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Small Surprise: Books About Women Don’t Win Big Awards

Big data points to the problem–and offers a possible solution–when it comes to literary gender equality.

She's watching (Image via Wikimedia)

Book awards may not attract as much attention as, say, Neil Patrick Harris walking on stage in his underwear, but they still get plenty of press (and way more respect). Novelist Nicola Griffith follows these awards, and started to notice a creepy pattern: books not just by, but about women, never seemed to win any awards. Griffith went through award history, and found her suspicions confirmed: of the 15 books to win a Pulitzer Prize from 2000-2015, absolutely zero were written exclusively from a woman’s point of view.


Griffith went through the major awards, including The Man Booker Prize, The National Book Award, The National Book Circle Critics Award, The Hugo Award, The Pulitzer, and The Newbery. Here are some of her outrageous findings:

— Books by men about men won eight out of 15 Pulitzer Prizes. Books by women about women won zero.

— Books by women about men, though, won three out of 15 Pulitzer Prizes.

— The only category where women dominated was the Newbery Medal for children’s literature, considered the “least prestigious” of the awards.

— The more prestigious the award, the more likely men were to receive it.

— Books by men were much more likely than books by women to win an award.

— Of the 70 major literary awards awarded in the past 14 years, only seven went to women writing about women.

— Women have “literary cooties” (her words).

Griffith has come up with some pretty enterprising solutions to the problem, and is encouraging researchers to examine big data. How long has this problem been happening? Who’s doing the reviewing, and what are their genders? (Names? Homes? Addresses?)

Public stalking is discouraged, but public information breeds change.

HINT HINT HINT (Image via Wikimedia)

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