Are our Sisters In Crime (still) fighting against a male-dominated literary world?

(* This post has been transferred from my old website. Please excuse the formatting.) As mentioned in my last post, this past weekend Sisters in Crime held a rare and…

By Tara Moss

Oct 11, 2011

(* This post has been transferred from my old website. Please excuse the formatting.)

As mentioned in my last post, this past weekend Sisters in Crime held a rare and wonderful women crime writers’ convention in Melbourne, called SheKilda.

Why women? Why Sisters In Crime? I think bestselling US crime writer Sara Paretsky, creator of VI Warshawski can explain it best: ‘It was 25 years ago this month that I invited 26 women to breakfast at a Baltimore crime festival. For two years I’d been hearing complaints ranging from lack of review attention for women writers to disrespect and marginalisation at crime conferences. It seemed to be time to organise, and I wanted to know how many women felt ready to take matters to the next level. Sisters In Crime grew out of that breakfast, with over 3000 members worldwide and chapters in Europe, North America and Australia.’

A quarter of a century later, female writers are still dealing with many of the same issues. The male-dominated shortlists for the Miles Franklin award in Australia recently gave rise to the Stella prize, named after Stella Marie Miles Franklin (above), a woman who pretended she was a man to get published.

At the annual Davitt awards on Saturday (named after Ellen Davitt, writer of Australia’s first known mystery novel), Professor Sue Turnbull pointed out that in 16 years, Australia’s prestigious Ned Kelly Awards for crime writing has only once awarded its top fiction prize to a woman (Gabrielle Lord in 2002). Considering the more than 60 Australian crime writers who gathered at SheKilda this weekend, including critically acclaimed bestsellers like Kathryn Fox, Kerry Greenwood, Katherine Howell (just to name the K’s) and more, that statistic is downright outrageous. PM Newton, one of many authors (and Sisters in Crime) who write under a non-gender specific name, writes in her blog We Live in Interesting Times, that ‘An androgynous name on the cover would, I hoped, mean that the busy bloke on the run through the airport bookshop would not hesitate to pick up the crime book with the gritty cover…’

If anecdotal stories from female writers, or a look at the Miles Franklin short lists aren’t enough, take a look at the statistics offered on the Stella Prize website. A few stats of note include:
1 – Since the Miles Franklin Award began in 1957, a woman has won 13 times. Four times this woman was Thea Astley, but twice she shared the award. Since 2001 two women have won, from the pool of 10 awards.
2 – A look at the number of books published in the last 18 months (via Bookseller and Publisher database) suggest that about an equal number of men and women are published.
3 – Publishing is a predominantly female industry (62 per cent) yet most senior positions are held by men. According to The Bloom Report in 2007, 68 per cent of men who work in the industry earn more than $100,000 as opposed to 32 per cent of the women.
They also have a list of stats relating to major newspapers and literary journals, pointing out that writing by women is still vastly underrepresented in reviews. Just one example: ‘In The New Yorker, 22 per cent of book reviewers were women and 20 per cent of books reviewed were by women writers.’

I’ve noticed a shocking number of ‘My Favourite Books’ or ‘Top Reads’ lists featuring 80% or in some cases even 100% work by written by male writers. Often these lists are made by women themselves, and I have wondered how they have managed either not to read the many and talented female writers who are published each year, or to not credit them as any good.

We may have come a long way, but it seems we’re not quite there yet.

Are you a female writer who has been published under a male, or gender-neutral name? JK Rowling? PD James? PM Newton? PD Martin? Alex Palmer? (I was published as T. Moss in Brazil.) Was that your choice, or your publisher’s decision?
Are you more likely to read a novel written by a male? Likewise, are you more likely to give greater weight and merit to work by male writers?

And if you are, would you even be aware of that subconscious prejudice while males are still, statistically, more frequently awarded and reviewed?

UPDATE – October 14: This blog post, and some of the patronising responses to it, have engendered debate both on this blog and elsewhere. It has been labeled ‘privileged whining’ (below) and ‘comfortable bandwagoneering’ (presumably because I have only been a member of the organisation this post is about, for 13 years), by a fiction and theatre reviewer for The Age, no less.

These are interesting times.

In every individual circumstance it can be argued that the novel by the male writer is the better one, and it may well be the case that year, or the next, or even the next. But over time, a bias becomes clear. While no one person, gender, group or industry is to blame for gender bias, it is important to admit that there still is one, unconscious or otherwise, as the statistics unfortunately illustrate. Only then can we hope for change.
Yesterday I came across a thoughtful response, written by Elizabeth Lhuede. If you are interested in this topic, I encourage you to take a moment to read Ms Lhuede’s reply, and to check out the websites for  VIDA, The Stella PrizeSisters In Crime, Aus, and Sisters In Crime, USA for more information.

UPDATE – JANUARY 14, 2012: The topic of literary gender bias continues with a comprehensive piece by Jane Sullivan in the Sydney Morning Herald, ‘A Woman’s Place’.  Recommended reading.

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  1. marianne

    Thanks for this, Tara. Have reposted a few places.

  2. Phillip A. Ellis

    I am a definite anomaly in that about half of the poetry I read, almost half of the books that I have reviewed, and a great deal of the fiction that I read and admire is by women. I don’t have a problem with women’s writing, and I am at a loss to understand why most of us seem to have that problem.

  3. Cameron Woodhead


    I don’t mean to rain on your parade, but this is the kind of privileged whining that annoys the crap out of me. What about the book-based stats that actually fundamentally affect people’s quality of life?

    According to latest ABS data, women are 4% more likely than men to have sufficient prose literacy to cope with life in a knowledge-based economy. Don’t hear the sisterhood getting outraged about that one.

    And for the record, the last four Picks of the Week in my fiction column for The Age have all been written by women. Not because they were by women, but because they were novels of superior quality. Anything less would be a total insult to the writers I review.

    Cameron Woodhead

  4. Ross H

    I can honestly say that I pay no attention to the gender of an author when either reading or reviewing. For example when it comes to crime, I obtain equal enjoying from reading yourself, Tara, or say Ian Rankin. I do not see that gender should ever play a role in determining quality or otherwise. If anything, women seem to be writing the better fantasy at present and it is mainly speculative fiction that I am reviewing.

    I do not have a ready explanation for the inbalance in awards etc although I’m not a huge fan of awards anyway (and I best shut up before I get on my soap box about awards). But just to demonstrate my true level of hypocrisy, I wouldn’t say no to most of them if they were being handed out to me. Especially if a cheque was attached! Not that there is any danger of that happening anytime soon.

  5. Ross H

    A further thought occurs – the wonderful fantasy author (although was writing sci fi and adventure stuff before that), Andre Norton, used Andre rather than her real name of Alice, because it was more gender neutral. And she started that many, many years ago. Isn’t it rather sad that we are still having to have these discussions? 🙁

  6. Anonymous

    Dear Cameron,
    I’m sorry that these types of discussions irk you so. It is not ‘privileged whining’ to point out statistics relevant to gender bias in the literary world. That your column has highlighted talented female authors for the past four weeks does not cancel out the statistics above, or the further stats I link to at the Stella website. Denying that an imbalance remains doesn’t help anyone.
    Best wishes,

  7. Tyson Adams

    I know that many readers won’t read female authors. I was surprised by this, I knew that there would be biases but I didn’t think women would be against reading female authored books. I actually think this is due to the reviews and perceptions marketed in the industry.

    Personally, I don’t care about gender. Two of my favourite Aussie crime writers are female (Leah Giarrantano being the other). Although I’m not sure that the biases inherent in publishing are related to the stratification of male vs female roles in jobs/positions.

    I’d say a lot of the gender differences in the corporate (etc) world are due to the generation gap. My parent’s generation didn’t have the same opportunities for women to continue a career. They are the generation that are currently in senior positions. This should become less prevalent as that generation retires (although biases will still exist due to experience and part time employment issues surrounding parency).

    But there is no excuse in the publishing world. Myself and the other 2 guys at the Perth Writers’ Festival will attest to the female dominance in the audience. Why isn’t it being reflected in the industry!

    Cheers, Tyson.

  8. Lindy Cameron

    I’d rather like Cameron to explain what he means by ‘privileged whining’.

  9. Rob Kennedy

    The gender imbalance across all arts and business, and life in general is startling. I have seen this my whole life, it has improved for women, but they are still treated, paid and rewarded unequally compared to men.

    And for no reason other than they are women. Maybe one day there will be balance, but I have no idea when.

  10. Cameron Woodhead

    Hi Tara,

    Who’s denying that an imbalance remains? The issue of unconscious bias in literature is real: the statistics speak for themselves. My point wasn’t that this isn’t a live issue, but is it the one that most needs your attention? Your call. I would note, however, that gender bias in the literary world is a trendy cause, and there are a lot of loud voices speaking out against it already.

    Interestingly, it’s all probably for naught. The latest neuroscience suggests that unconscious bias remains, even after you’ve educated people about the problem and pointed out instances where they’ve succumbed to it in the past. I guess that’s why it’s unconscious, hey.


    Cameron Woodhead.

  11. Ross H

    eeerrr Cameron – we’re still waiting for the explanation of ‘privileged whining

  12. Cameron Woodhead

    Oh Ross, don’t be disingenuous. If you’re educated enough to understand and in a position to care about this subject, you’re privileged by definition. Unlike the 4% more Australian men than women who can’t even read a book. As for the whining, the complaint strikes me as petty compared to, say, areas where the treatment of women has drastic impacts – domestic violence, for example. Feminism used to be a radical political movement concerned with fundamental social equity. Unconscious bias in literary awards? Worth knowing about and discussing, sure, but pretty small potatoes in the scheme of things.

  13. P.M. Newton

    Maybe I’m a bit slow but I didn’t think that discussion of one form of bias precluded concern about other issues?

    The argument that until all the serious wrongs of the world are righted any discussion of the place of women’s writing is moot, could well be applied to any discussion of art.

    For example, you could pay for a lot more reporters to report on "serious" issues if you just let the critics retire to the blogosphere and do it as a hobby. After all, there are far more important issues in the world to solve and to discuss than art, aren’t there?

  14. Cameron Woodhead

    Yes you’re a bit slow. No one is precluding anything. It’s a question of prioritising.

  15. Anonymous

    I guess I’m a bit slow as well, Cameron.

    I confess I have found your reaction(s) to this blog fascinating. You seem to have said that gender bias isn’t a problem because you don’t do it, then that there is a bias, but it’s still ‘privileged whining’ to point it out because there are more important issues.

    By that rationale every discussion about sexism/racism/homophobia/injustice ought to be patronisingly referred to as whining if it isn’t about the problem of people being met with physical violence. (The serious problem of domestic violence, as you point out – a topic I have written about in the past. Perhaps you have as well?)

    In my slowness, I have perhaps misunderstood your annoyance somehow. I still foolishly fail to see why a blog on this subject, in 25 months of blogs, should be privileged whining for bringing up a subject you admit is ‘worth knowing about and discussing’. A ‘live issue’. A ‘trendy cause’ as you say. So trendy, it prompted the formation of Sisters In Crime a quarter of a century ago, for example. Trendy, indeed.

    Best wishes,

  16. P.M. Newton

    Ah right. Thanks for pointing it out.

    Women’s voices in literature are not worth prioritising. After all, there’s plenty of books by blokes.


  17. Malcolm

    I came for a spirited debate.. and all I got was the privileged whining of Mr Woodhead.. twitter let me down

  18. Julie

    The bias is another echo of what’s experienced in the teaching profession. It’s not just writing – but is a platform for some action!

  19. Melanie N

    I agree with Ross H. It shouldn’t matter whether the author is female or male, in terms of reading and in the concept of receiving awards. Authors write because they need to, to tell a story, it’s for the sake of literacy.
    It’s ridiculous to think that readers (in crime especially) pay attention to the gender of the author. That’s quite distressing actually. Yes we’ve come a long away, but it definitely needs improvement.

  20. Kerryn Goldsworthy

    Tara, thanks for the post. The SheKilda convention sounds as though it was a wonderful and unqualified success. I can think of several possible reasons why this might have been so.

  21. Bernadete

    A question of priority eh? I’ve read Ms Moss’ blog post through twice now and can’t see anywhere that she said this issue that is the subject of the post is the only important issue facing society or the most important issue or even in the top ten. It seems to me to be nothing more than a reflection upon the gender bias issue from the point of view of having attended a convention this weekend which was dedicated to the examination of crime writing by women and so (presumably) felt like the right time to make some commentary about an issue that has been sparking public and private discussion since the creation of the Stella prize earlier this year. And while I don’t know Ms Moss from the proverbial bar of soap I will assume (from my reading of her books, following of her blog and twitter feed etc) that she (and her readers) are perfectly capable of contemplating several important issues in a single day!

    While I’m here I’m going to have something to say about the word trendy too. I’m not sure why something being a trend is automatically a negative thing. There is, for example, a trend in contemporary society that suggests we are, as a whole, growing more accepting of gay people for example. As this trend results in a better experience of life for gay people (less discrimination, less likely to be beaten up for no reason, less likely their families will disown them and so on) so I would argue that being trendy is, at least in this instance, a positive and good thing for all. The reality is that social change comes slowly and gathers momentum a bit like a snowball but it can’t get moving unless there is discussion, action, debate and so on.

    Finally to get back to the original questions posted by Ms Moss…I am a reader (not a writer) and my records (yes I am a nerd about such things) show a pretty even split in the gender of the books I’ve read in the past 2-3 years though I’ve made something of a conscious effort to seek out more women writers. One of the reasons for this was that as a crime fiction fan I was growing tired of the depictions of women in crime fiction written by men (the old victims and vamps problem). I don’t suggest that all men write these kinds of characters nor do I suggest that no women write them but I have learned through experience that my chances of reading about intelligent women, women over 40, women who aren’t violently tortured for the heck of it or any combination of these factors are improved in books written by women

  22. Lisa Williamson

    Propagating gender wars is like any other war, futile and impotent. The arts should be a sanctuary from bigoted and bias behaviour lest it dilutes our culture toward a tepid battle of righteousness and ego. All arts accolades and appraisals should be based on the artist’s merits alone, anyone who thinks different has no place in this industry.
    Blanketly accusing whole sectors of institutions or general public based on their gender, I believe is an irresponsible and deconstructive attitude, which I also believe was the prime motive for the forming of the Sisters in Crime. To stamp this sort of segregation out!
    I’m not saying we are living in a utopian or equal society, I know we have a long way to go. I just think all individuals need to be accountable and responsible for their actions, and we should challenge myopic or bias behaviour where we see appropriate, and at all costs avoid general sweeping gender based accusations of injustice. For fear of becoming the very thing we are fighting against.

  23. Bernadette

    I don’t think Sisters in Crime or the Stella Prize is ‘propogating a gender war’ and while it might be nice for the arts to be a sanctuary from bigotry and bias they are clearly not.

    One of the (many) fascinating things that Sophie Cunningham talked about at the announcement of the Stella Prize was a study in which an orchestra’s selection process was tested for gender bias. I cam’t remember the figures but there was a huge disparity between when the selection panel could see who was auditioning (in which case women were chosen hardly at all) and when the autioners were hidden behind a curtain (in that case selection was gender neutral). The sad fact is that gender biases (like many other biases including racial ones) are subconscious and so if not talked about openly will continue. Even when we all think it isn’t so

  24. Cary Lenehan

    I have never paid any attention to the gender of an author. I am interested in how good a read I am getting. I am sure that I am not alone in this. Having said that Australia is still a place where, despite a lot of advances, there is significant gender inequity.

    This is expressed in pay rates, promotion rates and in legislation which and legislators who, are not gender neutral. Why would this industry be any different. Gender equality (like racial equality) is a task that still lies ahead of us all.

  25. Maxine

    I haven’t read all these comments, but it is certainly true that awards and "best of" lists in crime fiction (which I read extensively) are biased towards male authors compared with the gender balance of the numbers of books published. The record is public so anyone can see this. I read tons of crime fiction, and am constantly saddended to see how many of these award shortlists in UK and USA are all male, or mostly male with one woman on – whereas when I look at the books I read, the proportion is about equal – both in terms of absolute number of books read and in my opinion of the quality of the books.

    It is the same in my own profession, scientific research. The absolute numbers of scientists at entry level are about equal, but senior positions, prestigious awards, talks at major conferences – by any measure you care to take, it is an outrageous bias in favour of men and against women. (A 1997 study of the Swedish medical research council by Wold and Wenneras (published in Nature) proved that grants were awarded disproportionately to men cf women, when their accomplishments were compared, using data obtained by the Swedish freedom of information act).

  26. Kathryn Fox

    Cameron, many female authors, me included,use our writing to highlight vital issues such as domestic violence, sexual assault and give voice to those who are voiceless. The problem comes when reviewers and awards ignore us. So the issue is not the ‘privileged’ complaining, we are raising a societal issue. If educated people discriminate, what chance do other women have?
    Also, how many boys have JK Rowling/Emily Rodda turned on to reading, thereby improving their educational opportunities. How many more female-authored books could do the same if given the opportunity? Nothing will change if we fail to raise the issue.

  27. Cameron Woodhead

    Oh Tara please,

    "You seem to have said that gender bias isn’t a problem because you don’t do it".

    And you seem to be inventing things I didn’t say just so you can argue with them. That is the habit of a child. Arguing with children is beneath my dignity, and it’s beneath yours to imitate one.

    Am I to deduce that you care more about the underrepresentation of female authors in literary awards than you do about the preponderance of illiteracy among Australian males? Sure looks that way from this thread. (Dare I suggest this is unconscious bias at work? You are a female author, after all, so it’s easy for you to identify with female authors, and to regard males who can’t read as ‘other’.) Feel free to correct me if I’m getting the wrong impression.

    @ Maxine: While it’s true that senior positions (by almost any measure) demonstrate a bias in favour of men over women, it’s also true that men outnumber women in the bottom percentile of most measures you care to mention. They’re more likely to die young, live on the street, be illiterate, get sent to jail, the list goes on. I’m not saying this "balances it out", but it’s worth keeping in mind … Statistics aren’t the same thing as lived experience, any way you look at it.


  28. Sean


    You know what annoys the crap out of me?

    Is the inevitable privileged whining from a man on a post about gender bias against women – with "look here, men are disadvantaged too" and a defensive "look at me I judge works on their merit, not the gender of their authors" comments.

    And Cameron why not pick…I don’t know indigenous literacy as a hobby horse, greater disparity – the numbers are more shocking across the board literacy, mortality etc.

    As for the problem of disadvantaged men in a knowledge economy, I gather you’re attending schools, doing talks, engaging young men in literacy activities to address the problem? Or perhaps prevented by the Secret Feminist Cabal operating in the mainstream press you are ardently championing the cause on your blog…? (checks tag cloud for literacy tag…nope).

    Or have I just been Poe’d, because seriously…I mean come on!

  29. Shirley Peters

    We have the same gender issues in the art world. Men are far more likely to win awards and grants. I have been tempted to show using my initials, but then, that would be catering to the bias.

  30. Maxine

    To CW – I specifically mentioned the scientific research profession, in which the figures show that about as many women as men start out in it, but that the women drop off when it comes to seniority, awards, prestigious lectures, etc.

    It is certainly true that women crime authors are under-represented in award shortlists and prizes in the UK and US, though I am not so familiar with the Australian scene as one cannot obtain so many Aussie books over here – I have read quite a lot though, male and female, and enjoyed both.

    A general point: I think that CW (Cameron) and Sean are being unnecessarily aggressive in tone at least in the two comments immediately above – can’t you write in a more measured way? There is no need to get so annoyed about people’s opinions, whether or not you agree with them. I find the more aggressively written and insulting a comment, the less likely anyone is to agree with your points because the issues get clouded by your tone and choice of words.

  31. Alisa Krasnostein

    It seems to me that the invisibility of women in literature, the violent mistreatment of women of and the belittling of women writers as they express their own real experiences in the world (of less reviews, less awards, less respect) are all symptoms of the same wider issue.

    I don’t believe we will see gender equality, respect and appreciation for diversity in literature before we see an end to violent mistreatment of women. And to think combating either of these issues is a matter of prioritising one over the other kinda misses the point.

  32. Munroe

    Cameron’s right.
    There’s no sexist conspiracy in publishing.

  33. Cameron Woodhead

    Fair enough Maxine.

    The underrepresentation of female writers in literary awards is certainly present in Australian crime fiction, but it’s part of a broader trend. The subject has attracted extensive public discussion here recently, with writers including Alison Croggon, Sophie Cunningham, and Benjamin Law all chiming in with opinion pieces. I’m not sure Tara’s post adds much to that discussion. It seems like comfortable bandwagoneering to me, and my comments were intended to provoke Tara out of her comfort zone. I apologize if I’ve offended: my intention was to elicit rigorous self-examination, and to pry open the discussion to truths that aren’t self-evident. Too often blog threads turn into vapid love-ins, and the issue is too important for that to happen here.

    The problem, as I pointed out in an earlier comment, is that gender bias, like racial bias, is an unconscious phenomenon. Meaning you do it without realising you are. Research indicates it is not susceptible to correction by education. So we can bang on all we want about it, but our efforts would be futile. They might even be counterproductive.

    For what it’s worth, I support the creation of the Stella Prize. (As someone who reads a ridiculous amount of contemporary fiction, I’ll quite happily say that there’s a comparable amount of tripe published by both genders. In that, at least, we can claim gender equality.) May the best woman win.

    Back to work for me.

  34. Kristian


    Concern Troll is Concerned.

  35. Anonymous

    Arguing with children is beneath my dignity, and it’s beneath yours to imitate one.’

    Cameron, this blog post may not add much that is new to the discussion of sexism in the literary world, but I think I speak for most of us when I say that your comments have given us something to think about.

  36. Sean Lindsay


    If you had simply stated your opinion in the first place as you did in the second paragraph in you most recent comment above – concisely, without vitriol – those of us reading this thread would have been enlightened by your contribution, rather than coming to the (seemingly consensus) conclusion that you are an obnoxious, insufferably insensitive prat.

    Instead, you’ve repeatedly insulted your host, condescended to her readers, criticised others for using argumentative tactics that you then employ yourself, contradicted yourself on the importance/unimportance of the issue, and offered a mealymouthed non-apology for the offence you intended to cause.

    Privileged whining indeed. If you seek to elevate the discussion, start by getting yourself out of the gutter.


  37. Cameron Woodhead

    Really? I was actually closely paraphrasing David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest – from the transvestite triple-agent wheelchair-bound Quebecois separatist terrorist, Marathe:

    And you seem to be inventing things I didn’t say just so you can argue with them. That is the habit of a child.

    But I’m sure you picked up the reference. The phenomenon is known in the trade as ‘antiprocess’, and blog threads like this are jam-packed with it. It’s closely related to unconscious bias, so yes, definitely a lot to chew over there – once you get over the shock factor and start to think, that is.

    PS. I’ll send you the real quotation when I get a chance.

  38. Kristian

    "The problem, as I pointed out in an earlier comment, is that gender bias, like racial bias, is an unconscious phenomenon."

    Actually, the research you seem to be referring to doesn’t suggest what you seem to think it suggests. At most this kind of research suggests that there is a reflexive neurological reaction within the parameters of socialised experience. Which is to say, the experience of the unfamiliar creates a certain neurological disposition.

    However this disposition is insufficient to explain the diversity of cultural/political/social attitudes towards gender and race. Why not?

    Well, first and foremost it depends on the conditions of socialised experience. So, if you grow up in a racially diverse environment, you’ll lack the same neurological responses because the experience of the unfamiliar is contextual/subjective. What we count as "like us" is determined at the level of socialisation.

    Secondly, as beings that are rationally self-reflexive, we are not determined by neurological reflexes. This is why we are able to engage in moral and political reasoning, utilise the scientific method, experience shame and so on. That we can actually reflect on our unconscious biases is demonstrated by the very discussion that is being had.

    The combination of these two elements is sufficient to show that your conclusion; "So we can bang on all we want about it, but our efforts would be futile." is in fact false. Discourse, such as jumping on bandwagons about bias, does actually change peoples minds. History tells us that gender and racial bias are contingent attitudes – they have and do change over time as a result of socialisation and reasoned discourse.

    If raising these issues has no effect then we need new theories which explain social progress. If gender and racial bias is nothing but neurological response how does one account for the monumental changes in social and political practice that have occured throughout history?

  39. Cameron Woodhead

    I’ll point you to the research, if you’re that interested. This isn’t the amygdala research you’re refering to from the early 2000s. It was conducted by researchers investigating the conduct of auditors after the GFC. They were trying to explain why honest auditors could be essentially corrupted by self-serving bias without realising it. The results were dispiriting. There’s some info the brain will ignore out of hand, apparently. And educating people about it made not a jot of difference.

  40. Rob

    Clearly there are structural issues here as well as unconscious ones. Usually a key pathways towards making a pitch more level is to structurally alter how a system works. It would be interesting to know the male/female split in judging panels for prizes, for example. I suspect that panels are getting more even, but I would suspect that panels balanced for gender are more likely to lead to a gender meritoracy in terms of long and shortlisting and ultimately who wins the prizes. I have no experience or data on this, but it might be interesting to look how the industry, review sections and panels are structured and their processes.

  41. Robin


    Marathe wasn’t a transvestite. Steeply, the OUS officer he had the dialogues with, was.

    Being supercilious only really works when you get your facts right.

  42. Alisdair Daws

    I would like to see that research, Cameron. I’m sure others would appreciate a few links as well. I can’t see how a study about unconscious self-interested bias in accounting can be compared to gender bias. There is a wealth of research that shows gender bias is deeply ingrained in our culture. I haven’t seen any such research supporting deeply-ingrained accounting bias. Using one to argue that the other is likely to be unconscious (as opposed to culturally reinforced, for instance) strikes me as very poor scholarship.

    Similarly, given that any social imbalance or injustice in the Western world can be compared to a far greater social imbalance or injustice elsewhere, your entire argument of privileged whining strikes me as disingenuous. Should we never seek to discuss – let alone strive to correct – those imbalances remaining in our society, simply because somebody elsewhere has it worse than us? If that were the case, we would never have made the progress of the past two centuries or so.

    Thank goodness not everybody thinks that way. And thanks to Tara for sparking this interesting discussion.

  43. Kerryn Goldsworthy

    There is indeed a great deal of unconscious bias, but arguing that it’s *only* neurological is the sort of tail-chasing biological determinism that feminist theory threw out in the 1970s. Most of the unconscious bias I have seen in the literary world, and I have seen a great deal, has been to do with the male-centred values of a dominant culture whose values most people wrongly think are universal and gender-neutral. Hence the unconsciousness of the bias, illustrated in several of the comments above, and hence — this goes to Rob’s point — the fact that gender balance on judging panels doesn’t necessarily equate to genuinely gender-neutral decisions, since most women share the values of the dominant culture, which is why it stays dominant and needs to be actively resisted by posts such as this one and events such as the one it reports on.

  44. Fleur McDonald

    Tara, my publisher asked if I was going to write serious crime and if I was, woudl I publish under FJ McDonald instead of Fleur McDonald. And she actually said it was because blokes won’t pick up and read a female crime author.

  45. Kate Forster

    I am sorry this argument still needs to be had. I think of Tina Fey when she says, why are we still talking about this? Why can’t we just do what we do and not have it be about gender. Just like the STUPID argument to whether women are funny or not.
    I was fascinated as to how personally Mr. Woodhead took the comments. He came across more childlike than the calm Ms. Moss.

  46. Sean


    Sorry Maxine, I was going for tongue in cheek exasperated rather than aggressive, I should have used emoticons.

    I am still not convinced that Cameron is being anything but a very articulate and well read concern troll, despite his background.

    I see now Cameron’s informed us that he was really trying to just get us to think a bit harder, albeit in a roundabout fashion and with obscure approach i.e. using a quote from David Foster Wallace, that’s easily misinterpreted as an insult.

    He may be very articulate and educated but its rubbing off as smug and elitist (perhaps that’s me misreading tone).

    Cameron alludes to the fact that he’s been witness to some bandwagon jumping love-ins before, yet with that apparent foreknowledge, his first comment is so hard to distinguish from classic anti-feminist derailment techniques, that it’s no wonder quite a few, if not all, the other posters assume that he is being a concern troll.

    To be frank, I would have thought as critic and a journalist he’d be a better judge of audience. But hey "it’s just a blog comment" and we all make hasty assumptions in the 5 minutes it takes to tap out a comment.

    This post and others like it need to keep being written, precisely because of unconscious bias, because they can and do cause some readers to evaluate their reading and implement structural changes to their reading behaviours to mitigate that fact(mind you I make this claim largely on the basis of anecdotal evidence).

    When we stop, writing, blogging, or podcasting about it, the issue fades from public view – Annette Summers was talking about the issue of biased reviewing in the 70’s and 40 years later we are still talking about it.

    I think Cameron’s point about his picks of the week is interesting(in a general sense). While it’s to be applauded that he’s not holding a writer’s gender against them. He seems to be saying that he focuses on the quality of the writing, that they are there by merit alone – when and I agree with him, he knows there are subconscious biases at play, his and whoever forms part of the path from author to reviewer.

    Does he as a reviewer attempt to mitigate bias in a structural fashion? Has he audited his own reviews to analyse the gender balance? Does he even have this level of control over the written work he reviews?

  47. Sean

    Not Annette — Anne Summers

  48. Bernadete

    For a blog past that he claims didn’t need to be written (the issue having been discussed elsewhere) it’s generated a surprising number of intelligent and thoughtful responses. It’s also managed to change CW’s opinion on the issue of gender bias in lliterature from being one that ‘is the kind of pirvileged whining that annoys the crap out of me’ to one that is ‘too important to be allowed to descend to a vapid love-in’. Not bad for a humble blog post

  49. Think about it

    Cameron Woodhead your a pig. Tara’s a god and your below her dignity. Your childish comments have kept the arguments going.

  50. Cameron Woodhead

    Some incisive, passionate discussion provoked here. Almost makes up for my rudeness, almost.

    I haven’t gone through my old columns and tallied up male vs female authors. Maybe I should. I suspect there’d be more men reviewed, though the ‘Picks of the Week’ would be an equally intriguing stat. I don’t get too much choice in what I review.

    As for my own process, gender bias is something I’m subliminally aware of when I’m writing my fiction column for The Age, but it isn’t a factor I consciously take into account. There are other things I do: I’m more likely to give Pick of the Week to a well-written novel that engages with the ‘literary tradition’ than well-written airport novel, for instance. But it’s the ‘well-written’ part where unconscious bias creeps in, isn’t it?

    [@Robin, In the IJ scene I’m paraphrasing, I’m pretty sure Marathe is indeed, along with Steeply, in drag. There’s mutual stocking-itch going on, IIRC.]

  51. Phillipa (PD) Martin

    Wow…although that wasn’t my first reaction. My first reaction was to pump my fist and say "Go Tara, Go Tara, Go Tara." And yes, it was sung in my head. But if Tara’s post is childish, I’d hate to think how that response would be viewed!

    Then I read the comments and got to the wow part. So much to say…I might even have to write my own blog about it and join the "bandwagon" of being "trendy".

    Anyway, the issue of gender bias seems undeniable when it comes to awards. The proof is in the pudding – the stats. And as for female authors using initials, in my case I emailed my publisher to say I was thinking of using my initials so I’d be PD Martin. My reasoning was two fold: 1. Phillipa is a longish name and would take up lots of cover real estate – real estate I’d rather use for a haunting cover image. 2. I liked the ring of it.

    However, my publisher’s response was that she was extremely happy with the initials "because men are less likely to read female authors."

    But one thing I’d like to know – how do women crime writers whose main protagonist is a man go in terms of readership? Is is that men prefer to read titles written by men, or that they simply prefer male protagonists that they can more readily identify with? I’m not defending the blokes (God forbid). In fact if it IS more about the gender of the main character than the author’s gender, why is it that women are quite comfortable reading about male OR female protagonists but men prefer reading stories that focus on a protagonist of their gender?

    Just another take on why men might prefer male authors.

  52. kristian


    Links to the research (or a citation) would be much appreciated. I have access to JSTOR etc so can access to online articles.

  53. Elizabeth Lhuede

    Thanks Tara for your blog entry, and for showing grace under pressure in allowing this thread to develop.

    Kerryn Goldsworthy raises the crucial point that "most women share the values of the dominant culture", "values most people wrongly think are universal and gender-neutral".

    As women readers and writers, we’re powerless to do much about ignorant or uninterested male reviewers, critics, judges and readers, but we can seek to identify our own biases and, once we’re aware of them, change them.

  54. David T.

    One man vs a plethora of women, and makes the majority of you look like a bunch of school yard bully girls.
    Until you can all resist your emotional over reactions I can’t see any resolution.
    First person to disagree is crucified… way to go.

    Go Cameron, and bravo for taking this on.

    I’m sick of this man bashing crap.
    I love a good read, regardless of gender> E.G. Arundhati Roy (One of my favs)

    Very disappointed Tara… Just another male reader you distanced.

    *Insert dramatic asinine rant below.

  55. Kathy D.

    This blog is exactly why discussions of gender bias in the book world need to be held re: publishing, awards, "best of" lists, conventions, panels, all of it.

    There is no way anything will change, including conscious or unconscious biases on any issue without public discourse and struggle about it — and strength and integrity by those who are affected.

    That sure is true here!

    Attitudes and all types of manifestations of racist discrimination were changed by the Civil Rights movement in the U.S.
    True, too, about the women’s movement, and now the LGBT movement.

    That is the truth. Those affected have to speak up, educate and insist, without equivocating.

    I have seen so much of this type of attitude lately regarding other fields, that I think sometimes people do this and get a lot of attention — and at some point, they should be ignored.

    Just keep on moving on, insist and be bold. It’s great to see all of these brilliant responses.

    And for those who don’t get it: Just keep moving and forge ahead!

  56. YetAnotherMatt

    I liked the part where the man said women should be out solving the most terrible thing in the world, leaving men to do the other really important stuff like commenting on blogs, and the bits where he posted insisting that posting was futile, and the bit where the other man applauds taking on a bunch of women who are all emotional and overreacting and stuff, even though they crucify him with nails and killing and blood and stuff, and I like the bit where not letting men dominate stuff because they are all manly and righteous is denying them their birthright, you man bashers, and think that I should read more stuff like this because I like to chortle.

  57. Lindy Cameron

    Oh dear David,(and still Cameron) and Hi Tara

    one man versus a plethora or women eh?
    That man waded in to the conversation of his own free will… with insults and bizarre un-attributed paraphrased references to something or other.
    Start at the beginning David – and judge Cameron’s response to a calm, well-written, informative, measured, intelligent and on-topic blog about the undeniable state of things as they STILL are after all these years.
    And what was that topic? Oh yes. How dispiriting it is that these conversations are STILL happening when, specifically (on-topic), it’s 25 years since the formation of Sisters in Crime USA. And why was Tara talking about that? Because she had spent the weekend just gone, at SheKilda Melbourne 2011 – the Australian Women Crime Writers’ Convention – held to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Sisters in Crime Australia. (At which BTW there was a grand total of maybe 4.5 blokes; even though they were invited, welcome and encouraged – except for the stalker guy (the .5 who came ONLY to perv on Tara). Cameron’s first responses: "don’t want to rain on your parade"; "privileged whinging"; some nonsense about why aren’t we talking about domestic violence instead (because, you know that’s WAY more important than OUR livelihoods as authors in this country). And why did Tara not mention, and then get equally up-in-arms, about the 4% more Aussie blokes who can’t read at all.
    Why not indeed Tara. Good question. Seriously – in a post about gender bias in book reviews let’s talk about domestic violence, because it’s SO relevant to the topic after all.
    On second thoughts though, Tara, you really SHOULD have mentioned the 4% illiterate blokes; because then you could also have mentioned the 2% of blokes who CAN read but don’t because they’re not interested; the 2% who can but don’t because they’re too lazy; another 2% who can but don’t because they’re too busy (being breadwinners or violent partners – take your pick); another 2% who can but only read car magazines or the ‘articles’ in Ralph; the 2% who can but don’t read what their partners or wives have had published – for no good reason at all. Tara could have brought all of these up… except they have NOTHING to do with the actual topic. Although they probably DO explain why more women than men read. It’s more a matter of they don’t rather than they just can’t. And even so – what that has to do with gender bias in reviews is anybody’s guess. Given that reviews – hello Cameron – are obviously written for people who CAN read, about books that have been published – here’s an interesting thought: while authors (men & women ones) DO do such things as produce audio books for people who can’t SEE – which (OMG! revelation) could be accessed equally by people (um including those extra 4% of blokes) who can’t read.. how many of your reviews are prepared for the blind or illiterate? How the hell are those 4% supposed to know which audio books to borrow from the library if they can’t read your reviews. What are you doing about this? Oh, sorry. That has nothing, really, to do with the original topic. Obviously I had a moment of ‘privileged finger-pointing’. So now that I’ve ranted on Tara’s topic – and off hers, but all over yours – which trendy (man-)problem should we (sigh, yet again) be more concerned about? How about just for once, we concern ourselves with the one that started the whole topic – the one, if it’s EVER resolved, will perhaps help us all make a better living from what we do… which oddly enough brings us full circle to the topic of gender bias in reviews.

  58. Robin

    @Cameron – I don’t think Marathe ever wears stockings, considering he has no legs.

  59. nathan curnow

    Go Lindy Cameron!

    David T, yours is a cheap, dumb shot! As a man (and damn you for making me have to use ‘as a man’) you can kiss MY asinine!

    onward T.

  60. Kristian

    David T,

    If you actually took the time to read the comments you’d notice that there are a number of men (including myself) here who are also arguing with this Cameron fellow.

    But obviously you didn’t take the time to read the comments, consider the arguments and make a reasoned response to them. Instead, an emotional outburst of your own! Bravo!

  61. Cecilia

    Go Lindy and Tara!

    I wasn’t going to wade in to the debate, despite finding the post well written and informative and wanting to tell Cameron to shut it early on, but I guess I’m not very good at keeping my mouth shut. So Cameron if the bias isn’t such a big deal and just the topic for the "privileged whingers"; why does my almost-teen bookworm son have to cop crap for reading books written by women authors( both YA and Adult) The general consensus of his peers (mainly the males) is that if its written by a women its for girls only. This is aimed at fabulous, award-winning authors such as Rowena Cory Daniels,Marianne de Pierres and Tara herself.
    Perhaps so many men can’t read or won’t read due to this attitude in the first place! Get a grip and face the reality!
    Frankly I thank ambassadors such as Tara and all involved with Sisters in Crime for raising awareness and trying to kick such prehistoric attitudes to the curb once and for all, if not for the readers and authors of my generation then for those rising stars in the next.

  62. Sean

    David T,

    Although I did at one stage frock up at a Uni Gender Bender I assure I am most certainly male.

    Cameron’s a big fella and I’m sure can take the mostly civil(apart from me :))if not passionate discussion being sent his way.

    As for bullying and man bashing I’d like to quote Heath Franklin’s portrayal of Chopper, but I now live in fear of Maxine.

  63. geek anachronism

    Working in a literacy-associated career, insisting that the gender bias in publishing has nothing at all to do with literacy issues is a little…myopic? Naive? Like so many things, reading is a ‘girl thing’ unless it’s done at a high level (see: cooks v chefs, teachers v professors, the early stages of IT and librarianship). This contributes to a devaluing of literacy in general, and specifically so for young boys.Who grow up to be men locked out of the knowledge economy.

    The gender bias in writing that suggests women writers are worth ‘less’ in whatever fashion is simply the flip side of the ‘reading is for chicks’ coin. When the choices and suggestions offer to young boys and men about what they can/should/will read is artificially and pre-emptively curtailed by ‘boys don’t read women’s writing’ that contributes to illiteracy. When the vast majority of books are written by women (particularly so for young people), that’s just kneecapping them before they’re out of the gate. It’s insulting to everyone involved – the men and boys who will actually ‘be able’ to enjoy women’s writing, and the women who are writing it. It’s a self-fulfilling and self-defeating prophecy too because by the time they get to school, if little boys have been read to, their choices and exposure has already been curtailed. If they haven’t, attempts to introduce them to reading often works on the lowest common denominator theory of the more disgusting the better.

    What we read and what we enjoy are not formed in a vacuum. So I do not agree with the idea that addressing gender imbalance in publishing is either completely unrelated to literacy issues or will somehow have a negative effect.

  64. Kaethe

    I think it’s important to keep pointing this out. Structural discrimination cannot be countered by ignoring it, as in "oh, I never notice race, or gender, or …". We have to notice, we have to make a conscious effort to read more books by women authors, to ask for reviews by women, of books by women, to recommend books by women to one another. And we have to point out every time women are slighted. To go farther, we have to make it a point to seek out books by all under-represented groups, and to hold review committees, and conferences accountable when they marginalize everyone else. It is clear that the publishers and editors and prize committees feel no need to reach out beyond the white male they are comfortable with. What we can do is ask them every single time: why did you not do better?

    "Captcha challenge failed. Are you man or machine?" The irony.

  65. Melanie N

    One thing that really annoyed me about David T’s post was ‘get over your emotional overreactions’. It is not an emotional overreaction. It’s reality! We live in a world that is male dominated in all aspects of work, education and polictics. I’m sorry, but you having said that really offended me. Being able to resolve the issue if we did overcome those ‘reactions’.. so you’re saying that every feminist, radical or not, that has attempted to create some equality was being overreactive? Are you trying to say that men who are supporting the issue are not being overreactive? Because even in this thread there are men who have been supporting the females in their arguments based on literature.
    And I agree with PD Martin, when I originally read this I thought ‘Yes Tara! Good on you for saying all this’. Just another reason why I look up to her.

  66. Martha Paley Francescato

    Just one question: How many women have received the Nobel prize for literature???

  67. Melanie N

    Only 12.

  68. Leigh

    I tend to disagree with some of the general tone of the article, but the comments really reveal the problem I personally have with the way some women approach feminism.

    At the risk of sounding "anti-feminist", many (*not* all) women in these types of forums inevitably generate this kind of "you go girl; us girls gotta stick together; female solidarity; *hmph* typical men!" kind of talk. All it takes is one man to comment in a tasteless kind of way, and the gender line gets established very quickly(oppressed women vs. oppressing men – CHOOSE YOUR SIDE). And it’s often the female responders who establish this. And honestly, bringing up domestic violence? What does this serve other than some attempt to rub men’s faces in the fact that some men are jerks, so we should feel guilty? Or something?

    Ironic in a post about removing gender boundaries…

    I believe what most people ultimately desire is a non-gender prejudiced industry. But to achieve this relies on:

    1) changing the subconscious biases of everyone who buys books

    2) ensuring a fair and equal process for determining awards, without bias from the judges themselves and/or the sales figures(depending on how the award is determined)

    3) the assumption that in any given field, there are likely to be an roughly equal number of men and women, and that the distribution of "quality"(incredibly subjective, based on the heavily biased points 1 and 2) is equal at any given time. For example, what if, by coincidence, the best women writers don’t produce many novels that year(maybe they all happened to release one last year, and one coming out next year) and the field is heavily stacked with male authors… should the awards be artificially equalised on gender lines?

    Who can presume to change the *internal* biases of the masses(which don’t manifest in discrimination in any real sense)? That’s some 1984 stuff right there! Do you *want* a group to potentially have that much control over the masses, but only for the purposes of equalising literary awards? Be careful what you wish for 😉

    Ultimately, we must be very careful in passing judgement on human nature… do we really have the right to tell Joe the plumber that he can’t keep reading male authors? What do we do, force him to read female authors? Force publishers to publish equal numbers of male and female authors? Is that in the best interests of "publishing the best we have to offer"?

    Ultimately, despite being a staunch believer in the equality of everyone, I actually support the idea of female only awards.

    Every one of them already has some arbitrary constraints on "what can win"(whether it’s literary enough, whether it was in an "in" genre at the time, etc., any number of things), so why the heck not?

  69. Anonymous

    Thank you everyone for your responses.

    At 68 comments, this blog is now a long read, which is possibly why David T and most recently Leigh appear to have made the assumption that the majority of the comments have been from females. (‘One man vs a plethora of women’) It may be interesting to note that 30 of the 68 comments have been from male readers, though ‘Think About It’ and ‘Geek Anachronism’ have chosen, appropriately enough, to remain genderless, so the actual number is unclear.

    Leigh, I agree with your 3 points listed above in relation to the things that must change in order for gender bias to become a thing of the past. I would like to note however, that it was Cameron Woodhead who raised the issue of domestic violence in his comment above (saying this topic is ‘petty compared to, say, areas where the treatment of women has drastic impacts – domestic violence, for example’) So if it does ‘rub men’s faces in the fact that some men are jerks’, it won’t have been an issue raised by the women who have commented here. Domestic violence remains a serious issue and it is one I have written about in the past, however it is not the subject of this blog, so I have not mentioned it.

    I’m pleased this casual blog of mine is being read and discussed, but I do sincerely hope it does not degenerate into mud slinging. Thus far most of the comments, with a few notable exceptions, have been smart, considered and productive to the discussion. I believe this topic can and should be discussed with mutual respect and intelligence. No one person, gender, group or industry is to blame for gender bias.

    The first step is to openly admit that there is a bias, unconscious or otherwise, as the statistics unfortunately illustrate. Only then can we hope for change.

    Best wishes,

  70. Kathy D.

    The only way to counter gender biases, which are not just academic, but as every writer knows, affects income, readership, etc, is to be assertive and vocal about it.

    When one reads a British newspaper discussing a male book reviewer’s articles, and he admits he never reads books by women authors, this is a concrete problem. It’s not only personal reading choice, but that impacts on publishers, what bookstores order, sales, writers’ incomes, and inclusion of women writers on best sellers’ lists, book awards’ nominees and winners, conference panelists, speaking engagements, etc.

    And it also impacts on broader society, those who are reading the articles, whose gender bias is reinforced.

    There has to be insistence on inclusion. This means publications and print and online media have to be pushed to hire women writers and reviewers. Otherwise, this gender
    bias can be reinforced, and careers and earnings of women writers impacted severely.

    So, basic equality and inclusion needs to be insisted upon.

    And really children should be encouraged to read all writers at a young age to try to break through this bias early. .

  71. Michael MacConnell

    A flame war on a crime novelist’s blog.

    This place is looking like Milperra on Father’s Day.

    You can’t say it isn’t apt.

  72. chris

    I find this kind of pissing and moaning incredible considering that two out of every three University graduates in Australia are now women. You have won, so be happy and stop trying to twist the knife with your calls for mandated equal representation in awards and boards etc, it is sickening. Why don’t you dick envying women focus your energy helping the women around the world who still need help, because your work here must be done if all you have left to demand is 50% of literary prizes.

  73. Melanie N

    That’s not all we are ‘demanding’. This blog was on the topic of literacy gender equality but what about all other aspects of life? Just because 2/3 university graduates are women, you think that’s equality? Why would we be having this conversation if ‘we’ve won’? How many women actually secure senior management and executive positions in business as a result of going to university? I can assure you it’s significantly less than men.

  74. Adina West

    I’ve been following this post and comments for the last couple of days with great interest.

    In response to Chris (ignoring the vitriole) and Melanie N above, I believe (speaking from personal experience) that there are quite a number of female university graduates who use their qualifications in part time employment at whatever level is available to them, while spending a majority of their time parenting. They’re certainly not all using those qualifications to "secure senior management and executive positions in business" as Melanie N pointed out.

    Which is why I found geek anachronism’s comments further above very interesting. Certainly, a fresh viewpoint on the overall issue and interrelationship between gender-based literacy levels and underlying societal and industry-based gender biases which may or may not feed into that.

    As a writer, and as a university graduate and mother, and as the member of my household who has sole responsibility for choosing all the books my two children (of both genders) are exposed to, Geek Anachronism’s comments have certainly provided food for thought. I hope I can raise a boy who will feel free to read whatever he chooses without judgement by his peers, be that a book by man or a woman, Mary Anne Evans (George Eliot), or Stella (Miles) Franklin, or David Cornwell (John le Carre) or J K Rowling.

    Thanks for this post Tara. Perhaps this issue has recently been discussed elsewhere as Cameron mentioned, but I am one time-poor mother who has not yet been exposed to it thus far, and stifling such discussion before it has even been heard by all would be a very bad thing, to my mind.

  75. chris

    We are having this conversation because you have won. There is no one left in the media, academia or politics willing to speak up for males.
    Considering Uni is a pre-req for most jobs that lead to senior management and exec positions, far more women are now able to get their foot in the door than men. Of course it will take time for them to naturally displace the men in the leadership positions that require years of experience, but that is time the femmo’s are not willing to wait for. They want 50% of the top positions and they want them immediately.

  76. Ross H

    It is not a question of whether or not one gender or the other has ‘won’ but one of working together to ensure we do have the equal society we claim to do.

  77. Clementine Ford

    I think we’re all forgetting the most important question here, and that is why aren’t feminists doing more to help single fathers?

  78. Ann

    Read this on crikey. Perhaps Cameron is having trouble getting his book published?

  79. Stir the possum

    Isn’t the real issue why women aren’t writing books with broader appeal (ie to both men and women) rather than one of bias?

  80. Kaethe

    If books written by men appeal to both men and women, but books written by women only appeal to women, that would be still an issues of bias.

  81. Chris Roberts

    Yes, indeed,Cameron Woodhead rather goes on, a Christopher Hitchens wannabe who seeks to emulate Hitchens’ style of confrontation but he lacks, utterly, the erudite polish, proper range-use of adjectives and a mature, cognitive logic base.

    Woodhead’s recent review of the play "Site UnSeen" illustrates the reviewers disconnect with the subjects he writes. The play is about the homeless. Woodhead quite takes up the charge for the disadvantaged. His problem lies in the stone fact that the "homeless" are not street people.

    Someone who is homeless has have their home taken away from the bank. A homeless person has has their home burned down, washed away in a flood or any other variant on natural cause and man made, improper construction.

    The only reason Woodhead picked a fight with Tara Moss is because he seeks the panache and allure of the perpetually contrarion Christopher Hitchens.

  82. Sophie

    Well, regardless of male/female bias, this is yet another example of how bitchy and small-minded you bourgouise people in the literary and publishing world are. Like a pack of monkeys fighting over peanuts.

  83. Liz Porter

    Clearly, some publishers think that some readers won’t read crime books by men. Just take a look at the cover of The Brotherhood by Y A Erskine. No clues on the front – or the back – that the author is female
    Liz Porter (author of forensic science/true crime books Written On The Skin and Cold Case Files)

  84. Shirley Patton

    Having previously researched, written and spoken about domestic violence against women in the public arena I am accustomed to the defensive position ‘what about men?’ and can address it respectfully and effectively. But it still surprises me when people’s first response to such moves as the Stella Prize, and its underlying premise, is this emotive defensiveness. The recent research, statistics and subsequent articles and blogs examining whether it is a ‘male dominated literary world’ or bias in publishing/awards are a healthy debate whose time has well and truly arrived. I commend the bravery of those who have ‘dared to speak its name’. As a ‘new and emerging’ fiction writer stepping with some trepidation into the literary world, I can’t imagine how hard that action might be for all the current women writers, like Tara. My hat off to you, Tara, and all the other woman and men prepared to critically examine this difficult issue. Respectfully, it seems to me it is not about trying to take ground from men or to whinge, and it will take an open mindedness to consider the concerns raised without rancour.

  85. Caz

    @ Chris – 14/10 11:00:54 – Not true! Bettina Arndt has found a lucrative market pandering to white first world men. She’s not only speaking up for males, she’s slavishly clawing back 100 years of female progress.

  86. a.j

    I’m wondering if we don’t favour male crime writers simply because we see males as the majority of criminals and therefor have the insight.

  87. KP

    Hello Tara,
    Tara let it go!> how can you feel that way we are living in the 21st century now. Male crime writer’s are simply better, females crime writers are getting the fame as well. Your first 2 books were great love the way you detail the killings,weapons used,detail the crime area etc> that is crime writing. Covet was big let down to the first 2 books, since then your last 2 Mak books Hit and Siren have gone same way. I wish you can go back to writing the same style you did on your first 2 novels I know you still have it in you> but you tell me! do you still have it.
    PS Love Mak but she has to go on hiatus! you have to write stand alone novels that are way of Fetish and Split. That is the Tara Moss style of writing that put you on the map. please go back cause I miss you, Tara come back!.


  88. AndieN


    I believe you wrote a post that was almost innocuous, dealing as it did with what we all know to still be a sad truth about the world we live in. And have been impressed by the civil and adult way in which you have conducted yourself as the blog owner and moderator, despite what I can only describe as uncivil and even downright rude behavior and modes of address from some of your commenters. I am not an Australian or a crime reader by first preference, but your conduct makes me wish to read your work.

    Just one "bloke’s" point of view, but why should you talk or discuss anything else at all when discrimination against women in literature/crime fiction is your theme? As for not discussing the apparent fact that Australian men fall 4% behind the women in the literacy stakes–perhaps that is to something to be celebrated, as otherwise you’d have had another 4% outright rude and un-necessarily aggressive comments on your post …

    My hat off to you, ma’am. Respect.

  89. Eleanor Marney

    wow! reading all this has been both hilarious and educational. interesting that most of the real ‘pissing and moaning’ responses have been from guys like ‘Chris’ and CW. er, ’emotional over-reaction’ much?

    btw, Tara’s blog isn’t the only site where this discussion is taking place. see the link below on YA books being ‘too girly’:

  90. Eleanor Marney

    i thought i should add, i have four sons. when i told them i was reading an article about ‘girl books vs boy books’, their response was a collective ‘Huh?’.

    for them, there are no girl books and no boy books. there are just cool books. so…who’s making the divisions?

    as an English teacher, a writer, and a parent, i sincerely hope that the ‘huh’ reaction stays with them. but i won’t be surprised if this discussion crops up in another forty years.

  91. Cliff

    What a cool woman.

  92. Merlin

    valiant and heroic in bearing.

  93. black soccer cleats

    into a second-round runoff against incumbent President Jacques Chirac. A stunned Socialist Party rallied behind Mr. Chirac, who eventually Nike Mercurial Victory won 82% of the vote. CF

  94. Charmaine Clancy

    There are some great great women’s crime-writing groups. Unfortunately there are still women online saying they feel the need to hide their gender to attract male readers. I can understand content generally attracting different genders (but there are always some gorgeous exceptions), but I’m still surprised that some men act like they’ll get the dreaded girl germs if they read a novel by a woman.
    Wonderful that we have great trail-blazers to make the path a little easier for us.

  95. end of the world

    Hurrah! Finally I got a website from where I can actually
    get helpful facts concerning my study and knowledge.



  1. Our Beautiful Meritocracy | Tara Moss - [...] example, shortly after the fallout from one of my blog posts managed to inspire the headline ‘TARA MOSS VS…
  2. The Australian Women Writers Challenge - [...] journals.  This had been commented upon earlier than this (late in 2011) by Australian writer Tara Moss who had…
  3. Reading Australian women writing | Jane Bryony Rawson - […] And if you want to read a totally nuts exchange of comments on whether we should bother trying to…
  4. Women Writers & Genre vs. Literary Fiction | Welcome to my Library - […] 2011, author Tara Moss commented on her blog about the fact that writing by women is still vastly underrepresented in…
  5. Women Writers in a Man’s World: A reply to Tara Moss | Devoted Eclectic - […] following post was written in October 2011 and intended as a reply to a post by Tara Moss, “Are…
  6. Looking beyond the labels: Kirsten Krauth interviews author Tara Moss | Australian Women Writers Challenge - […] like to acknowledge Tara Moss as the inspiration for the creation of the AWW challenge. Without Tara’s original blog…
  7. Looking beyond the labels: Tara Moss | Kirsten Krauth - […] like to acknowledge Tara Moss as the inspiration for the creation of the AWW challenge. Without Tara’s original blog post…
  8. AUSTRALIAN WOMEN WRITERS CHALLENGE 2014 | Odds, Ends and Allsorts - […] for joining the challenge came from Tara Moss, an Australian female author herself, and her article Are our Sisters…
  9. Looking beyond the labels: Kirsten Krauth interviews author Tara Moss | New Australian Women Writers Challenge Blog - […] like to acknowledge Tara Moss as the inspiration for the creation of the AWW challenge. Without Tara’s original blog…
  10. 2015 Australian Women Writers Challenge | - […] March 2012 demonstrate. Yet in late 2011, when Tara Moss mentioned this gender imbalance on her blog, a literary reviewer…
  11. International Women’s Day and the Australian Women Writers Challenge | Treefall Writing - […] with similar results, although with some notable exceptions such as the West Australian. Tara Moss and Jane Sullivan have also written…
  12. Miles Franklin Award 2016 Longlist | Whispering Gums - […] the history of the awards up to 2011, was a factor that led to the creation of the Stella…

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