Just time for a quickie today, which doesn’t seem to be fair to talk about something as important as gender inequity in science fiction and fantasy.
But here’s an interesting article from I09, and I have to say it doesn’t surprise me. I subscribe to some of the major periodicals covering SFF and there is some gender bias and a LOT of genre bias as to what gets reviewed. If one writes science fiction and traditional fantasy, and one is female, one might get reviewed. If one writes urban fantasy and one is not a) on the NYT Bestseller list or b) male, one does not get reviewed. That’s just the way it is.
It’s why a lot of “fantasy, futuristic and paranormal” writers tend to gravitate toward Romance Writers of America, where we get a little more acceptance on the whole.
But there’s another bias ingrained in our reviews, and I am as guilty of this as the next person.
Words we use for the male leads of novels: alpha, damaged hero, noble but misguided, strong, heart’s in the right place. If we review a book where we don’t like the male lead, he might be antagonistic or mean or evil or a jerk.
Words we use for the female leads of novels: kickass (never alpha), smart, strong, too stupid to live (have you ever seen that label applied to a male character? I haven’t). Same with “Mary Sue.” It’s never “Jimmie Ray.” Snarky. (A guy might be humorous, have a dry wit, or be funny as hell, but how often do you see him described as snarky?) Sassy? Ever seen a sassy guy? Smart and strong are good things, but usually we just assume the male characters are smart and strong without having to say it.
So I think there’s some language we use unconsciously when we read books, even in reviewing or describing them ourselves.
I’m not really going anywhere with this. It just struck me as interesting this week. What do you think? Do you see a gender bias in what books get reviewed in traditional outlets (I think blogs are an exception, as a whole)? Do you think we unconsciously create a gender bias in how we look at the characters in the novels we love–or is that just a natural difference in the way we see men and women?
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