Sunday 8 March 2015

On Writing: Women Writing as Men

The Wall Street Journal discusses 'Why Women Writers Still Take Men's Names' and found that whereas women are just as likely to read a book by a man as by a women, men 'tend to favour male authors' (Stephanie Cohen, 2012). In a Queen Mary study, mentioned in the article, four out of five men, out of a hundred researched, said the last book they read was by a man (Ibid).

The most recent success story of this kind is Joanne Rowling's, who wrote the Harry Potter series as JK Rowling. Why? Because Bloomsbury advised her to use initials (Ibid). And more recently, as discusssed in The New Statesman's article 'Has J K Rowling betrayed women writers in her decision to publish as Robert Galbraith?',  she used the name Robert Galbraith for her crime thriller The Cuckoo's Calling (Nichi Hodgson, 2013).

The Guardian's article 'Research shows male writers still dominate books world' discusses the 'gender imbalance at the heart of the American and British literary establishment' (Benedicte Page, 2011). This is the same imbalance which has been going on for as long as novels have been written. As noted in The Guardian's article 'From the Brontë sisters to JK Rowling, a potted history of pen names', the Brontë sisters became the Brontë brothers because, as they said they had 'a vague impression that authoresses are liable to be looked on with prejudice' (Maev Kennedy, 2013).

So Mary Ann Evans the author of Silas Marner, Middlemarch and Daniel Deronda, became George Eliot. Louisa May Alcott the writer of Little Women began her career as A M Barnard. Nell Harper Lee wrote To Kill a Mockingbird as Harper Lee. And Charlote Brontë wrote Jane Eyre under the pseudonym Currell Bell and Emily Brontë wrote Wuthering Heights as Ellis Bell.

So what advice do I take from this, as a writer who is a woman? Well it can be seen in the name I have used to sign my posts.

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