Gender bias, my blog, and sci fi/fantasy books for kids

So I was reading an article about gender bias in book journalism over at The Guardian today, and shaking my head sadly about the fact that the the bulk of the book reviewers are men, and the majority of the books reviewed are by men.

And then I quite naturally wondered about the gender balance here on my blog. Obviously, 100% of the reviews are written by a female. But it turns out that I have a strong bias towards books by women. In the past year (Feb 2011-2012) I reviewed 131 books by women, 64 books by men, and 4 books jointly authored by one of each. Hmm. This is actually an improvement from the state of things when I asked myself the same question back in this post from June of 2010, when I concluded that I reviewed one male author for every four female ones.

Just as was the case in 2010, in 2011 almost all my reading has been science fiction and fantasy for kids. In that 2010 post, I tried to get a sense of whether my female bias was a result simply of the abundance of women writers in this genre, and I found some support for this in looking over a sample of my lists of new releases.

However, 2012 is a different story! It is the year in which men achieve publishing equity in mg sff! In my past five lists, 34 new middle grade sci fi/fantasy books by women, 40 by men. (maybe...I like my data, but am not wedded to it, and sometimes it's hard to know the gender of initials, and sometimes I count wrong. However, anyone who wants to count for themselves, please do! Let me know what numbers you get! I am almost tempted to do more counting, but will resist).

So I'm currently working on the assumption that I read more books by women because women tend to write more books that appeal to me. And since I do, after all, want to read books I like, the gender imbalance on my blog will probably continue. But I maybe will try to make it a little bit less unbalanced by this time next year...because I want my lists and such to be useful resources to all readers, not just Charlotte-reader-alikes.

7 of the 8 authors shortlisted for this year's Andre Norton Award are women. Last year was the first in which there was gender equity (4 and 4), and I am very glad that Terry Pratchett won. If it hadn't been for that year, I would be wondering if those whose votes result in the shortlist are guilty of unconsciously equating women's writing with children/younger readers, which is an awful thought.


  1. Lots of food for thought. The majority of the YA books I read are also authored by women. Hmmmmm, there are a few by men I admire just as much. James Owens comes to mind first. But I believe all my book reviews (not a huge mumber) are writen by women. Very interesting.

  2. Interesting. I think most of the books I read are authored by women and the main characters are girls with strong guy secondary characters or alternate POV. I wouldn't worry about gender imbalance on your blog. Just read what you enjoy and support the great books you like. And yah! for women. In some places, like pay, things are not equal for us yet. A little imbalance in our favor doesn't hurt.

  3. In response to the guardian piece I'd say that I don't have the impression the same bias holds true in the children's book world. The last three children's book editors at the NYTimes have been women (Eden Ross Lipson, Julie Just, and now Pamela Paul) and I never got the impression there were were more male reviewers than female. In fact, my unscientific sense now is that there are more female reviewers than male. As for the books reviewed, that is a harder call.

    And I appreciate that you are noting that your stats are more about your taste than anything else. Over the years in the world of classroom language arts teaching there has been some discussion of the dominance of certain sorts of books that are more appealing to girls than boys and that this may well be due to the teachers' taste who are mostly female. Before Harry Potter I did find a distinct distaste in that world for fantasy and science fiction with teachers staying clear of it and kids who liked it being frustrated. Harry Potter changed that hugely which is grand.

  4. I'm wondering (in an unagitated way), Natlie and Monica, if maybe the balance tips too far the other way in the world of chidren's books...In my personal ideal world, there are more male children's librarians, more male elementary school teachers, and more male reviewers of children's books!

    I would be very very very curious to know, if anyone has the time to count, what the breakdown is on female vs male authored children's books reviewed in the major print publications.

    If I were a language arts teacher, I would have a hard time overcoming my aversion to realistic sports stories...my own boys have certainly never been offered them! (but since neither of them is at all sportif, they do not feel the lack).

  5. I agree that ultimately you're entitled to your own taste, and if women tend to write the books that appeal to you, that's nobody's fault and there's nothing wrong with it.
    But I also agree that equity is always a good thing... and one hidden danger of inequality that "favors" women is that fields dominated by women tend to be devalued compared with fields dominated by men. I don't like seeing juvenile literature dismissed as light, unimportant, lacking in real skill - especially as I believe that some of the most important writing out there is happening in the field of juvenile literature (especially fantasy and sci fi!)

  6. Thanks for this Charlotte. I am not surprised by these stats but it still makes me sad.

  7. This is definitely interesting to think about. I know that I typically don't even consider the gender of the author whose book I'm reading, and I certainly have favorite authors of both genres. Just to check myself, I went back and looked at the books I've read so far this year: 26 by a woman, 13 by a man, and 1 co-authored by both. Wow - exactly 2 for 1. That being said... I'm not sure how much I think it matters. If we're reading books we really enjoy, isn't that OK? I definitely don't want to seek out more books by male authors just to make sure my reading list shows author equity. Then again, if it was imbalanced against women, I think I might feel differently. Ok, I'm really rambling now. But you have given me lots of food for thought!


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