Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Men Choose, Women Lose, part 64

Fellow women playwrights complaining about another short play contest that chose all male-written plays for their festival schedule-- for the 2nd year in a row. One writer suggested that they had all male readers doing the selecting. I replied:
Women don't, statistically, favor women-- but men do favor men. Somebody recently did a study analyzing book reviewers "top ten of the year" lists. Typically, female reviewers picked lists that contained half novels written by women and half written by men. The male reviewers skewed heavily male-- and many of them didn't name a single woman-written book among the "best 10"! Many male reviewers also admitted that they NEVER-- since college assignments-- read a book written by a woman unless it was assigned to them for review!
Many women-headed theatres pick all-male seasons.
One year my writers' group decided to ask a pair of local (male) critics to choose scripts for the festival from the finalists chosen by the groups reading committee-- the notion was that experts could be more objective than colleagues. They were given 20 scripts-- from which they unerringly picked the 10 written by men as clearly superior!
That outcome was unacceptable, so the next year we went back to a mixed-sex in house reading committee. Most years-- this year, for instance-- we produce a lineup that's close to evenly balanced.
And here's a British survey reported in the Guardian
April 30, 2006
When Lisa Jardine and Annie Watkins asked hundreds of British female academics, teachers, writers, publishers and literature students what book had changed their lives, many respondents wondered whether there would be a male version of the survey as well. Jardine and Watkins complied: The results were fascinating in their own right, and more intriguing when juxtaposed with the findings for women. Not only did men and women find different books to be meaningful, but they approached reading in divergent ways.
Men's Fiction
Top Five
1. "The Outsider," Albert Camus
2. "Catcher in the Rye," J.D. Salinger
3. "Slaughterhouse Five," Kurt Vonnegut
4. (tie) "One Hundred Years of Solitude," Gabriel Garcia Marquez
"The Hobbit" J.R.R. Tolkien
5. "Catch-22," Joseph Heller

Women's Fiction
Top Five
1. "Jane Eyre," Charlotte Bronte
2. "Wuthering Heights," Emily Bronte
3. "The Handmaid's Tale," Margaret Atwood
4. "Middlemarch," George Eliot
5. (tie) "Pride and Prejudice," Jane Austen
"Beloved," Toni Morrison

Other findings:
• No male authors made the women's top five, and no female authors made the men's top five.
• Only four books made both top 20 lists.
• Six male authors broke the women's top 20, but only one book by a female author made the men's top 20: "To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee.
• Older men were more likely to cite female authors as influential.
• Men were most likely to have read their formative books as adolescents.
• Women were more likely to read books to cope with difficult times.
• Men were more likely to cite particular authors as "mentors," particularly, among these British residents, George Orwell.
• Women liked shared, hand-me-down books; men liked new books and hardbacks.
• Women had a more diverse list of favorites — 400 women named 200 books.
• Men answered the question of what book marked a watershed moment more reluctantly than women.


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