Monday, January 15, 2018


The English translation of Indignez-Vous! is Time for Outrage! It is the title of a small pamphlet written by the French diplomat and member of the French Resistance (and concentration camp survivor)  Stéphane Hessel. Published in France in 2010, the pamphlet has sold nearly 1.5 million copies in France and has been translated into numerous other languages. He urges us all, but especially young people, NOT to be indifferent. He says we must look out for inequalities around us and be ready to stand up and fight  (in a non-violent way!) to address them.

So, how far would you go to try and make things right, especially in the world of books and writing? Would you, as over 250 Irish writers and academics have done recently, pledge to refuse to participate in anthologies, conferences and festivals where women are not fairly represented? The pledge was made after the publication of the Cambridge Companion to Irish Poets (2017), which covers Irish poetry from the 17th century to 2017. Out of the thirty contributors to the Cambridge Companion, just four are female. The indignant rebels, both female and male, claim that the Cambridge publication “repeats the minimisation or obliteration of women’s poetry by previous anthologies and surveys” and “leads to a distorted impression of our national literature and to a simplification of women’s roles within it”.  Fighting talk indeed!

Would I go that far? Possibly. Six years ago I discovered that most leading literary magazines (in the US and UK) focused their review coverage on books written by men, and commissioned more men than women to write about them. I decided then and there that in my very small way I would fight the gender imbalance in the book world by only reading books by women authors. This may seem a bit like cutting my nose to spite my face. After all, there are an awful lot of good books by male writers. But by pushing past the groaning male dominated book promotion tables in the book shops and searching beyond the top big male names thrust in my face, I discovered many wonderful new and old women writers.

Is there still a gender imbalance in the book world? Probably. Do I still read only women writers? No. I do now include a male writer or two in my reading list. In the words of English novelist Elizabeth Jane Howard “I’m not against men novelists, I just feel that my side needs more encouragement.”😉

Are you on a side that needs more encouragement?  If so, how far would you go to encourage it?

PS: If you wish, you can read more about the Pledge here:


Aline Templeton said...

I have to confess I read far more female writers than male - not from principle, but because I find myself more in tune with them in general. But I suspect it's a slight;y lazy attitude on my part and while I'm all for equality for women, I don't want any judgement to be made at the expense of the best writing, whoever it's by.

Marianne Wheelaghan said...

I do think I am more in tune with female writers too. That said, while I was "censoring" myself and only reading women authors, I did feel I was missing out on too many good books by male authors. My priority now is a good read regardless of the gender of the author.

Unknown said...

It seems to me that reading only female authors as a matter of principle is not only personally limiting (a good book is a good book, as Marianne says) but too small and silent to have any political effect. If one is moved to take political action, why not be more public about it: sign a pledge, write on this subject for publication, join an organization and make some noise.
Anna Chapman