Who needs men? Kamila Shamsie wants only women writers published for a year

Published June 11, 2015
“At this point, I’m going to assume that the only people who really doubt that there is a gender bias going on are those who stick with the idea that men are better writers and better critics,” wrote Shamsie.
“At this point, I’m going to assume that the only people who really doubt that there is a gender bias going on are those who stick with the idea that men are better writers and better critics,” wrote Shamsie.

How many of us are even aware that sexism plays a strong role in the publishing world? Not many, for sure.

Thanks to Pakistani novelist Kamila Shamsie, this point was highlighted in an article she wrote last week for The Guardian.

And it led to positive results as a small press, And Other Things took up the challenge to publish only female writers for one year, reported The Guardian.

Shamsie built up her case from factual evidence to prove that women writers were not represented adequately in the publishing world: for example, she said only 40% of the books submitted for The Booker Prize over the last five years were written by women in accordance with Nicola Griffitth’s research and Vida statistics.

“At this point, I’m going to assume that the only people who really doubt that there is a gender bias going on are those who stick with the idea that men are better writers and better critics,” wrote Shamsie. “Enough. Across the board, enough ... I would argue that is time for everyone, male and female, to sign up to a concerted campaign to redress the inequality ... Why not have a year of publishing women: 2018, the centenary of women over the age of 30 getting the vote in the UK, seems appropriate.”

Being a small press And Other Stories uses a network of readers to source its publications and is the first publisher to say 'yes' to Shamsie’s challenge. Publisher Stefan Tobler said: “I think we can do it. And if we don’t do it, what is going to change?”

Shamsie stressed in her piece that, “Of course, there will be many details to work out, but the basic premise of my “provocation” is that none of the new titles published in that year should be written by men. I’ve been considering literary fiction so far but other groups within fiction – and non-fiction – publishing could gain from signing up too."

"The knock-on effect of a Year of Publishing Women would be evident in review pages and blogs, in bookshop windows and front-of-store displays, in literature festival lineups, in prize submissions. We must learn from the suffragettes that it’s not always necessary or helpful to be polite about our campaigns. If some publishing houses refused to sign up, then it would be for the literary pages and booksellers and bloggers and festivals to say they wouldn’t be able to give space to the male writers who were being published that year. Many male writers would, I’m sure, back the campaign and refuse to submit their books for publication in the given year, while also taking an active part by reading, reviewing and recommending the books that were published," she added.

Looking into the facts, the publishing press admitted that it released 10 to 12 news titles each year with seven books by men and four by women this time around: “We have a wide range of people helping us with our choices, and our editors are women ... and yet somehow we still publish more books by men than women.”

Sophie Lewis, a senior editor at And Other Stories is willing to go an extra mile to dig harder to find the top writings by women to be published in 2018.

Being vocal about representation of female writings she also wrote: “Provocation is one way to bring attention to the problem. Another is brightly coloured pie charts. I’m sure there are a score of others, waiting to be born.”

We stand by Shamsie all the way, and can't wait to see what a the next year will bring!

Here's where Twitter's book lovers stand on the issue:

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