It’s not news that women writers are disadvantaged in the book industry: the annual VIDA (US) and Stella (Australia) counts reveal there is a consistent bias against women writers and a study has shown the books written by women are less likely to win prizes. With these disparities in mind, Laurie Garrison, academic, writer and researcher, created the #women_writers hashtag to carve a safe and supportive space for women writers on Twitter.
While women read more fiction books than men, men get to write more reviews and generally get more book deals than women. Garrison developed the hashtag as a live chat to discuss underrated women writers and evolved into an opportunity for women to discuss their own literary projects and manuscripts. Speaking to The Guardian, Garrison explained that the disparities between male and female writers might not be the fault of publishers.
She said: “I’ve heard anecdotal accounts of publishers getting more submissions by men from agents, and women being much less likely to send in second submissions even if encouraged to do so when the first hasn’t been accepted – and, even more bizarrely, when the first has.”
However, she is reluctant to suggest that women simply need to be more confident about their work: “I think it’s become a bit of a sweeping explanation for why women don’t experience as much success as men in a lot of areas. It seems to suggest that if we’d all just act as confident as men, the problem would be solved. In other words, it’s the women that need to change their behaviour, not the external world of publishing, education, working environment.”
Instead, Garrison – who also runs the website Looking for Xanadu that offers writing courses to female writers – published an online #women_writers manifesto that promises gender bias in the publishing industry can be addressed by the online world through virtual courses that are tailored to suit women writers’ needs and teach online marketing and discuss a variety of publishing options alternative to traditional publishing. The manifesto also discusses the masculinised aspects of publishing that men and women are taught to emulate – and argues that this is ultimately not necessary to have a successful publishing career.
Garrison believes it is possible for women to improve their writing techniques within a non-competitive environment, while learning how to deal with rejection and professional criticism. “If we can create spaces for women writers where these things can be discussed and put into perspective, I think it could go a long way toward levelling the playing field,” she said.
The highlights of the first ever #women_writers online chat can be seen here.