Mouth: A Memoir
- Pat Barker’s Union Street
- Scarlett Thomas’ Popco
- Scarlett Thomas’ The End of Mr Y
- Lisa Cacho’s Slavery Inc. The Untold Story of International Sex Trafficking
- Catherine Rayner’s Sylvia and Bird
- Catherine Rayner’s Ernest
- Sue Hendra’s Barry the Fish With Fingers and the Hairy Scary Monster
- Kristina Stephenson’s Sir Charlie Stinky Socks and the Tale of the Terrible Secret