From The Guardian:
Lionel Shriver has called her fellow novelist Kamila Shamsie’s suggestion of a year publishing only women “rubbish”.
Shamsie made the provocative call last year, citing gender imbalances across literary prizes, reviews, World Book Night author selections, and even protagonists in award-winning novels. “I would argue that is time for everyone, male and female, to sign up to a concerted campaign to redress the inequality,”Shamsie wrote. “Why not have a Year of Publishing Women: 2018, the centenary of women over the age of 30 getting the vote in the UK, seems appropriate … The basic premise of my ‘provocation’ is that none of the new titles published in that year should be written by men.”
But Shriver, speaking on a panel to mark International Women’s Day, described the proposal as “rubbish … This whole thing of treating women specially, as if they need special help and special rules, is problematic and obviously backfires,” she said.
Shriver compared it to the Baileys women’s prize for fiction, which she won in 2005 for her novel We Need to Talk About Kevin when it was known as the Orange prize. “It is not as meaningful to me to have won the Orange prize as, say, it would have been to win the Booker. Most people who win that prize surely say the same thing: you have eliminated half the human race from applying,” said Shriver, the Bookseller reported. “But there is this problem of suggesting that we need help, that men have to leave the room and then we’re prizeworthy. The idea of only publishing women is the same thing.”
Her fellow panellist Sarah Churchwell, professor in American literature at the University of London, said she disagreed with Shriver about International Women’s Day and the Baileys Prize. “I believe both are necessary because we have not yet achieved equality. When we do achieve equality then it will be nice to have a world in which those are not necessary,” she told the Guardian.
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“The Orange/Women’s prize for fiction has been wonderful – and I genuinely think it’s played a role in the increased number of women on prize lists … But we don’t need two women’s prizes for fiction in the UK,” Shamsie said. “The Year of Publishing Women was precisely an attempt to think of how an industry that is in many ways female-dominated might look at its own biases via a dramatic but time-limited proposal. A shock to the system, in the hopes that might reboot some ingrained ideas, rather than an ongoing process … Interesting, isn’t it, how worked up people can get about a proposal that only spans 12 months? “
Speaking to the Guardian on Thursday, Shriver said she had “always been a supporter of the [Orange] prize, but that any female writer in her right mind would rather win, for example, the Booker, because it’s more meaningful.
“It’s not a meaningless experience, winning the prize – it does have an effect on your career, and it’s a very well-run, well-regarded award. But it’s still a women’s prize,” she said.
But she remained clear that the concept of a Year of Publishing Women was “a ridiculous idea … This whole bend-over-backwards business backfires, because the implication is that women need special treatment,” she said. “I’m more interested in a core cultural prejudice which is very hard to shift.”
Link to the rest at The Guardian and thanks to Meryl for the tip.