Do you think there should still be literary prize categories just for women? Is it actually setting back the clock on gender equality or helping the cause?
Sometimes I have wondered about this point and today wanted to put it out to the crowd (aka you wonderful peeps). For example, there is the Baileys Woman’s Prize for Fiction. It has good intentions by celebrating excellence and originality in women writers around the globe. But, is separating out women really doing a disservice to the female gender? After all, doesn’t gender equality in its purest sense mean not differentiating between different prizes for each gender?
Interestingly, the original name for Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction was Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction. Note that there is no mention of the female gender in the previous title.
However, on the other hand (just to play devil’s advocate), maybe women do need to be singled out with literary prizes. Proponents of this idea would say that women are massively under-represented in shortlisted books for literary prizes. Indeed, that is the entire reason that the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction was created, as per the Baileys Prize website:
“The inspiration was the Booker Prize of 1991 when none of the six shortlisted books was by a woman, despite some 60 percent of novels published that year being by female authors.”
And so the Baileys Prize was born. And let me just say that the under-representation of females in literary prize nominations is appalling.
But, here’s the thing, maybe treating women special, with a different set of rules than men, in this case regarding specific prizes for female authors, is suggesting that women need help or assistance in some way. It may be sending the message that only when men leave the room can women’s accomplishments be celebrated.
And, unfortunately, that makes the achievements of women in female-only literary prizes less worthy than those of men who win literary prizes open to all genders.
Here’s the thing. Absolutely gender equality is still absent in many parts of society today. But I don’t think that giving women special treatment when it comes to literary prizes is going to solve the problem in the writing field. As a female author myself, with two books so far under my belt, I do hope that gender equality will happen in my lifetime. But, realistically, I don’t know if it will become a reality that soon.
Do you think that having literary prizes specifically open only to women is helping or hindering the achievement of gender equality? Feel free to share your thoughts.