Sunday 17 April 2016

Nerd Church - Do We Need Segregated Fiction Prizes?

Being honest - and you guys know that I always strive for honesty - I wasn't sure about this week's Nerd Church post.

Not because it's uber-controversial, Lord knows I've blogged about more sensitive topics and lived to tell the tale,  but because I'm really not 100% sure on my feelings with this one.

I'm also not sure you guys will even be interested.

Still, no guts, no glory - so without further ado:

This week saw the release of the 2016 shortlist for the Bailey's Women's Prize For Fiction.

In case you didn't know, this is a literary prize in which ALL of the books being judged are written by women.

The shortlist is as follows, (list is from the announcement on the Prize's website) -

Cynthia Bond: Ruby | Amazon: UK - US

Anne Enright: The Green Road | Amazon: UK - US

Lisa McInerney: The Glorious Heresies | Amazon: UK - US

Elizabeth McKenzie: The Portable Veblen | Amazon: UK - US

Hannah Rothschild: The Improbability of Love | Amazon: UK - US

Hanya Yanagihara: A Little Life | Amazon: UK - US

books bed

Now, this post isn't intended to bring down the awesomeness of awesome women having awesome recognition like this.

I totally understand that these women have worked uber-hard, and I'm glad their books have been recognised.

My question is this (and yes, it's one that has been asked many, many, times before,) -

Do we need a literary prize specifically for women?

My knee-jerk reaction was no. Hell no. And no again.

After all, I'm a big believer in books being recognised for their own merit, and not who wrote them.

But then, do women need this prize in order to balance inequality in literature?

Is there inequality in literary fiction? Or, for that matter in other fiction?

(I won't get into the whole literary vs non-literary fiction debate here, because that's a whole other debate.)


Maybe the forces of equality would be better served by an agreement to shortlist the same number of men and women for a prize.

That way women are given a fair and fighting chance, while still proving to the world that they can compete on equal terms with men.

Because really, as it stands, we're not being given the chance to beat their butts in fair combat.

And I think fair combat is the only way to make sure that the best book wins.

Again, that's not to denigrate some kick-a*s female authors, who've worked damned hard on their books.

I'm just saying that my ideal literary prize would be one that shortlists six books written by men, and six books written by women.

The judges (in my ideal li'l book prize,) would not be allowed to know who wrote the book.

That way, they'd be more likely to judge the book, instead of their personal feelings towards the authors.

True, that would probably mean making them judge before publication.


...Ok, that was a lot of Caps-Locks. Sorry. Little too much coffee. (I regret nothing!)

book cup

I guess what I'm saying is, that as far as I'm concerned, segregation of prizes is not the answer.

It doesn't prove that women are just as capable as men. It doesn't prove that we can compete equally at the highest of levels.

But there are things that can be done to even things out.

Getting off your butts and doing some organisation for the sake of equality and fairness?

Big-shot prize people, what the f**k are you waiting for?

Nerd Church is a weekly post that is basically me having a rant about various issues. Feel free to continue the discussion, but please link back here.

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  1. To be honest, I don't think I really care either way if we have segregated prizes. I actually think that I would personally prefer it as it gives me a better chance at winning, because we all know that, it up against a man in this society, the man is usually favoured. But I guess it just depends on who you talk to.

    1. I know what you mean - which is why I'm not certain on my feelings here. It just feels like we're somehow saying we can't compete with the men if we give in and have separate prizes - which is not true.

      There definitely needs to be more chances for female authors to get the recognition they deserve... I'm just not sold on separate prizes as a way to do it.

  2. I know what you mean about not being sure where you stand with this one! I love a good fiction prize lot and books getting recognition. And I think having one just for women is good until they are seen as balanced. But I am seeing a lot of women written fiction books just as much as men... so unless we have one specifically for men AS WELL then I don't see much use of a prize like this one then?

    1. Yeah... it just seems a bit... not ideal, maybe, to have a separate prize for women. But then, we don't live in an ideal world, so...


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